Mere days after 9/11, Dick Cheney said the United States would have to work “the dark side” to prevent future attacks. Many Americans, obviously still jarred, didn’t seem to mind the vice president’s tough guy approach.
But even as the War on Terror unfolded, at no time did the George W. Bush administration admit to using torture. The president strongly denied it. His people tried to rename it. Administration officials like John Yoo performed mental and legal gymnastics to pretend practices like waterboarding, that had historically been considered torture (even during the Reagan administration), were somehow not anymore.
“I want to be absolutely clear with our people and the world: The United States does not torture,” President Bush declared in 2006. “It’s against our laws, and it’s against our values.”
Gina Haspel’s nomination to head the CIA is a new low. She is not being considered despite her involvement with torture—it’s actually a resume bonus. Haspel is being defended by many former CIA officials as merely a good foot soldier. According to former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden, Haspel did nothing more than “what the nation and the agency asked her to do, and she did it well.”
But what the Central Intelligence Agency asked her to do was torture. Haspel oversaw black sites where waterboarding and worse tactics were used. She played a lead role in helping destroy the evidence.
Former CIA interrogator Glenn Carle has said that Haspel was “one of the architects, designers, implementers and one of the top two managers of the [Enhanced Interrogation Techniques program] and a true believer, by all accounts, in the ‘Global War in Terror’ paradigm.”
What does it say about America (and the Republican Party) that we have journeyed from a Bush-Cheney administration using illegal interrogation methods—which they refused to call torture— after the worst terrorist attack in US history, to a GOP president enthusiastically endorsing the practice by its proper name, in a less fearful time, and seemingly choosing the next CIA head based largely on her literally torturous national security legacy?
What does it say about America (and the Democratic Party and particularly the complicity of the Obama administration) that a bipartisan congressional coalition could perhaps make the “Queen of Torture” the next Director of the CIA?
It would say America has gone to the dark side in more ways than one.