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Under cover ops are absolutely essential, given the fact that there is evil in this world. While I’m glad we have a CIA in the U.S., and the equivalent in the relatively friendly countries, I still cringe at the thoughts of what they have to do. I was completely opposed to Daddy Bush as President for exactly that reason – we NEED a CIA chief, but I just don’t want that same guy to be my President. It’s much the same with combat deployments. Soldiers and Marines, particularly, have to do things in that environment that are so utterly abhorrent to “civilized” society back home, that they’re stuck being unable to talk about it, process it, or ultimately deal with it. They were raised with a set of values that HAVE to go out the window in certain circumstances. As one Soldier put it to me one day, “It’s like when you go over there, you have to turn off all the feeling switches. And when you come back home, you try to turn them back on to resume “normal” life, but it just doesn’t work,” meaning the feeling switches have to remain off just to halfway cope. So we end up with 22 vet suicides per day. I wonder how many cop (and former cop) suicides also exist for the same reasons.

It’s not just a simple “this is good and decent,” vs. “this is a wrong and bad” decision. I’ve heard things that could very easily make headline news if the media got hold of it, and result in severe sentences if not even potentially the death penalty. And I’m NOT talking about the utterly gross actions such as My Lai. I’m talking about the immediate, situational experiences where training simply doesn’t cover the options, or the cases where training DID cover the options – except those options in that individual situation simply are the wrong answers. And the Soldier or Marine has to make a split second decision and live with it – and can never talk about it except with the other battle buddies that were right there with him.

Covert ops is really quite similar in many respects – whether through local or federal agencies. It’s a nasty business, yet things would be even nastier without those kinds of folks. It’s easy to sit back in one’s desk chair, in the comfort of one’s quiet home, second guessing decisions that simply cannot be understood EXCEPT by one who’s actually been there, done that. Even the “mistakes” and bad calls are rarely as simple black/white issues as they might seem to the armchair critics and trolls. My heart literally aches, over and over, even several years now past retirement. I heard too many “stories” that I certainly would never document for the protection of my own clients, and have a perspective that few except those that really have “been there done that” can even comprehend. And I’m quite stuck as well, being unable to “unload” those stories which build up over time, particularly as I watched the devastating effects on individuals and families. To do so would have put generally good people (Soldiers) at risk of being judged by the system as well as the media (not to mention all the armchair critics and trolls), and suffering potential legal and further emotional consequences as a result.

This applies to military as well as civil agency ops. There ARE no good answers in far too many of the cases, due to the paradox of trying to judge actions that in general society are immoral, when the very need to carry them out is essential to societal safety in many cases. The minority of bad actors and egregious errors is much smaller than the sit-at-home trolls would have us believe. And what appear to be cover-ups aren’t always what THEY appear to be.