Moral Low Ground


Brennan’s Biggest Lie

(Photo: Secretary of Defense)

(Photo: Secretary of Defense)

President Barack Obama’s pick of John Brennan to head the Central Intelligence Agency is deeply troubling for several reasons.

First, there’s Brennan’s unapologetic support for US torture in the War on Terror. Although he opposes waterboarding, which he rightfully denounces as torture (and if you have any doubt that it is, please read this), he embraced other so-called ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ that rise to the level of torture under domestic and international law.

Then there’s Brennan’s support of extraordinary rendition, wherein terror suspects are abducted by CIA operatives in foreign countries and transported to third countries for interrogation and, often, torture and worse. Brennan called rendition “an absolutely vital tool” in the War on Terror, ignoring the fact that innocent people have suffered horribly as a result of the practice.

But perhaps the most troubling aspect of Brennan’s tenure as President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism czar is his obfuscation, even outright lies, on the subject of civilian drone deaths. Brennan, who is widely recognized as the architect of the surging drone war in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia, made the shocking claim that “in the last year, there hasn’t been a single (civilian drone) death because of the exceptional proficiency and precision of the capabilities we’ve been able to develop.” But the Bureau for Investigative Journalism found that at least 45 Pakistani civilians had been killed by US drone strikes in the period in question.

Brennan also falsely claims that there is “little evidence” that drone strikes stoke anti-American sentiment among populations where they occur. You don’t need to conduct studies to figure out that this is an absurd assertion, but studies have been done and, surprise, surprise, people who are constantly terrorized by drones tend to start hating the country that is sending them. It should come as no shock that three-quarters of Pakistanis consider the US an “enemy.”  Heck, even Gen. Stanley McChrystal, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, raised eyebrows when he recently acknowledged that drones are “hated on a visceral level” in Afghanistan.

Perhaps being a good liar is a prerequisite for being director of the CIA. But even if that’s the case, Brennan is a pretty bad liar. He is also a war criminal, and as such, has no place running a US government agency. Then again, based on our history, maybe that’s the perfect place for him.

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