Saturday, May 11, 2024

Virtue: It's the Question


Virtue: It’s the Question

Peter Schultz


                  It seems to be universally agreed that virtue is the answer. That is, all human groups or factions, whether they be capitalists, communists, socialists, Catholics, protestants, liberals or conservatives, oligarchs or democrats, agree that virtue is the answer; that is, it is the key to political and social health and decency.


                  But it seems rather that virtue should be the question, not the answer.


                  To wit: William Colby, in his maiden speech as the CIA’s DCI, called for agents “to show moral and intellectual courage.” But, because the CIA kills and tortures, it is fair to ask: Do “moral and intellectual courage” include murder and torture, ala’ the Phoenix program that Colby oversaw in Vietnam? Has the CIA transformed murder and torture into moral and intellectual courage? Does the political transform killing and torture, “going to the dark side,” into moral and intellectual courage, as suggested by Vice President Dick Cheney? And, if so, what does this say about the political and about those who are called “political elites,” who are commonly praised as superior human beings serving as human benefactors? Are they distinguished by their virtues?


                  William Colby referred to the CIA as part of “the intelligence profession.” In his mind, the CIA is “a profession,” like, apparently, the medical profession. But with one, small difference: CIA professionals, unlike medical professionals, don’t take an oath “to do no harm.” In fact, doing harm represents the profession’s virtue, and its guarantee of respectability. Demonstrating and achieving a virtuous respectability wears a strange countenance, it would seem, one that looks a lot like viciousness. So it goes, politically.

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