Life Imitating Art

The release of the Senate Intelligence Committee report detailing the degree to which the CIA used torture and other abuses to attempt – almost always unsuccessfully – to get vital information from prisoners called to mind an episode of the television series The West Wing in which the president and his staff are considering assassinating the defense minister of another country whom they know, for certain, is directing terrorism against the U.S. The president is hesitant; he knows it’s necessary and he’s working toward giving the assassination his final approval, but he also knows it’s wrong.

The president (Bartlet) then has this exchange (from 34:15 to 35:15, although this is the best episode in the series’ seven-year run and well worth your time, if you’re so inclined) with his chief of staff (Leo), who is pressing for his final approval.

BARTLET

I recognize that there’s evil in the world.

LEO

What is your objection exactly, sir?

BARTLET

Doesn’t this mean we join the league of ordinary nations?

Sort of like the U.S. after the release of the report on the CIA’s abuses.

Suddenly, and sadly, we find ourselves a member of the league of ordinary nations.

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