The terms “morals” and “morality” have been tossed about quite frequently in US news stories about the appointment of the CIA’s new chief and well- meaning Reverend William Barber is seeking to lead a moral revival of the US, but morality has little to do with US actions, whether simply spying or governing its people or deciding policy. In fact, the US is amoral because morals have little to do with its decision making.
The recent confirmation by US lawmakers of Gina Haspel as CIA Director, despite her refusal to answer questions directed at her about torture, revealed that the US Congress is aware that having good morals is not a necessity for performing a job for which morals could get in the way.
Haspel could not answer the questions about morality because she likely has no idea what it means. Her explanation that her parents instilled her with “good morals,” is no comfort because people living in the US (especially White middle class people) have the ability to retain claims to morality, while giving their (quiet) assent to the persecution and oppression of an entire race of people.
And even if her parents gave her a good moral foundation as she inferred, when confronted about the CIA’s past and torture she pushed back by claiming, anything done 17 years ago was justified by the times and was considered legal at the time.
“I’m not gonna sit here, with the benefit of hindsight and judge the very good people who made hard decisions who were running the agency in very extraordinary circumstances at the time,” she said.” The very important thing to know about CIA is that we follow the law. We followed the law then, and we follow the law now.”
Of course anyone familiar with the CIA’s history knows that Haspel was lying and just as important, she knew she was lying. The CIA breaks the law all the time. In the pursuit of US interests, the law, international, domestic, or so-called higher law has any bearing on their decision making.
As Black people in this country should know, the law itself can be immoral. Slavery was codified in law! The law allows police to bully, brutalize and even kill with impunity. The law has allowed for the criminal jailing of people, primarily Black and Brown folks for long lengths of time. The law has allowed for the separating of immigrant children from their parents, sometimes permanent.
So saying you follow the law means nothing.
Morality she seemed to be saying, had nothing to do with what the CIA does. It was not a consideration. Her actions and the actions of the CIA are guided by expediency, not morality.
In fact the entire hearing was a sham, the CIA is at its foundation is an immoral organization. It was founded to help US Imperialism in its efforts to plunder the world for capital and to guarantee that the neo –colonial world remains dependent on the US and its capitalist cronies.
The CIA does the dirty work of an amoral and immoral government for which morals have no place. The trick however, is to get people to somehow believe that it is part of the conversation.
In the popular TV series “The Americans” which tells a fictional story about Soviet spies who have infiltrated the US, the writers attempt to humanize and make moral the FBI agent who stars in the series. The agent at one point talks of courageously exposing a crime he committed against a KGB agent in order to protect a KGB agent who he liked, from the CIA. But he put the KGB agent at risk by breaking his trust in the first place, by secretly recording a conversation that was supposedly occurring between two concerned human beings.
And talk of moral revival is misplaced. The government would have had to be moral in order for it to be revived. The new Poor Peoples Campaign seeks to get the country to return to the principals found in the Constitution, but that was a document put together by Rich White men to maintain their interests. It was written by those who sanctioned and maintained slavery and the stealing of Indian lands, who also deprived the working man and women a voice in government.
Those basing their current Poor Peoples Movement on the success of the Freedom Movement should review history, victories were not gained by moral suasion. There is no record of a sea change in White attitudes toward Blacks. The laws were changed, not hearts! The US government intervened on the side of those oppressed by Jim Crow because the bloody pictures embarrassed their international reputation and its contrived claim of being a beacon of democracy. The government intervened for political purposes and out of expediency and out of the need to “get those people (protesters) out of the streets,” not out of its sense of right and wrong.
If movements for human rights are to succeed, they must be based on the ability to organize people around the issues and to see the system for what it really is, which at bottom is immoral. Moral suasion works only on those who are moral.
justice then peace