Wednesday, November 2, 2005

A Reputation in Tatters

My old daddy talked a good bit to us kids about reputation and what it meant.  Almost no matter what the subject was, from what kind of tires to put on the car to where he did his banking, reputation was what meant most to him.  He could get over a little higher price and wink at the cheaper alternative if reputation was at stake. 


Daddy’s gone now a bunch of years, but he’d be hot about what these guys in Washington have done to give America a cheaper alternative of the great nation he knew. How he hated FDR and those New Dealers, but he never called them sell-outs.  Daddy thought they were wrong, but wrong was something you argued about. 


This small bunch that’s stampeded our heritage, and they are a small bunch, have sold off at a discount our greatest strengths as a nation and they’ve done it in the name of fear of another terrorist attack, as if we ordinary folks were somehow too weak and scared and stupid to see our way through to a solution. Not squaring with the American public, they’ve given away our world reputation as a nation of law, a nation of justice, a nation of opportunity.  In its place, their fabricated chimera of national intent makes us a laughingstock internationally, if we weren't that we are so feared.


We are feared today as never in our history and that fear accrues to friends as well as enemies and finally, if one can believe the current leaks, within the spook-community as well.  The good old CIA is beginning to grumble like an upset stomach, up and down the halls, around the coffee machines, worrying that its own terrorist policies are not moral, to say nothing of legal.  Morality within the CIA?  Just when Cheney is trying to absolve them of law and morals? 


If this Vice President is headed for the woodshed, we may have seen the first halting steps in that direction. 


I’m not sure what the protocol is for getting rid of a Vice President.  Does the President simply ask him to hit the road or is there a process of some sort that involves the Congress?  I hope so.  I'd love to see him answering to instead of presiding over the Senate. That’s probably neither here nor there, but the fact is that the walls are crumbling around the Veep’s currently undisclosed location, as Scooter’s finally been run down and cornered.  The CIA, whose halls Cheney is known to haunt, is positively nervous as a long-tailed cat in a roomful of rocking chairs.


Hiding detainees and interrogating them in 3rd countries is what the spooks have been up to.  Doing it offshore, away from the eyes and pries of any oversight other than that of The Dick and (one supposes) The Donald.  A very small need-to-know list turns its eyes away, possibly a foreign intelligence officer here or there in some Eastern European country.  A real-life chapter in a Robert Ludlum novel. Ludlum's characters tortured, but they were always from the other side of the Iron Curtain.  The West didn't do sleep-deprivation, drugs and feigned drowning.


Porter Goss inherited this situation, it came with the territory and he wasn’t part of the setup.  But he stood side-by-side with Cheney when they tried, unsuccessfully, to get John McCain to make a CIA exception to his no-torture bill.  Porter isn’t liked at CIA.  He’s ridden roughshod over the career spooks and they’re not about to get hung out to dry when the walls come tumbling down.  Standing in the way of wreckage is not how you get to be a career spook and certainly not how you retire to a pension and a job in the armaments industry.


But Central Intelligence and the White House have cried wolf once too often with the ‘national security concerns’ and Dana Priest’s Washington Post article suggests that ‘host countries’ as well as the United States are in violation of the U.N. Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.  We all of us civilized folks signed the convention.  Even so, overseas the CIA uses ‘Enhanced Interrogation Techniques’ and there we are, enhancing again, when we ought to be abstaining.


But something’s going to hit the fan, because keeping this kind of stuff quiet depends on consistently winning, staying far enough ahead of the moralists who can be so unsupportive and allowing the end to justify the means.  We did that successfully at Dresden, Cologne and Hiroshima.  But as the Middle East becomes unraveled it looks like there will be consequences this time around.  The reckoning is likely to be home-based as well as international.

And there you have it.
Dick Cheney thought he could get away with it, that we’d be met with flowers in Baghdad and that the terrorists were in their ‘last throes’ mid summer.  He’s an evil guy whose done some evil things and it’s coming home to roost.  The career guys at CIA don’t mind losing Porter Goss over this, but they’re not about to get caught with their own pants around their ankles.


Daddy would say that’s what happens when you wilfully wreck a reputation.
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Read more of my musings on the war in Iraq at my personal web site.