A Discussion of the CIA Report and Finding a Moral High Ground

Disclaimer: I know that this is going to be a controversial post, that there will people with more information than me, and people who do not agree with me.  However, at 23-years-old I feel confident that my opinion on this subject is not going to change.  I believe in debate and the power it has to spark conversation and growth, but I ask that you keep your opinions civil and that this not degrade into the likes of a Rush Limbaugh talk show segment. 

CIA Report
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I can remember in third grade, my teacher telling me that one day I would understand war.

This was about a year before September 11, so looking back I can’t remember what war she was talking to a third grade class about, or why she thought to tell an 8-year-old that war makes sense and that one day, she would agree.  I just remember feeling confused and obstinate.  Utterly sure that at no point in my life would I understand killing people to make a point.  For the first time in my admittedly short life, I doubted an authority figure and what they were telling me.

I don’t know why I thought of this on my way to work Wednesday morning, other than the recent situation with the CIA and the sudden realization, all across America, that we never really had the moral high ground after all.

If you don’t know what I’m talking about, the CIA released a report earlier this week detailing the tactics they’ve used over the last 13 years in the fight against terrorism.  The release of the report was a conflict in itself – the left saying that we need to admit to our mistakes and grow from them, and the right saying that all this report could do is make matters worse.  If that was bad, the report itself was even worse, filled with details about the just-barely-within-Geneva-Convention-laws torture that our CIA has been using to find information that debatably, they never did find anyway.  Waterboarding, anal feeding (I don’t know either, so don’t ask me what that is), sleep deprivation, chaining a person with broken legs into a standing position against a wall…

I’ve read very little about the report and the debate that it’s sparked.  All I really know is what my mom and I discussed briefly, the few articles I’ve read since, and what my daily email from The Skimm told me.  But for me, that’s enough: names of torture tactics that I can’t even guess what they might be.  Tactics designed to break a person, to get information that we never were able to get.

To fight for a moral high ground that, as it turned out, we never really had in the first place.  And while I realize there is a fight for the greater good at stake, that there’s a lot I still don’t know and may never know, I think I know enough to say that I don’t understand.

I don’t understand how, in 2014 we’re still at a point in society where our go-to response to a disagreement – however big or small – with another country is to grab our weapons and kill until we see who has the least men and women left standing.  I don’t understand how we’ve yet to overcome this most base instinct of ours as human beings, that which is supposed to separate us from animals.  As someone who subsists off of words and knows the power behind them, I don’t understand how language isn’t enough to stop us from this. 

I always have, and always will stand behind the men and women who risk their lives to fight for our country and my freedom.  I am grateful beyond words for what they have sacrificed and continue to sacrifice.  But I don’t understand what they are sacrificing for, why this is the only way we know to solve a problem.

  • http://theladyerrant.com/ Elle

    This report blow my mind. I mean, the ends don’t justify the means, ever – and they didn’t even get the results in the form of life-saving information. Instead, they just lied for years about the effectiveness of something they shouldn’t have been doing anyway. I agree with you – you can’t not support the people who are fighting, but you can totally question the need for them to be doing so; these actions are not incompatible and it drives me crazy when people think they are.

    Side note: Haha, you made me feel a little old because I was totally in ninth grade when 9/11 happened.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Exactly! I guess I always knew that they were doing really awful things but just…having the report to point to and say this is what we’ve been doing…it’s sickening that anybody collectively thought this was okay. And that psychiatrists were helping!! What happened to first do no harm?

      hahaha I feel old when I realize that there are freshman in highschool who weren’t alive at the time!

  • Shybiker

    I’m proud of you for addressing this. It’s an important topic of serious social concern. Yes, opinions may vary but discussion is always good.
    In my view, our government does not have the moral high-ground. It never did. We may be more militarily and economically powerful, but it’s not because we’re better people. Using torture the way we did, to the extent we did, with psychiatrists assisting in the assault on human minds and bodies, is a stain on our moral character that will last for decades. There is no excuse for it, notwithstanding the lame justifications made in its defense. You can try calling torture another word, but you sure as Hell wouldn’t want to be subjected to it.
    Some of our political leaders in the past administration have been warned not to visit certain European countries for fear that they will be (legitimately) arrested and tried for international war crimes. That says something.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Thank you.

      I agree with you – it’s just finding out things like this…I can’t imagine how we got to be this bad. The fact that psychiatrists were involved makes me absolutely sick – how could you, as someone who swore to do no harm, do something like this in clear conscience?

  • http://whatwecandotoday.wordpress.com Lina

    It is really sad that economic interests are rated higher than human lives. And that the people in a country have absolutely no control over the methods the secret service uses. And that there are so many innocent people in Guantanamo who have never even had a fair trial. (I could go on and on there) But it is very important to address the topic so thank you for doing that!

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Exactly, because while I realize that partially this is a war on terror and an attempt at protecting our country, it’s also an economic war and a desperate attempt to remain on top. I understand that being a superpower is important (in a very vague, that’s what I’ve been told sort of way), but is it this important? Do we really need to be absolutely number one at any and all costs?

