Writ large, Donald Trump's nomination of Gina Haspel to be director of the CIA is a victory for torturers and a defeat for women. Do not allow anyone to try to tell you otherwise.
Haspel, known among her CIA peers as"Bloody Gina," was a big cog -- a franchise player, in baseball lingo -- in the Bush Torture Regime machine. As an undercover CIA officer, she played a hands-on role in the agency's so-called extraordinary rendition program, which routinely kidnapped, detained and interrogated terrorism suspects with Nazi-like techniques including waterboarding, imprisonment in small boxes, slapping and punching, sleep deprivation, being doused with icy cold water, mock execution threats that detainees' children would be killed and their mothers raped, and forced rectal feeding.
Most of these evil and blatantly unconstitutional techniques, adopted after the 9/11 attacks, were carried out in so-called black sites. Haspel, for her part, ran the "Cat's Eye," a secret detention facility in Thailand where the torture of Abu Zubaydah, a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden captured in Pakistan earlier in 2002, began on August 1 of that year.
The torture was supposed to begin with open-palm slaps to the belly and face, according to John Kiriakou, a former CIA counterterrorism officer who became a senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
But the interrogators decided to start with the toughest method -- waterboarding. They waterboarded Zabaydah 83 times in the course of one month and later subjected him to sleep deprivation and locked him in a large dog cage for weeks at a time. He also was placed in a coffin-sized box and, knowing that he had an irrational fear of insects, put bugs in with him.
Haspel's boss, the notorious Jose Rodriguez, later claimed that the torture worked and provided intelligence that saved America lives, but this was false.
There is not a shred of evidence that Zabayda or any other torture victim provided valuable intelligence, while the story that torture led to locating and assassinating Osama bin Laden is simply false. In fact, all it did was tank America's standing in the civilized world as it ran roughshod over the Geneva Conventions and other international treaties.
After being brutalized in Thailand, Zubaydah was transferred from prison to prison in Afghanistan, Poland, North Africa and Diego Garcia, losing his left eye along the way, and landed in Guantánamo Bay, where he has moldered in isolation in the notorious Camp 7 lockup since 2006.
When the public started to get wise to the torture regime, videotapes and recordings of the interrogations were ordered destroyed. By then, Haspel was back at CIA headquarters and was a party to if not the person who drafted and carried out the destruction orders.
Haspel, 61, is a perfect nominee for Trump and yet another example of him not draining the Washington swamp.
The president's enthusiasm for brutality seems boundless. He has instructed police to treat suspects roughly, praised President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines for murdering people suspected of having drug ties and recently advocated executing drug dealers. There's also evidence that Trump likes rough sex -- as in being on the receiving end -- something that has come up in connection with the Stormy Daniels scandal and in anecdotal evidence from acquaintances down through the years.
Haspel was named deputy CIA director in February 2017, prompting the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights to ask German prosecutors to issue a warrant for her arrest because of her role in the interrogations, which puts her at risk of being arrested when she travels abroad.
Lest anyone think otherwise, her nomination will sail through the Senate despite some isolated harrumphing from the usual scolds like Senator Diane Feinstein, for whom Kiriakou worked. The former chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee is demanding a complete accounting of Haspel's involvement in the rendition program and tape destruction, but won't get it.
Michael Morell, deputy CIA director under Barack Obama, who took a powder and refused to prosecute torture regime perps, describes Haspel as a no-nonsense gal with "grit and toughness, and yet a big dose of humanity."
While you gag on that, consider that Haspel is the first woman to head the CIA. That might be cause for celebration under other circumstances, but her unashamed participation in the torture regime is no victory for feminism unless you believe that women should have an equal opportunity to torture along with men.
Because truth be known, Haspel was and will continue to be an obedient servant of a violent patriarchy.
Click HERE for an index of previous torture-related posts.