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Thunderball [1965)

Perhaps there has been no greater case made for the existence of the C.I.A. and MI6 than the film Thunderball.

So much is made today about the negative aspects of espionage and covert operations.  One need not look far to find the doubters who think the very existence of these organizations endangers humanity.

I myself have long been among that number.  There is plenty to find fault with regarding these services.  Because of their secrecy there is only so much the general public can definitively know about their work.

We live in an age of globalization.  It is a reality.  There is no going back to the days of George Washington.  As much as I admire the philosophy of disengaged detachment, it simply will not do for America or the U.K. in the 21st century.

I myself have criticized these organizations…particularly the C.I.A.  They represent, ostensibly, my country.

The time has come to feel pride in what they do.  We only hear the horror stories.  Unfortunately, the perception management which these agencies employ only serves to make the more intelligent among us more bitter.  The 21st century was ushered in on 9/11/01.

Some among us have taken those events to be the impetus for a renaissance of thought.  Where we were previously disinterested (or ignorant of) the NSA, now we take great care to glean the news snippets from the airwaves and formulate our own thoughts regarding surveillance and espionage.

It is unfortunate that the NSA, GCHQ, CIA and MI6 (might as well throw in Mossad) have been whole-cloth denigrated.  It is a sticky game they play.  There are no clear winners in the secret wars they fight.  There are always casualties.

The idealists among us have legitimate concern when it comes to the undue influence of corporations and big business as regards matters of national securities.  It would well-behoove the nations of the United States, Great Britain and Israel to take a new tack insofar as their public relations.

The current information offensive cannot be sustained.  What is at issue involves not secrecy, but communication.  Entities which rely upon the art of lying can’t be completely blamed for their wrongheaded approach to public opinion.

It will take brave men and women in the intelligence field to stand up for what is right.  We know it is all one big gray, grey area, but there are some timeless principles which should guide the hearts of the human beings in control of this vast apparatus.

They operate on a “need to know” set of principles.  This of course goes for the military as well (and their intelligence…ONI for example).  In a sense, this is how things must be done.

But the time has come for the cooperation which exists between the U.S. and U.K. (to highlight just one treaty line) to be extended to the public at large.  It is not a matter of declassifying and bringing skeletons out of the closet.

The clean break which needs to happen involves a change of heart.  Only those with hearts are eligible.  Fortunately, for the time being, that means everyone.

What does all of this have to do with Thunderball, you might ask?

Pride.

National pride.

International pride.

When the paratroopers descended near the end of this film to fight what must be cinema’s most fantastic underwater hand-to-hand battle, I felt a sense of pride which I had not felt since America elected its first black president.

I may sound like a war hawk in saying this, but it is time we let our men and women of the armed forces do what they have been trained to do.  They have been trained to intervene.  They are our shield.

When Oppenheimer quoted the Bhagavad Gita upon explosion of the first nuclear weapon he was exhibiting his humanity–his humanity which could never be vaporized.

The agencies which I have mentioned and the people who run them would do well to sit down and view that underwater battle at the end of Thunderball and realize that it was one (albeit fictional) man, two very real intelligence agencies and one unnamed branch of the American military working together to do something undeniably good.  They were saving the lives of those they were entrusted to protect.  Some paratroopers lived.  Many paratroopers died.

I salute you, men and women of the intelligence community.  May your superiors find an enlightened approach to communicate to the public just what you do…without them telling us exactly what you are doing.  May they be duplicitous only inasmuch as it protects us.  After all, we are your countrymen and your fellow human beings.

 

-PD

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