What moral rule is most violated by those in high places? Probably the answer to that question is the moral principle that the end does not justify the means.
The men involved in Watergate did not have any previous criminal records. Yet, they persuaded themselves that the reelection of President Nixon was so necessary that it justified the use of illegal means, such as burglary, bribery and perjury. Likewise, respectable heads of big corporations have confessed to using illegal means, namely, using corporate funds to make large cash gifs to CREEP, the Committee to Reelect the President.
Have American leaders always acted like moral illiterates and assumed that a good end justifies evil or illegal means? No, but there are many examples from recent history.
In 1960, the election of John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson was deemed so important by their associates that they justified the notorious vote frauds in Chicago and Texas.
In 1945, President Roosevelt and General Eisenhower wanted to keep the friendship and good will of Soviet dictator Stalin. In order to achieve this alleged good objective, they ordered American troops to forcibly turn over to the Soviet secret police hundreds of thousands of anti-Communist refugees fleeing from Russia. The Keelhaul Papers tell the full story.
In August 1945, President Truman and Secretary of War Stimson approved dropping the atom bomb on the open cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, instead of on military targets. They rationalized that this slaughter of tens of thousands of civilians was necessary to achieve what they believed was a good objective, forcing Japan to surrender on our terms.
Dr. Henry Kissinger believed that the alleged good end of the SALT agreement with the Soviet Union was so important that he willingly sacrificed U.S. superiority in missiles and submarines, and accepted a 3-to-2 inferiority, He even gave up the right of the
American people to protect themselves with ABMs against incoming enemy missiles. Never in all history have so many millions of innocent people been helplessly and hopelessly exposed to enemy attack as are the American people since the signing of the SALT Anti-Befens Treaty last year. The constitutional duty of our Government to ”provide for the common defense” should not be exchanged for reliance on treaties.
Our prisoners of war in Vietnam have given us an admirable example of how men, even under physical torture and psychological pressure can reject the rationalization that a good end justifies bad means. Even the good end of better food and better treatment did not persuade our heroic prisoners of war to indulge in the bad means of making propaganda broadcasts for Hanoi.
Our prisoners of war in Vietnam passed the test in morality which many high Government officials have failed.