March 1, 2002—Ground
Zero Plus 171
CIA Vigilance--An Oxymoron?
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
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
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?
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
To Feb. 28 "Restarting Your Day From Ground Zero - The
Art of Vigilant Thinking"