If we are to err as Americans on any side in our critique of other countries, it should be in the direction of being...
John Brennan tried to elude his questioners at his confirmation hearing as CIA director.
On one question after another, he excreted octopus ink to dodge or obfuscate.
Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said, "Every American has the right to know when their government believes it's allowed to kill them."
Brennan tried to reassure Wyden that the government is "very disciplined and very judicious" in the way it makes these selections. He also said that the Obama Administration has not stretched to the "outer limits" of its justifications, which was not exactly reassuring.
After a welcome disruption by members of CodePink who denounced him and got ejected from the hearing, Brennan said that there is a "misimpression" and a "misunderstanding" about "the care we take" and -- he added obscenely -- "the agony we go through" in deciding who to kill. (Compare his "agony" to the agony of the families of the innocent people he's killed with his drones.)
"We only take such actions as a last resort to save lives when there's no other alternative," he said.
Well, then, what about his drone killing of 16-year-old Abdulrahman Al-Awlaki, the son of Anwar Al-Awlaki? Was that really a last resort to save lives? Unfortunately, I didn't hear a Senator ask that question.
Nor was Brennan reassuring on full disclosure, responding with classic doublespeak: "We need to optimize transparency and at the same time optimize secrecy."
Brennan also spewed out misinformation about the CIA's history of torture and paramilitary operations, saying that after 9/11, the agency got involved in activities that were "an aberration from its traditional role."
Actually, those activities were not an aberration at all but fully in keeping with what the CIA did in Vietnam and Laos in the 1960s and early 1970s, and what it did in El Salvador and Guatemala in the late 1970s and 1980s, just to name a few examples.
While he denounced and renounced waterboarding, he refused to call it torture.
And he confirmed that "foreign partners" were holding most of the people the U.S. has under interrogation today, and that the CIA is involved in those interrogations, sometimes directly. "The CIA should be able to lend its full expertise," he said.
That "full expertise" includes all sorts of techniques that are banned by the Geneva Conventions and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
If you liked this story by Matthew Rothschild, the editor of The Progressive magazine, check out his story "The Dangers of Obama's Cyber War Power Grab."
Follow Matthew Rothschild @mattrothschild on Twitter.