Image Credit: Niño Jose Heredia/©Gulf News
“Nobel, Nobel, Nobel!” Those were the chants of the crowd at a rally Trump held in Michigan on Saturday evening. While a formal ending to the Korean War and achieving peace on the peninsula may be a prize-worthy achievement, you will forgive me if I meet the prospect with a horse-size dose of skepticism. Putting aside the pesky little fact that a man who at the same event threatened to “shut down the country” if he doesn’t get his border wall, Trump is hardly a person who deserves a little gold star let alone the globe’s most prestigious award.
The question arises- if he’s so hell-bent on kumbayaing with Kim Jong Un, why is the Commander in Chief assembling the most hawkish cabinet since Andrew Jackson? We should have known when during the campaign, he flippantly discussed nukes like they were water balloons. Back in February Politico reported that the administration called for the development of two new types of nuclear weapons. In its Nuclear Posture Review, the Pentagon said that nuclear weapons could be used to respond in “extreme circumstances” including non-nuclear attacks. Deputy Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan said “that nuclear weapons could be used to respond to a severe non-nuclear attack is “stabilizing” -the old “peace through strength” argument.
The newly assembled cabinet, which Trump claims is “almost the cabinet he wants” (Isn’t he in charge of the nominees?) is a virtual off-Broadway production of War and Peace-minus the peace.
In the role of National Security Advisor- exit stage left H.R. McMaster, enter stage right-John Bolton, the mustachioed champion of right-wing think tanks and advocate for regime change. Just take a Google at some of the groups with which he’s affiliated, such as Committee for Peace and Security in the Gulf (CPSG) , The Gatestone Institute, oh and don’t forget the NRA. There wasn’t much we as citizens could do on this front. National Security Advisor is an appointed position, and as such didn’t require confirmation hearings.
In the role of Secretary of State- exit stage left Rex Tillerson, enter stage right-Mike Pompeo. We fought hard on this one. But we can’t just blame Rand Paul, whose turn around on this nominee was bouncier than the curls on top of his head. Six Democrats and one Independent decided to go along for the ride:
✔️Sen. Joe Donnelly (IN) ✔️Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (ND) ✔️Sen. Doug Jones (AL) ✔️Sen. Angus King (ME) ✔️Sen. Joe Manchin (WV) ✔️Sen. Claire McCaskill (MO) ✔️Sen. Bill Nelson (FL)
We could spend an entire blog dissecting the reasons why these senators jumped the party line, but it mainly boils down to being Blue in a Red state -except for the usually sensible Angus King of Maine. I’m not sure what happened there. Chalk it up to a funky lobster roll.
Let’s face it. Denying Pompeo the position at State was an uphill battle given that he had already been through the confirmation process successfully for CIA Director. Now –downstage Pompeo, upstage-Gina Haspel as CIA director. Here’s a case of what we know about Haspel being so bad that it’s scary to even think about what we don’t know. What we do know is that during the 2nd Bush administration Haspel was personally in charge of “Cat’s Eye”, a secret prison in Thailand known as a CIA “black site”. Men held there were kidnapped, interrogated, and tortured. Alberto Mora, former chief counsel of the Navy under Bush 43 once wrote regarding Haspel, “...she can be presumed to have felt the piercing cold, experienced the bleak darkness and heard the deafening, ceaseless music; she directed and then oversaw the application of pain—the blows, the hanging from shackles, the confinement in coffin- or suitcase-size boxes, the suffocation when water was inhaled time and again; and she heard the cries and groans and saw the bruises, the loss of consciousness, and the blood. And all of this not for a moment, but ceaselessly for weeks on end.” As if committing war crimes weren’t enough, Haspel then ordered the destruction of all video evidence of the crimes and wanted the site in Thailand to be burned down after its closure.
Haspel’s nomination has not been well-received. On April 23, 109 retired generals and admirals sent a letter to the Senate saying they were “deeply troubled” at the thought of Haspel as CIA director given her links to torture programs. At least two Republican Senators, John McCain and Rand Paul, have balked at her nomination. (We’ll see which side Paul lands on this time.) A sign that Haspel’s nomination may be in jeopardy is that there have been no reports of push-back or pressure from the White House in support of their nominee.
Confirmation hearings for Haspel are scheduled for May 9th. Along with the retired generals and admirals who expressed their misgivings, 40 national advocacy and civil liberties groups have also sent a letter to all 100 Senators urging them to oppose the nomination.
Throughout American history we’ve had many second chances at righting the ship of democracy. The Civil War, the civil rights struggles, and fights for LGBTQ equality come to mind. We’re imperfect and thus a nation of second chances. Gina Haspel has told Senators in private meetings that she would never restart the CIA’s enhanced interrogation and detention program. But I’d like to remind members of Congress and the Nobel committee, for that matter, the words of the late Dr. Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
posted by Amy Levengood