Vigilance in CIA Oxymoron


      The VigilanceVoice
Friday-- March 1, 2002—Ground Zero Plus 171

CIA Vigilance--An Oxymoron?
Cliff McKenzie
Editor, New York City Combat Correspondent News

        GROUND ZERO, New York City, Mar. 1--I watch the television program about the CIA.  It's CBS's spy show called The Agency.
        As a drama, it's not bad.  In fact, it has grown on me.   It involves the conflict a nation faces between acts of morality and acts of horror.
        Last night the CIA former Acting Director, Quinn, played by Daniel Benzali, was the focus of the moral dilemma.  The new Director, Senator Tom Gauge, portrayed by Beau Bridges, found that the Nazi-looking bald and brass knuckled Acting Director (Quinn) had made a secret deal with a Middle Eastern leader to supply US support and help the Middle Easterner become the nation's ruler. The collateral damage included the death of a  Vietnamese college student who had been hired by the CIA to be a watchdog.   The youth  was killed because he went beyond his "information" assignment and began to spy and got caught in the crossfire of international intrigue.
       The moral dilemma involved the CIA taking responsibility for the boy's death.  What would the new director do when he found out the youth's death was the result of CIA gamesmanship?   Would the future alliance of a Middle Eastern nation become more important than the life of an American citizen?
       Of course, the answer was yes--the boy was a mere "drop of blood in the bucket" compared to the bigger picture of America's alliance with a valuable strategic nation.   The part became less important than the whole.
       Moral wars are an oxymoron.   (An oxymoron is a paradox usually reduced to two words, such as "eloquent silence. Oxy means "keen and sharp" while moron means "foolish."  The two words together create logical confusion  They are a contrariety, an impossibility.)  
        Morality is a judgment not a fact.   It is formed by individual opinion, based on personal experiences and beliefs.   The killing of an innocent youth can be for some a crime of such proportion that a nation's future security is less than important than the disease of sanctioning murder, or, it can be just a fly in the ointment to others who view the "end" more important than the "means."
      I once studied the Catholic Church's checklist for deciding a "moral war."  It included a number of criterion to be met before violence upon others could be justified.  Here is an excerpt.
The Catechism  guidelines for a "Just War" (paragraphs 2307 through 2317): moral teachings hold that war may be declared if the cause is just, if it is prosecuted by a legitimate authority, if the results do not produce more evil than good, if this is a last resort after all diplomacy has failed, if there is a good chance of success and if the goal is lasting peace. 
       It is a grueling list, filled with "ifs" that provide enough wiggle room for a conservative to say:  "this is a just war," or, a liberal to pronounce, "this is an unjust war."
     That's what I like about the CIA.  It forces one to think through the moral questions, while, at the same time, ending up at the amoral crossroad.
     Terrorism, to some, has no morality. It is an immoral or amoral act against the innocent.   To others, it is perfectly moral, easily justified.  The deciding factor depends on one's viewpoint.  
       If I am an oppressed people living in the shadow of America, watching it support regimes I believe owe their loyalty not to the nation but to the oil reserves, or natural resources, or strategic location, then I might just believe that any act I take against such a monolith would be justified to meet the "end,"--the freedom from America's political oppression.   In addition, if my culture says that if I die in an act of violence against my enemies I will be honored forever as a hero of my state, my nation, I might see the "enemy"--whether innocent or not--as one body, bent on my ultimate destruction.  From this vista, Terrorism becomes moral.
      This logic puts Vigilance and Terrorism in a quandary.   If we are Vigilant against Terrorism, are we also being ignorant of our own Terroristic acts against others?   Are those words impossible opposites, but instead, mere mirrors of one another disguised as "morality" versus "immorality?"
      I think not.
      Vigilance is not about morality while Terrorism is.   Vigilance is the defense one takes to prevent Terrorism from reaching the doorstep of a person's home, neighborhood, community, state or nation..  Terrorism is acting out of moral indignation.
      Some might argue that Vigilance is the seed of Terrorism.   This is where the dilemma between the two thoughts grows.
      To be truly Vigilant, some say, we must kill Osama bin Laden.   We must destroy all the cells of al Queda, and then scour the earth for anyone who plans to revolt against civilization in uncivilized ways--killing innocents.
      If one is truly Vigilant, one cuts the core of the boil out so it will not grow again.   One stomps the enemy to death rather than merely executing them to serve as an example to future enemies of the price they must pay for bearing arms.    The dropping of the Atomic Bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki can be termed an "act of Vigilance,"-- it saved millions of lives by putting off an invasion of Japan by U.S. military forces.  But it cost thousands.  Was it Terrorism or Vigilance?
     The CIA show posed the question to me again--what is the right policy a citizen should have to thwart Terrorism?
     Do I brag to my grandchildren that we have killed bin Laden and they can be free of Terrorism because its global icon has been smashed by the fist of American Vigilance, or, do I tell them that Terrorism is a perspective, something that will never disappear, and rather than fear it, they must always have their guard up--not just for enemies of the state, but to protect them from the enemies within--their own Emotional al Queda that hunkers in the caves of their humanness, ready to spring out and catch them with a thought they aren't as smart as, or as handsome or pretty as, or as rich as, or as worthy as the others to whom they measure themselves?
      Is Vigilance the outgrowth of Terrorism?
      Posing these questions is frustrating, but ultimately valuable.   Since Complacency undermines one's ability to live a happy, joyous and free life from the inside out, it seems worth the time and effort to keep the CIA at work within one's self.   If there is a band of intelligence seekers keeping an eye on the Terrorisms of the World within us, it readies us for a Nine Eleven, it protects us from falling into a state of uselessness when we are attacked by Emotions or true Physical danger.
      Ultimately, the morality of right and wrong gets shortchanged when we face the issue of survival.   If it comes down to "us" or "them," if a mother is threatened by some violent force attacking her children, there is little question we will act to defend ourselves without blinking a moral eye.
       But in the aftermath of such decisions we play with judgment--"was that the right thing to do?  Could we have done something else?  Something less violent?  Something more humane?"
       Vigilance, at least, prepares us for the day when we have to face the actions triggered by Fear, Complacency and Intimidation.   It presupposes we expect to be Terrorized.
       I think I would opt to tell my grandchildren that Terrorism is a way of life, not something that must  be killed, or that a war upon it can become victorious by eliminating one of its figureheads.  I would tell them that Evil and Good co-exist, one part of the other, and that if they don't prepare themselves to face it with Courage, Conviction and Action, they will feel powerless, be dazzled by Terrorism's gripping hands.
       On the moral issue, I would share with them they must decide what moral is before they act, and if they act out of instinct, out of self preservation, then they must trust that action to be right.  But, if they act out of hatred, revenge, fear, intimidation, they have become the Terrorist.
       If they posed to me the question of measuring their moral decisions, I would tell them they had only to be 51% more right than wrong in the actualization of their decision.   That being right, morally right, is at its least, one percent more on the side of what's good for the world than one percent on the bad.
       Terrorism becomes bad and morally wrong because it is only 49% right.   When Terrorism attacks the weak, the helpless, the innocent with indiscriminate violence, it loses the morality of its One Percent Righteousness.
       And, if my grandchildren were to ask me how that formula applied to a carpet bombing run over Afghanistan, I would flick on the television to the Discovery Channel and hope a nature show was on to take their attention away from a question I could not honestly answer.  I would be stuck in an oxymoron.  

     Go To Feb. 28 "Restarting Your Day From Ground Zero - The Art of Vigilant Thinking"

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