Sunday, 20 May 2018

The United States Is a Country That Tortures People

 by Charles P. Pierce

The children of the Senate Intelligence Committee certainly were treated to some ripping yarns on Wednesday, when Gina Haspel came to tell them the scary bedtime stories that qualify her to run the CIA. We had shadow warriors, and far-flung outposts, brush passes, dead drops, and dusty alleys, and dark moonless nights. If the hearing had gone on 10 minutes longer, John le Carré’s attorneys might have dropped in with an intellectual property action. Then, of course, they all went into executive session, where they could all talk about the really cool, really super-secret spy stuff that the rest of us can’t know about, but are obligated to pay for. And, ultimately, there was one basic message to come out of this hearing to the world.

The United States is a country that tortures people. It is also a country that arranges for other countries to torture people. We did in back in the Bush administration and we’ll do it again, if you scare us deeply enough and there are enough hack lawyers in the Department of Justice and the White House Counsel’s office to draft memos to cover our asses. The United States is a country that tortures people, and we’ll do it again, under the right circumstances. We’d just rather it not make the papers, is all.

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Haspel, it is said by the very serious people who think serious thoughts on television, did very well. She pledged that the CIA would never “go back” to torturing people again, a worthless promise under any president, but particularly under this one. Who is going to stop them next time? The same people who failed to stop them the last time? It is to laugh. The statement was also stunningly beside the point. The question was about torture that we’ve already inflicted, and that she was intimately involved in.

She made sure we all knew the Khalid Sheikh Muhammad was a very bad man who killed “a Wall Street Journal reporter who was an American.” (Curiously, she never mentioned Daniel Pearl’s name.) KSM came up every time the questions about torture came too close to being about actual torture, the subtext being, of course, that there are people who deserve to be tortured, even though we don’t torture anyone anymore, and we never will, and we can depend on Gina Haspel and Donald Trump for that. I’m convinced.

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