American values have come under intense scrutiny after the release of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence’s “Torture Report,” – officially titled the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program. The raw details of who did what to whom subsequent to the 9/11 attacks have led to a great deal of public soul-searching as well as the usual partisan positioning.
Is America a nation of torturers? Can we ever take the ethical high ground again? Can we criticize ISIS for its beheadings and terrorists for their outrages without being tarred and dismissed as hypocrites?
Some Americans say they are untroubled by the revelations, that all is fair in war and that war is now our constant state. Dick Cheney has said he “would do it again in a minute.” A majority of Americans say they are untroubled by the revelations of the NSA’s mass surveillance and the death of privacy.
Complacence with these developments has not come about by accident. The CIA and other players in the security field have been educating the nation about the need to give up the American way to maintain America’s power for sixty years.
The smoking gun? In 1954, when international communism was the great enemy, President Eisenhower appointed a panel to make recommendations about covert actions. The Doolittle panel – named after its chairman, General Jimmy Doolittle – included a statement near the top of its report that, today, has chilling relevance:
It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever costs. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. If the US is to survive, longstanding American concepts of “fair play” must be reconsidered. We must develop effective espionage and counterespionage services and must learn to subvert, sabotage and destroy our enemies by more clever, more sophisticated means than those used against us. It may become necessary that the American people be made acquainted with, understand and support this fundamentally repugnant philosophy.
Our leaders in Washington work every day to make us “understand” and support their departures from the principles of the founding fathers.