There is so much irony to me in the outrage from Democrats at Trump’s nomination of Gina Haspel, who ran CIA’s first “black site,” and oversaw the destruction of video evidence of CIA torture in interrogations during the “War on Terror”. Yes, she’s awful. But some of our party is damn inconsistent when it comes to cranking up the outrage machine on torture. And forgive me if I don’t cheer the first to run the CIA.
“Good job! I like the way you’re drooling; it adds realism. I’m almost buying it. You wouldn’t think a grown man would do that.”
– Attributed to Gina Haspel during hands-on torture of Abu Zubaydah (ACLU)
Here’s what I remember: On Wednesday, July 27th, 2016, at the Democratic National Convention, Leon Panetta took the floor to tout Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy and security qualifications for the White House. You know by now that he was booed (CBS), mostly by us 1,900 Bernie Sanders delegates.
Apparently the Hillary delegates who shouted over us, gave us the finger, and (in one case) threatened to punch me in the face, were okie dokie with Leon Panetta’s own checkered history as CIA Director, like the fact that he lied to Congress for 8 years, concealing CIA’s history of torture, of war crimes. We were drowned out by Team HRC’s jingoistic shouts of USA! USA!. (whole speech– note chants of NO MORE WARS! came only when Panetta talked about Trump “asking our troops to commit war crimes.”_
This was one place where the two halves of the Dem Party split. We were booing not just Trump’s unfitness (including his comfort with war crimes), but also Hillary’s alliance with people like Panetta, who sanctioned torture, and that war criminal himself, Henry Kissinger, who Clinton’s long admired.
The frustration was knowing months before any of the people giving us the finger that Hillary was going to lose to the fool Panetta described; Trump, whose pick of Gina Haspel may be a calculation designed to restore a hard-line torture infrastructure to our intelligence services as he slides us into another war. Nobody better than Gina Haspel for that terrifying scenario.
We don’t really know what the CIA is doing; there is a sophisticated full-commitment effort to conceal, cover up, justify, and whip us up into patriotic frenzy (USA! USA!) to distract us from what our nation does in our name. And that includes Panetta’s 8 years of lying to Congress – their “extraordinary rendition,” the practice of kidnapping foreign nationals and spiriting them away to black sites to torture info out of them, black sites like Gina Haspel knows everything about how to do.
Doing it right means not only calling out (alleged) Bloody Gina and her kind at CIA, but working at all levels to monitor and oversee the dark truth of our place in the world. Bless the whistleblowers. Bless the ACLU. And Bless my old congressman Rep. Rush Holt, who along with other House Democrats used his power to call for the truth from the CIA.
Let Haspel be asked all the hard questions. But I’d lay money that this Congress will confirm her for Trump. Just the latest of many reasons we need that blue tsunami in November. But of not just any Democrats, because frankly our party isn’t clean on this. We need a wall of credible, conscientious, ethical people in the majority in Congress to be the counter-weight for the White House joker Panetta described. That’s our job; elect them.