Tuesday, July 25, 2023

CIA Officers As Congressmen


CIA Officers As Congressmen

Peter Schultz


            In his book, The CIA as Organized Crime, Douglas Valentine has a chapter entitled, “The Spook Who Became a Congressman: Why CIA Officers Cannot be Allowed to Hold Public Office.” Valentine’s reasoning is simple: CIA officers “can’t be trusted to tell the truth about anything.” [240] Nevertheless, the American people don’t seem to agree as they were willing to elect Robert Simmons to Congress in 2000. And it is worthwhile to ask why.


            Valentine attributes Simmons’s victory to manipulation of the truth by Simmons and the media, especially some newspapers. And while there was manipulation in these ways, there is more to the story than that.


            It is worthwhile to ask how are public officials and public service understood that someone like Rob Simmons may make a valid claim that he deserves to be elected to such a position. Because public office is understood as a moral undertaking, those who seek to gain them or occupy them are understood as morally virtuous. Hence, no one can legitimately question the moral virtue of those who serve in public office when undertaking their official duties. And this is what happened when Simmons was accused of committing war crimes while a CIA officer in Vietnam. Simmons called the charges a “smear tactic" that impugned “any veteran, anybody who served his country in war.” [237] Serving your country in time of war is about the most morally virtuous action one can undertake. It is a service that is treated as above and beyond any other duty.


            So, as a result of the controversy that erupted, Simmons opponent was “rocked by the outpouring of sympathy for Simmons" and he fired two campaign workers for “inciting two…college students to plan…a rally against Simmons.” [238] And the local newspaper, the New London Day, called the charges “a dirty trick,” while, not surprisingly, “refusing to delve into the substance of the charges.” [238]


            So, what was happening? What did the outpouring of sympathy for Simmons demonstrate? It demonstrated that not only was Simmons's moral virtue being challenged, but so was that of the electorate. The sympathy shown to Simmons “soothed many Americans,” because their sympathy and votes demonstrated that they are, like Simmons, morally virtuous. Their sympathy and their votes helped “absolve them of complicity in the crimes” Simmons may have committed, so there was no need to look into "the substance of the charges." It was as if those crimes disappeared given the conviction that Simmons, like all soldiers, was morally virtuous. Apparently, moral virtue has something like a magical character, a chameleon-like character, such that moral virtue and crime go together quite well.

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