My guest today is award-winning syndicated journalist and author, Robert C. Koehler. Welcome back to OpEdNews, Bob.
JB: You wrote a piece recently called succinctly, Abolishing the CIA. Isn't that a bit of an overreaction or hyperbole?
BK: I didn't mean it as hyperbole and I don't think it's an overreaction. Rather, it's a rational and sensible reaction, I think, not just to the latest torture report but to all the harm the agency has done over the years. The main point of my column was that everything the agency stands for is antithetical to the national interest. Sen. Daniel Moynihan introduced legislation to abolish the CIA both in 1991 and again in 1995. That was my inspiration for the column. The agency was obsolete and counterproductive then; twenty years later, it's even more so. I'm committed to the idea that the nations, or rather, the peoples of the world have to learn how to create real peace on the planet. Abolishing the CIA strikes me as an excellent starting point for this enormous effort.
JB: It's hard for me to even imagine a world without the CIA, however sad that might be. Maybe we could spend a little time elaborating on how harmful it is. Let's start with the torture report. Wasn't the CIA just doing its job to keep American citizens safe?
BK: The U.S. launched its disastrous war on Iraq based largely on the false intelligence the CIA produced via torture.This intelligence was, of course, what the neocon cabal, which had a pre-9/11 interest in invading Iraq, wanted. So yes, the CIA was just doing its job, but its job wasn't, and isn't, to keep American citizens safe.The torture techniques detailed in the report are horrific to read about. They include beatings and waterboarding and something called "rectal rehydration." They include sleep deprivation, hideous stress (one detainee was chained to the wall in a standing position for 17 days.) They include threats to harm or murder the detainees' children or wife or mother. As I say, the Senate Intelligence Committee report makes clear that the information extracted by these techniques had no accuracy, belying all justification of them. But more to the point, torture and murder are utterly immoral acts, which rouse fury and hatred that come back to haunt the perpetrators: the American people.
JB: Has the CIA at least been on the up and up regarding their role in all this? I know that Dick Cheney is still out there swinging. Haven't top honchos at the CIA spoken before Congress on numerous occasions, giving sworn testimony? Or am I misremembering? What are we to believe?
BK: I think mostly the honchos have denied the use of torture or else, if outright denial was impossible, they dodged the bullet and said whatever was done was necessary. That's Cheney's mantra.
JB: So, where does it leave us if we can't trust those who are supposedly guarding our nation and its inhabitants? And how does all this fit in with all the NSA domestic surveillance or are they totally separate issues?
BK: It leaves us where we've been for at least the last 60 or 70 years, with a growing, powerful, self-perpetuating military-industrial complex, which has no interest in being governed or regulated. It leaves us with the Washington Consensus, which is perpetual war. It leaves us with a government of secrets, secrets, secrets. The NSA is another part of the beast, growing without restraint, engorging endless data on a global scale for God only knows what purpose, if any. An abhorrence of secrecy was Sen. Moynihan's motivation to introduce legislation to abolish the CIA. In a speech to the Senate, he said, "Secrecy is a disease. It causes hardening of the arteries of the mind."
JB: Sen. Moynihan's mighty fine quote would be a great place to end this interview; it captures the situation perfectly. But I simply can't. I like to end on an up note, whenever possible. What can we concerned citizens do against the behemoth that rules our lives? Or are we totally out of our depth here? I'm assuming things will only worsen after the new Congress is sworn in. Do you have anything hopeful at all to offer our readers?
BK: Part of the hope I feel is that a movement to abolish the CIA would bring much of the useless horror of its activities, including its past involvement in the overthrow of democratically elected governments (Iran, Guatemala, Chile), into the public debate. I also think there is a growing peace movement across the planet. One aspect of this movement is called restorative justice -- and we've talked about this, Joan. It's based on healing rather than punishment, connection rather than domination. It operates at a local rather than an international level, but by and large hope has to be sought and found at the local level. If we can find real hope there, if we can see change happening there, then we can stay geared up for the long uphill struggle for global peace.
JB: Long uphill struggle, indeed. Thanks so much for talking with me again, Bob. Let's do it again soon. It's always a pleasure.
***some of my past interviews with Bob:
Bob Koehler on Justice with Healing at Its Core [on restorative justice] 6.23.2014