Spy Versus Spy

No wonder Italy has run out of mobile phone wiretaps… they used them all up chasing CIA agents! And I really like this “extraordinary rendition” concept. It’s like a Tom Clancy novel. We go into an allied country without approval and extract a subject to a third country where fewer rules apply. Can you imagine how we’d feel if countries started doing stuff like this to us? I mean think about this. Imagine how we’d feel if teams of foreign agents were running around New York or Florida operating completely outside the law, planning to abduct or even kill people. Wait, didn’t this happen about four years ago? I think it was around the second week of September.

I’m not saying there aren’t bad guys out there. But we’re clearly on a path to considering ourselves above the law anywhere on the planet we choose to go. I’m guessing many people will see Italy as the bad guy and the CIA as the victim in this situation. Our sense of universal moral entitlement has us going into friendly countries, European countries, countries responsible for quite a bit of our own cultural heritage, and doing “extractions” without any kind of respect for local sovereignty or rule of law. Is this really the example we want to set? Do we really want to put forth the impression that it’s all just a global free-for-all? Because I believe there really is a non-trivial relationship between the words “civilization” and “civility.”

How much longer can we pretend to inhabit the moral high ground when we continually violate the most basic laws of justice and humanity? And to put it in words even the far right ought to be able to understand, what ever happened to “do unto others?” In all of our global moralizing and selective attention to biblical literality, did we forget the second half of that basic tenet? Because it doesn’t end, as we sometimes jokingly say, “before they can do unto you,” nor even the less antagonistic but still cynical “as they do unto you.” What we are most certainly not doing is what it actually does say: “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

Do you want to get pulled into a white van and sent to another country for torture? Do you want to live with a complete absence of due process? Of course not. And if you want to this to happen to other people–even your enemies, even very bad guys–I’d say you have something seriously wrong with your morality. But guess what. This is what we’re doing. This is what 51% of us voted in favor of in the last election. We’re the people in the white van. We’re the people in the black hoods holding the electrodes to someone’s genitals. We’re an entire country that has, to steal a phrase from the spy-thriller world, gone off the reservation. We’ve gone rogue, and the results aren’t pretty. Where, in all our professed “morality,” is our conscience?

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