  • Jessica Marie

    With people still fighting or even living over there, I’m not sure if it was smart to release these findings. I’m really concerned now about more kidnappings and beheadings. : As I think in a time of war, extreme tactics should be taken, especially when lives are in danger or other acts of terrorism could take place… but within Geneva Convention standards… I don’t think our top secret information should be released given the state of the Middle East. It’s a scary time, indeed.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I hadn’t thought of that, but you’re right. ISIS is already doing awful things to Americans for seemingly no reason…this just seems to give them a reason.

      I don’t know to what extent I agree with you…because TECHNICALLY this was all within standards set by the Geneva Convention. All that says is that people can’t be physically harmed. These people were mentally tortured for God knows how long. I don’t think that’s okay under any circumstances because, at best, you’re taking an eye for an eye. You’re saying – well you did it so now I’m gonna do it to you! It just makes everything worse and certainly doesn’t make us better than anyone. Just because we cover it up doesn’t mean we’re the “good guys”

      • Jessica Marie

        I think it’s just really hard because wartime is so different from peaceful times. I study military history and I know it’s often said: “war is hell.” I’m just unsure because I know they want to prevent terrorism, but at the same time… some of it is questionable. I don’t want to see another 9/11 happen or any source of terror, but at the same time, I think there should be techniques that shouldn’t be done. I’m just not sure.

  • http://nomad-notebook.blogspot.co.uk/ Lizzy

    Great post- I was going to write one too about this topic. To me it’s a very black and white issue- I do not agree or comply with torture and it makes me sick to the stomach to know exactly what torture tactics have been used and the fact that the British Government were implicit in the extraordinary rendition of terror suspects to Guantanamo Bay. It surprises me that people didn’t even realise the extent to which this was all going on- but maybe this is because I studied a degree which discussed this type of thing. The UK and other American allies are just as guilty in being complicit with the US’s War on Terror tactics and allowing the torture of so many people, and quite frankly, dehumanising people lower to that of animals.

    Obama, whilst in my opinion being one of the better Presidents the US has had in a long time, majorly failed in my eyes in shutting down places like Guantanamo Bay where this was happening. This is probably a very controversial and possibly inaccurate thing to say but I feel like there may be a cultural difference in the US- whilst the UK were complicit in these things, there was a massive outcry with the War On Terror- it was and still is very controversial due to issues like this but there seems to be an acceptance in The States that if someone is thought guilty, violence is an accepted thing to use. Maybe this has some correlation with the approval of the death penalty- i’m not sure, but to me there does seem to be some inherent difference where this behavior was somehow accepted, or a blind eye turned to.

    I went to a interview discussion session a few years ago now where someone who was in Guantanamo Bay was interviewed (he was found innocent in a court of law for being wrongly captured) and he described the treatment of prisoners and the complete inhumane treatment he received. I genuinely believe, regardless of American policies regarding the treatment of prisoners, that every single officer should be trialed and held to justice for everything that has happened. I believe the release of the document is important as some kind of acceptance that the US and it’s allies messed up big time, and that torture, regardless of the prisoner being guilty or not for terrorism charges, should not be psychologically, sexually or physically abused and tortured.

    Lizzy from Nomad Notebook

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I don’t know necessarily that we didn’t know it was going on – it’s been alluded to in TV shows and movies (Zero Dark Forty for example). It’s easier to imagine that it’s not that bad though, so we turned a blind eye.

      I’m sorry to say I don’t know specifics about what Obama did to shut down Guantanamo Bay, but I don’t think he ever stood a chance at completely shutting everything down. That’s going to take many years, and at least a few Presidents being on the same page. I’m torn on how I believe Obama did as a President because on one hand, I think he did the best he could under the circumstances (everything he did, the Republicans did all they could to stop him just because he was Democrat), but at the same time how much did we really accomplish in almost 8 years?

      I honestly don’t know much about the court system or anything else in the UK, but I think that you’re correct that in America, while it may not say so in any law, people generally believe that violence is an acceptable answer. It happens all over the country, all the time and for the most part, it’s accepted. I mean, even with this – something so clearly WRONG – there are thousands of Americans justifying it. That says a lot about our society.

  • http://www.livinginretrospect.com Bobbie Gross

    Thank you for posting this. I absolutely agree that we should be beyond this. It breaks my heart how terrible the world is. I know that I am probably more sensitive than most people, but are we really this depraved as a collective? The older I get, the more I realize that the world is far less evolved than I believed as a child. I hope that our generation can do something to move it forward.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      I agree with you – I feel like we should have come so much further than this as a society, but somehow our go-to answer is still violence/murder.

  • http://www.thekaridiaries.com/ Kari @ The Kari Diaries

    Wonderful post. And even though I’m only 3 years older than you, I have to commend you on how thought out, insightful and well-written your posts are. I’ve been reading (but not really commenting) on your blog for quite some time now.

    The concept of war has alway been a confusing one for me a well. Mostly because I thought we were done beating each other over the head with clubs to get our point across back when caveman learned to walk upright, but alas, we are not.

    • http://www.sheisfierce.org/ Kiersten McMonagle

      Kari – thank you so much for your kind words. I’m glad to hear that you’re enjoying what you’re finding here.

      I agree – I honestly cannot fathom that we’re not past this. And that when you confront someone with it – say like how is this our solution – they’ll defend it at all costs as though somehow we’re in the right.