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A Wicked and Adulterous Generation Seeketh After a Sign

By Jerry A. Kane

A Duquesne University professor petitioned Pittsburgh City Council to remove a street sign honoring, General Michael V. Hayden, one of the country’s most decorated intelligence officers, for “his role” in “torturing” Middle Eastern terror suspects and overseeing the wiretapping of U.S. citizens. The sign was put up five months before City Council adopted its policy for erecting honorary street signs.

“[T]his extraordinary honor is not appropriate for the things he did,” said Greg Barnhisel, tenured English professor at Duquesne University.

The “Gen. Michael V. Hayden Blvd” sign drew Barnhisel’s indignation after a brief encounter with the unassuming nameplate during a visit to the Carnegie Science Center with his sons in Fall 2009.

“I have been politically active most of my life, but haven’t been very vocal about it until now….When I saw the sign, I couldn’t believe the city would honor Gen. Hayden, knowing what we know about him,” said the 40-year-old registered Democrat.

Barnhisel circulated the petition to remove the offensive sign amassing 25 signatures, including that of Scilla Wahrhaftig, program director of American Friends Service Committee, who admittedly knew nothing of the controversial nameplate until the academic crusader roused her displeasure.

Awakened now to the hidden ramifications of the honorary nameplate, Wahrhaftig has weighed in accusing the former CIA Director of contributing to torture and destruction and of violating international and domestic laws.

Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl renamed the boulevard in 2008 to honor the former NSA/CIA Director for his 41 years of military service and his connection to the city; he’s a Duquesne alum who hails from Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Although Barnhisel concedes that Hayden deserves gratitude for his service, he insists that “the city should not be honoring him with a plaque” knowing that he condoned and carried out President George W. Bush’s “torture” policy.

Harry Hayden thinks the accusations against his brother are without merit.

“[Barnhisel] knows nothing about General Hayden. People are entitled to their own opinion. They’re not, however, entitled to their own facts,” Hayden said.

Author, journalist, and former Bush speechwriter Marc Thiessen lays out the facts concerning the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program, condemned as Bush’s torture policy by Barnhisel and fellow petitioners. According to Thiessen, the program’s enhanced interrogation techniques are the reason the U.S. has not suffered another 9/11. The program actually prevented several terrorist attacks and stopped al-Qaeda from launching another September 11-style attack against the U.S.

Thiessen contends that the program’s use of enhanced interrogation techniques provided intelligence agencies with an unparalleled body of information about the enemy who carried out 9/11—how it operates, how it moves money, how it communicates, how it recruits operatives, how it picks targets, how it plans and carries out attacks—at a time when the U.S. government knew almost nothing about al-Qaeda.

Thiessen claims that the information the CIA obtained through the program led to the uncovering of terrorist cells and plots, including:

  • the arrest of al-Qaeda terrorist Jose Padilla whose mission was to blow up high-rise apartment buildings in the United States.
  • the capture of a Southeast Asian terrorist cell commissioned to hijack a passenger jet and fly it into the Library Tower in Los Angeles.
  • the capture of Ramzi Bin al-Shibh who was plotting to hijack airplanes in Europe and fly them into Heathrow airport and buildings in downtown London.
  • the capture of Ammar al-Baluchi and Walid bin Attash who were plotting to blow up the U.S. consulate and Western residences in Karachi, Pakistan.
  • the disruption of an al-Qaeda plot to attack the U.S. Marine camp in Djibouti.
  • the dismantling of an al-Qaeda cell that was developing anthrax for terrorist attacks in the U.S.
  • the identification of 86 operatives approved by al-Qaeda for Western operations—most were unknown to the intelligence community and about half were found and kept off the battlefield.

The public has a distorted perception of the interrogation techniques used on senior terrorist leaders in the war on terror due to media critics and the television show 24, argues Thiessen. Even though the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program had nothing in common with the methods portrayed on the TV drama, a critic with Newsweek charged the Bush administration with designing an entire torture policy around the interrogation techniques used by the fictional character Jack Bauer.

When facts don’t match the left’s particular ideological narrative, they’re either downplayed or completely ignored by the group pushing the progressive agenda. Barnhisel and his two dozen petitioning comrades chose to ignore the facts connected with the CIA program to detain and question captured terrorists because the facts didn’t further their leftist agenda.

When the Ninth Street Bridge in Downtown Pittsburgh was renamed the Rachel Carson Bridge for the environmentalist author of Silent Spring in 2006, Duquesne’s tenured professor wasn’t peddling petitions denouncing Carson for being unworthy of the nameplate.  Barnhisel’s feathers still remain unruffled even though Carson’s anti-DDT diatribe was filled with misinformation and unsubstantiated assertions, caused over a million deaths from malaria, and created a DDT-phobia that continues almost 50 years later.

Considering Carson’s controversial legacy, shouldn’t Barnhisel circulate a petition to remove her nameplate as well? Why is it appropriate to honor her, but not Hayden? Could it be that Barnhisel’s attempted censure has more to do with advancing a leftist political agenda than it does with protecting the integrity of Pittsburgh, which would explain why he continues to ignore Carson as well as the facts surrounding the CIA’s enhanced interrogation program?

Area “journalists” failed to call the petitioners’ obvious double standard into question, so Barnhisel’s bleeding hearts’ club band cordoned off the moral high ground. They feigned indignation and outrage, objecting to Hayden’s honorary street sign knowing full well that the public’s perception of torture techniques came from Jack Bauer interrogations on a fictitious TV show, rather than from actual CIA interrogations, which were demonstratively effective and saved lives.

When such blatant hypocrisy goes unchallenged, the elitist-mined intellectoid or acadamaniac will automatically seize the moral high ground on the issue and assume the position of an arrogant, omniscient god displeased with inferior, dimwitted creatures. 

Good reporters should always question the motives and monitor the actions of activists, and never allow them to gain the moral high ground on a social or political issue unless they demonstrate the principles they champion. When their actions contradict those principles, the integrity of the craft demands the reporter expose the duplicitous miscreant for all to see.

During the March 2 hearing on the petition to remove the North Side street sign, Barnhisel’s bleeding hearts’ club band was informed that the Council would not be put in the middle of a debate on national security.

So for now at least, Hayden’s sign stays put, which is most gratifying indeed.


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