1954 September 30

Rationale for Lawlessness: The Cold War is “A Different Kind of War”


The Doolittle Commission, appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower to examine the CIA, delivered its “Report on the Covert Activities of the Central Intelligence Agency” on this day. It made the crucial argument that the anti-Communist Cold War was a “different kind of war,” meaning different than conventional wars such as World War II. This rationale justified allowing the CIA to use tactics that were not otherwise permissible in war or diplomacy.

The same rationale was used by the George W. Bush administration in the War on Terror, especially the “torture memos” written by John Yoo on August 1, 2002, to justify extraordinary claims of presidential power, secrecy, and torture.

The Doolittle Report:It is now clear that we are facing an implacable enemy whose avowed objective is world domination by whatever means and at whatever cost. There are no rules in such a game. Hitherto acceptable norms of human conduct do not apply. . . . Long-standing American concepts of “fair play” do not apply.”

Read the Doolittle Report: http://www.foia.cia.gov/sites/default/files/document_conversions/45/doolittle_report.pdf

Learn more: Hugh Wilford, The Mighty Wurlitzer: How the CIA Played America (2008)

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