“We are the good guys”

Former CIA agent Philip Giraldi gets together with former colleagues from the agency around the holidays and on these occasions tries to understand how they can support the anti-constitutional, anti-human rights, war criminal polices that have now become routine actions of the US government.

This Christmas I was informed that drones are the only good mechanism for offing those terrorists hiding in the mountains of Pakistan and I heard no less than three times that “We are the good guys,” which must be the latest last line of defense when all other arguments have failed. When I commented that it is hard to be a good guy when you are killing American citizens without any trial and wiping out wedding parties the response was vague, as if I were suggesting something that has not really been established or for which there is some other back story that might explain the activity. When I asked the Sarah Palinesque wife of a former case officer how a guy in a beard and turban hiding in a cave along the Pakistan frontier could conceivably threaten the United States the response was something like a shrug.

What bothers me particularly is that the former intelligence officers are, generally speaking, not only well-educated but also experienced in living overseas and dealing with foreign languages and cultures. Many of them are practicing Catholics, some of whom take their religion very seriously indeed. So they are not Michelle Bachmann type ignorant bigots, which means that they should know better. I asked one, “Why do we have a constitution if the president can kill whomever he wants?” There was no response as if the question itself were irrelevant.

They clearly believe that the United States has a legitimate casus belli against terrorists and the nations that harbor them and do not generally think that searching for the root causes of the violent acts serves any real purpose, so they accept that any intervention based on the national sense of grievance is morally justified even if the actual details don’t quite translate into a threat against the United States.

The sense that one is so intrinsically good that one’s motives are unimpeachable is an attitude that leads to atrocities. When one is not disturbed by the possibility of being wrong, one can do the most awful things because one can still feel good about oneself.


  1. Pierce R. Butler says

    No doubt Giraldi will have to find a new set of buddies to hang out with next Xmas.

    Should he live so long.

  2. jamessweet says

    drones are the only good mechanism for offing those terrorists hiding in the mountains of Pakistan

    I could probably even my talked into this proposition, but even if we grant that as true, how can someone not see the glaring problems with the drone program as currently operated? The lack of restraint has been so shocking that I have started to become convinced that — as many anti-drone activists have contended — said lack of restraint is an inherent feature of drone strikes, as opposed to a poorly tuned parameter that might otherwise enable a legitimate and effective tactic.

    When military drones first started to be deployed, my attitude was that it was a technological innovation, with potential for abuse to be sure, but also potential to save lives. Many argued that it would lead inexorably to abuse. I’m starting to believe those people were right.

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