May 14, 2018
Senate hearings over Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel for Director of the CIA have been front and center in the news. Haspel was part of the CIA’s secret torture program for at least part of its existence. Under her command, people supposedly linked to terrorism were flown to “black sites” in other countries for torture.
Haspel’s nomination is consistent with the position Trump ran on during his campaign, when he said “torture works” and endorsed even stronger methods than waterboarding.
In her testimony before the Senate, Haspel was pressed to appear to support the ending of the torture program she directed and to agree to defy any direct order by the president to reintroduce it.
Yet when pressed by senators currently claiming to oppose the use of torture whether she thought it was immoral, Haspel evaded the question. She said she supports the “higher moral standard we have decided to hold ourselves to,” and concluded that the “CIA must undertake activities ... consistent with American values.” Therein lies the rub. In fact, torture is as American as apple pie.
Historically, U.S. intelligence agencies and the military have carried out torture and at other times recruited others to do it for them in places like Vietnam, Iran, Greece, Chile and Guatemala. They became known for training of torture methods long ago, and in the 1960s, the CIA and U.S. military published torture manuals for their own use and the use of foreign dictators. Every administration, whether Republican or Democrat, has sanctioned torture, whether openly or secretly. They do so to serve the interests of the wealthy class, the banks and the corporations in extracting raw materials and cheap labor from around the world and to enforce the interests of the U.S. bourgeois class everywhere.
So torture was hardly something new following the 9/11 attacks, but Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld found lawyers willing to declare torture legal and they found psychologists willing to endorse their use as “humane.” Under their tutelage, guards at Guantanamo Bay beat detainees severely, shackled them in painful “stress positions,” deprived them of sleep by blaring loud music, exposed them to extreme temperatures and simulated drownings.
And while former President Obama promised to close Guantanamo during his campaign, he failed to do so during eight years in office.
It remains to be seen whether the Senate will approve Haspel’s nomination. While some Republicans have declared themselves opposed to her nomination, enough Democrats appear ready to vote with the rest to give Trump the support his nominee needs.
In the end the debate is simply over whether to install a CIA director who blatantly supports U.S. imperialism’s torture program or one who is a bit more discreet about its use. The working class has no interest in supporting either.