Donald Trump—who brags gleefully that “torture works,” wants to “go much stronger than waterboarding,” and advocates murdering the families of “terrorists”—has nominated Gina Haspel to head the CIA. Haspel is a long-time CIA operative steeped in “black ops,” who in 2002 ran a secret CIA torture chamber in Thailand. It is expected that she will be confirmed.
This is both a damning revelation about what America really is all about and a clear signal of a coming quantum leap in the horrors this country unleashes on the world… if people do not act to prevent it.
The Reality of CIA Torture
Imagine. You are wounded on the field of battle against U.S. forces. Or maybe you were involved in some political activity America opposes… or your husband was. Or someone, seeking the cash bounties America offered for “terrorists,” said you were.
You are seized—you have fallen into the hands of America’s Gestapo, the CIA. You are gripped by terror. You try to answer their questions, but they don’t believe you or think you know more.
You are whisked away, flown to one of the “black sites” the CIA set up around the world after 9/11, your location unknown to you or your loved ones. You are led into a bare, windowless cell by masked and silent black-garbed guards. You are deprived of sleep, kept in complete isolation for weeks or months. You are exhausted, alone against all-powerful foes. Your wounds have not healed or you are pregnant? These are vulnerabilities for your captors to exploit.
Then the “interrogation” begins. You are slammed face first into a wall, punched, slapped, screamed at. You are strapped to a gurney, inclined backwards so your head is lower than your body. A rag is placed over your mouth and nose and water poured onto it. You try not to breathe, but your body demands it and so you suck the water into your lungs. Now you are drowning. Seconds tick by. You try to shake free but you are tightly restrained. You gasp and choke, you throw up, the vomit flowing back into your lungs.
They revive you, and ask you more questions. “I don’t know, I don’t know”… it doesn’t matter. Again the rag, again the drowning, twice, three times, twenty times. Your body convulses, you beg for mercy, you pass out, but it continues, for days, weeks. Even when your captors realize that it is “highly likely” that you do not know anything, the torture continues.*
This is what was done at CIA “black sites,” including the one run by Gina Haspel, to hundreds of people.
This was not “an aberration.” As we will get into below, such crimes are and have been an integral part of “the arsenal of democracy,” the means by which the capitalist rulers of this sick system subdue the oppressed within their own borders and by which they have forged a worldwide empire. An empire in which they have conducted savage exploitation of land, resources and people, and from which they have extracted unimaginable wealth and power. And now Trump is taking this to a new and more horrific level, no longer keeping torture “on the down low,” but openly trumpeting America’s intention to impose barbaric suffering on anyone who dares to oppose them, whether it be rival gangsters and reactionaries, or courageous fighters from among the oppressed.
People—you—have to confront this irredeemable “repeat-offender” criminal system and join in the movement for revolution to overthrow it at the soonest possible time. And right now, everyone with a conscience needs to come together, in our thousands and then millions to drive out this regime, before it can impose further unspeakable horrors.
Gina Haspel: A Torture Queen for a Torture Agency
Gina Haspel commanded the first of the secret prisons known as “black sites” that the U.S. set up around the world after 9/11, where the CIA conducted torture. The one she was in charge of was at a U.S. Air Force Base in Thailand and was called Detention Site Green. This is who is now slated to head the entire CIA, a world-wide empire of torture, coups and terror with 20,000 employees.
And who better than Haspel! Even some of the torturers at the black sites were sickened by what they were doing and objected to higher ups—though when ordered to continue, almost all did. But Haspel had no such qualms; she rose through the ranks on the basis of this “work,” and when these crimes started to leak out and there was international outrage, Haspel played a key role in covering it up, ordering the destruction of 87 videotapes of these “sessions,” including some that may have shown her direct participation. (Yes, these sadists videotaped their atrocities, like the U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq who posed smiling for pictures as prisoners were being tortured or terrorized by vicious dogs.)
And she has never relented or apologized. In hours of testimony at her confirmation hearing, Haspel was described by the New York Times as “by turns confrontational and evasive.” She hedged, hemmed and hawed, but refused to declare what was done was immoral, or illegal, or for that matter, “ineffective.” And she repeatedly expressed pride in her own service and that of other torturers who did their “duty” on what she calls “the front lines,” bragging that “I stepped up”!
Haspel hid behind the defense that the program was deemed “lawful” by top White House legal experts. This is the infamous defense of Nazi war criminals at the Nuremberg trials—“I was only following orders.” It didn’t fly for the defeated Germans being tried by the victorious U.S.; dozens were sentenced to death or long prison terms. But if you torture in the service of the U.S. that’s another story. Being an American torturer not only doesn’t get you put in prison or executed for crimes against humanity, it gets you promoted to head the CIA.
Torture: As American as Apple Pie
The U.S. has a centuries-long history of torture overseas, going back to the conquest of the Philippines in the 19th century, when “suspects” were lowered head-first into wells. During the Vietnam War, prisoners were kept in tiny “tiger cages” for months so that they could no longer walk when released. “Interrogations” were often conducted by taking prisoners up in a helicopter, asking one a question and then hurling him to his death if he didn’t answer. The U.S. not only backed notorious Latin American dictators/torturers like Pinochet (Chile), Duvalier (Haiti), and Trujillo (the Dominican Republic), it established the “School of the Americas” to train officers of these countries in torture techniques. Medieval and modern instruments of torture were provided to the Shah of Iran after he rose to power in a CIA coup in 1953.
And we don’t have to look abroad. The terrorizing and torture of enslaved and free Black people, and of Mexicanos and Native Americans, is at the very foundation of America. In modern times, Haitian-American Abner Louima was sodomized with a toilet plunger by six New York cops in 1997 as he screamed in agony in the bathroom of a busy police precinct. Chicago police commander Jon Burge maintained his own “black site” for years, torturing “suspects” with electricity, suffocation and other methods. In U.S. prisons, tens of thousands of inmates spend months, years, or even decades in solitary confinement. Human rights experts deem anything over two weeks as torture.
All this sheds light on why Haspel’s nomination has wide support in the ruling class, not only among Republicans but some Democrats too, and especially among former top officials of the “intelligence community” (under both the Obama and Bush administrations), who all too many progressives are hoping will save us from Trump.
Openly fascist Republicans revel in torture—their vision involves not only escalating its scale and scope, but also openly waving this in front of their enemies to make clear that resistance to the American empire is not only futile, but will bring down such suffering on them, their loved ones, and their people that it is better to just surrender and get it over with. Some other ruling class forces have reservations about whether torture actually “works” in the interests of the U.S. empire—they fear it will undercut U.S. influence and spark more intense resistance.
But both sides talk glowingly about “the dedicated men and women of the CIA” and “pride” in this key agency that has committed untold crimes around the world and stands ready to carry out any atrocity in the service of the U.S. capitalist-imperialist system. This is another illustration of why these people will never lead anything against Trump that will go anywhere good from the standpoint of the interests of humanity.
It is time and past time for everyone who hates and opposes these crimes to face up to our responsibility to put a STOP to this oppressive system and the cruelty on which it rests and thrives.
*This description is mainly drawn from a report of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee.
Revolution newspaper/revcom.us, the voice of the Revolutionary Communist Party, provides the foundation, guideline, and organizational scaffolding for the whole process of carrying out our strategy for revolution. Through publishing works of Bob Avakian, and through many different articles, interviews, letters, graphics, and other features, Revolution enables people to really understand, and act to radically change, the world.
Originally published at revcom.us