Saturday, March 17, 2018

#76 / Forgive And Forget?

The smiling lady at the top of this blog posting is Gina Haspel. Haspel is President Trump's nominee to lead the CIA. Leon Panetta, our homegrown CIA Director (now a former CIA Director, of course),  has come out in strong support of the nomination

Senator Dianne Feinstein, who will get to vote on this nomination, has made no final commitment, but in her initial remarks, Feinstein stated that Haspel was a "good deputy director of the CIA."

The American Civil Liberties Union was not too happy about Feinstein's initial statement, pointing to Haspel's admitted past connection to the CIA's torture program. According to an ACLU spokesperson, Haspel was the "architect" of the torture program, and acted as its "champion." In fact, says the ACLU, "this woman was literally at the black sites watching torture occur and personally approving the action."

As we probably shouldn't forget, candidate Trump strongly endorsed the use of torture, saying, "torture works ... Half these guys [say]: ‘Torture doesn’t work.’ Believe me, it works.” The Washington Post story from which I gleaned this statement went on to outline the extent of our current President's commitment to torture as a basic instrument of American policy, making a rather accurate prediction about how Mr. Trump would conduct himself if elected: 

In an election year in which many conservative voters are deathly afraid of Islamic State terrorists, Trump is setting himself apart by promising not just to fight terrorists but also to torture them and kill their loved ones — and to treat all foreign Muslims as suspects by barring them from entry to the United States.

Leon Panetta, commenting on Haspel's involvement in the United States' torture program, essentially says, "that was then; this is now." Panetta has urged people to "contextualize" the United States' past use of torture, reminding us that torture was our response to the 9-11 attacks. 

Is it just President Trump who thinks that "torture works?" That is a proposition that is strongly disputed, and the confirmation vote in the Senate will determine whether Senate Democrats agree with the president, or not.

Maybe we should just "forgive and forget." Maybe we should just "contextualize" the past use of torture, as Leon Panetta advises.

I don't think so. Neither does The New York Times, I am happy to report.

How do Americans want to appear to the world? Do we want to be feared as a country that will torture you? If so, let's appoint an admitted torturer to head the CIA, to carry out the pro-torture policies that our president espouses. If we don't want to be seen as a country that will torture people, our checks and balances system (the United States Senate in this case) needs to operate and to make that clear.

Context doesn't cut it, in my opinion, where state-sanctioned and state-directed torture is involved.

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