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.


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Forty years ago the UN General Assembly passed a resolution against "hostile environmental modification techniques...

The beauty and the tragedy of everyday life in a war zone.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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