You can’t really blame THAT part on the CIA

Meant to post this the other day, from an opinion piece in the WashPost:

The reaction from public health workers was understandably fierce when the Guardian reported last week that the CIA had staged a vaccination campaign in an attempt to confirm Osama bin Laden’s location by obtaining DNA from his family members. We recognize the importance of the mission to bring bin Laden to justice. But the CIA’s reckless tactics could have catastrophic consequences.

The CIA’s plot — recruiting a Pakistani doctor to distribute hepatitis vaccines in Abbottabad this spring — destroyed credibility that wasn’t its to erode. It was the very trust that communities worldwide have in immunization programs that made vaccinations an appealing ruse. But intelligence officials imprudently burned bridges that took years for health workers to build….

Uhhh… I don’t think the CIA is to blame for that. Sounds like you need to put the blame for that at The Guardian‘s doorstep.

Yell and holler, if you are so inclined, about the CIA using a phony deal to use bin Laden’s kids in order to get to him so we could kill him. That’s really, really cold. Creepy, even.

But the CIA’s action didn’t erode health workers’ credibility. If it had been kept secret — which I feel sure would have been the Agency’s preference — no damage would have been done. It was reporting it that did the eroding.

Oh, and note that I’m not criticizing The Guardian for reporting it. I’m just saying, let’s be clear about causes and effects here. Actions, even worthwhile actions, have consequences.

9 thoughts on “You can’t really blame THAT part on the CIA

  1. bud

    This takes some serious revisionism to blame the Guardian for something the CIA was clearly culpable of doing. The audacity of trying setting up a fake innoculation center to give folks false hope that they would be protected from a serious disease. All this secrecy stuff really does get the old blood to boiling.

  2. bud

    Speaking of culpability, how’s this for an honest self assessment:

    “As details of the scandal surrounding News Corporation, have emerged,
    my defense has been consistent: I had no idea what was going on.

    I’m sure you are wondering, how could I, Rupert Murdoch, one of the most powerful men
    in the world, have no idea what is going on? The answer is simple: I get my news from my
    own newspapers. If you relied on News of the World, The Sun, and The New York Post for
    your information, I can assure you that you wouldn’t have a clue what was going on, either.”
    — Rupert Murdoch

  3. `Kathryn Fenner

    Tuskegee–the repercussions continue.

    There are no secrets, and just because the general public doesn’t know about something, doesn’t make it right.

  4. Brad

    OK, friends, pay close attention. I didn’t say keeping it a secret made it right. I didn’t say it was right to begin with. In fact, to the extend that I passed any judgment on the action, I said it was creepy.

    Go back and read it.

    But there is no denying that if it had remained SECRET, the health workers wouldn’t have a PR problem. If know one knew about it, their credibility would be undamaged.

    Try to stop thinking about how you FEEL about it, and see my point. Which is that the point made in the two paragraphs I quoted do not follow logically…

    Hey, Mr. Spock gets it. Why don’t all you full-blooded humans get it?

  5. Karen McLeod

    If health professionals agreed to it they should be having problems. I hope that they were at least giving actual vaccinations.

  6. Brad

    What I haven’t seen — and if y’all have, please share — is any indication of whether this operation played any significant role in our confirmation that bin Laden WAS there, and our successful eventual mission to kill him.

    If it did (and I suppose that when it was conceived, there was some expectation that it would), we are faced with the ethical dilemma — did such ends justify such means?

    I don’t know the answer to that. And I would hate to be put in the position to have to decide. (And to know how I WOULD decide, I would not only have to know a lot more than I now know, and more than The Guardian will ever be in a position to tell me, but I would have to be in that situation at that moment knowing what I knew then, and those variables make KNOWING impossible.)

    Note that this was not about HURTING kids. This wasn’t the classic 1984 question, Would you throw acid in a child’s face to further the revolution? (The correct answer, Winston, was NO, by the way. This was much more ambiguous. This was about using children as cover to get to their Dad… and kill him… which raises a different set of issues.

  7. `Kathryn Fenner

    Sure, blame the MSM, now you aren’t one of them.

    Of course there’s no public relations problem if the public doesn’t know about it. Kinda tautological, that. Figured you were trying to make a less circular observation.

  8. Brad

    I wasn’t being circular. I was being direct. I was directly answering the assertion I quoted from that opinion piece. It said the CIA operation caused health workers’ credibility to be damaged. But it did not. REPORTING it caused health workers’ credibility to be damaged.

    Whether it was a bad thing for the CIA to do it is clearly a separate issue. Which depends on whether you think the goal of killing Osama bin Laden was worth doing that. Which is by no means a simple question to answer. (As I’ve suggested before, that coup in the War on Terror contains more moral ambiguity, properly considered, than most people are comfortable with.) But it’s not the question I was reacting to.

  9. bud

    Brad, let’s be very, very clear. It’s completely unambiguious that we have dropped agent orange, napalm, nuclear weapons, cluster bombs and spent uranium tank shells ON CHILDREN in our various wars to eradicate the bad guys. The whole acid in a kids face scenerio is a real tragedy that we have engaged in in wars brought on by a variety of mendacious presidents. And it needs to stop. But until all Americans get it we’ll forever be waging these types of counter-productive wars. And the “collateral damage” will continue.

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