The Trump clown car shed some bozos this week, most notably the media’s favorite cabinet member, Rex Tillerson, former head of Exxon Mobil, who managed to seem avuncular and unthreatening in comparison with most of his colleagues – this while he systematically dismantled the State Department. Still, he did appear to be perhaps the greatest naysayer on tearing up the Iran deal. With the Koch Brothers invention Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State, I’m sure we will nudge much closer to the 2000 bombing runs he once suggested as an effective means of halting the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. In a saner age, that alone might have been disqualifying, but certainly not today.
So, we’ll now have an Iran warmonger as chief diplomat. And in Pompeo’s old position at the head of the CIA, we will have the current deputy director Gina Haspel, a veteran of the Bush II-era Agency and a big fan of “rough” interrogation techniques (also known as torture). Haspel was directly involved in a CIA black site in Thailand where the Agency perpetrated torture of numerous individuals, including Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded by our operatives 89 times. She arrived after Zubaydah left, but later saw to it that incriminating tapes of this and similar episodes would be destroyed. For all those boning up on obstruction of justice standards in relation to the Trump White House, you might want to apply those standards to Haspel.
The torture crimes – essentially crimes against human dignity – are bad enough. But the fact that Haspel was part of an operation that was instrumental in the abuse of Zubaydah, whose extracted false testimony was key to the Bush administration’s case for invading Iraq, raises this to another level. You know the plausible story on this – Bush/Cheney and company had decided upon the Iraq invasion well before 9/11 (and on some level, before taking office), but they needed a plausible pretext. They had no convincing evidence for their claims regarding an Al Qaeda connection with Saddam Hussein or an active nuclear program, so they put the torturers to work at doing what they do best – getting people to say anything … ANYTHING … to stop the abuse. The very fact that they waterboarded Zubaydah 89 times indicates that they were looking for some response in particular. They got it, bogus as it obviously was, and from that proceeded the catastrophic Iraq war that is still killing people 15 years later – a conflict that, three years in, had resulted in more deaths than the 7-year Syrian civil war.
No one has been held accountable for the crime of the Iraq invasion, nor for the torture regime. I don’t expect that to happen anytime soon, but the least we can do is to stop rewarding the culprits with higher office. Maybe it wouldn’t be entirely fair to start with Haspel, but we have to start somewhere.