President Trump’s firing of Rex Tillerson has led to a new shift in his administration. Things will be going from bad to worse. Trump’s decision to pick Mike Pompeo to replace Tillerson can serve as one such indication of where Trump’s policies are headed: Pompeo is aggressive, not diplomatic, indeed, he is a defender of torture and a warmonger who seeks a holy crusade in the world.
Since Pompeo heads the CIA, Trump chose to replace him with Gina Haspel. Here, we have a woman who fits with Trump’s barbarism. She not only helped run a top-secret facility used for torture, she did what she could to hide what she did there by destroying evidence which Congress wanted preserved. President Obama showed undue mercy by not seeking her to be punished for her crimes against humanity, and so now she is free to run the CIA with an absolute willingness to obey evil orders.
In a time when the United States shows itself following third-world dictators in inhumanity rather than its principles which encourage human dignity, Trump’s new picks demonstrates we continue to slouch towards the direction of Duterte. Trump’s desire to please himself with a military parade this year will highlight this change of ideology coming once from a nation which was proud to support human rights to a nation of strong arm police state tactics.
Not only should we say no to the war-monger Pompeo as we say with the Pope no more war, we must reject Gina Haspel for her role with torture. Torture is a fundamental violation of human dignity. It is unacceptable. It does no good. It is ineffective. And, in Catholic theology, it is an intrinsic evil, a grave sin, which means it can be and often is, a mortal sin, as Pope Francis declared after his Angelus message on June 22, 2014:
Dear brothers and sisters, this 26 June is the United Nations’ International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. In light of this I repeat the firm condemnation of every form of torture, and I call Christians to commit themselves and to join forces for its abolishment and to support the victims and their families. Torturing people is a mortal sin! A very grave sin!
Torture, as Gaudium et Spes indicates, is one of those evils which, when used by a society, corrupts it from within, destroying its sense of right and wrong; it flows from the logic of consequentialism which suggests the ends justify the means, ignoring how the means warps the ends and destroys the good which is achieve:
Furthermore, whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia or wilful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where men are treated as mere tools for profit, rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others of their like are infamies indeed. They poison human society, but they do more harm to those who practice them than those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are supreme dishonor to the Creator.
Whatever destroys the human person, whatever unjustly dishonors and disfigures them, dishonors God because the image and likeness of God is found in the human person. Torture is an affront on God. Whatever we do to people, we do to God; when we torture them, our hate inside us is lashing out against God.
The practice of secret prisons used for the sake of “national security,” represents the way humanity tries to shield itself from its own cruelty. If there was nothing wrong with torture, there would be no reason to hide it from the public. Yet, as Pope Francis explained, all the excuses given cannot hide us from the fact that at root is not any desire for protection, not any desire for improving the world, but rather, the desire to exercise human cruelty, and the theories used to justify such cruelty fail because of their inconsistent logic:
The adjective “cruel”; under these headings that I have mentioned, there is always that root: the human capacity for cruelty. This is a passion, a real vice! One form of torture is the one sometimes applied through confinement in high security prisons. With the pretext of offering greater security to society or special treatment for certain categories of prisoners, its main characteristic is none other than external isolation. As shown by studies carried out by various human rights organizations, the lack of sensory stimuli, the total impossibility of communication and the lack of contact with other human beings induce mental and physical suffering such as paranoia, anxiety, depression, weight loss, and significantly increase the suicidal tendency.
This phenomenon, a characteristic of high security prisons, also occurs in other types of penitentiaries, along with other forms of physical and mental torture, the practice of which has spread. Today torture is not inflicted only as a means of obtaining a specific objective, such as a confession or information — practices which are characteristic of national security doctrine — but is a genuine surplus of pain added to the actual suffering of imprisonment. In this way, torture occurs not only in clandestine detention centres or in modern day concentration camps, but also in prisons, institutes for juveniles, psychiatric hospitals, police stations and other centres and institutions of detention and punishment.
The very theory of criminal justice has great responsibility in this sphere, by the fact of having permitted, in certain cases, the legitimization of torture on certain grounds, opening the way to further and more extensive abuses.
Might makes right. That is the logic of so many. And with that logic, the cycle of violence will continue. In authoritarian states, those who question the leader are subjected to all kinds of torture, for by this means, the population is kept under control out of fear of reprisal. Likewise, then, St. John Paul II understood people tend to lose their freedom slowly through such strong-arm tactics:
Man rightly fears falling victim to an oppression that will deprive him of his interior freedom, of the possibility of expressing the truth of which he is convinced, of the faith that he professes, of the ability to obey the voice of conscience that tells him the right path to follow. The technical means at the disposal of modern society conceal within themselves not only the possibility of self-destruction through military conflict, but also the possibility of a “peaceful” subjugation of individuals, of environments, of entire societies and of nations, that for one reason or another might prove inconvenient for those who possess the necessary means and are ready to use them without scruple. An instance is the continued existence of torture, systematically used by authority as a means of domination and political oppression and practiced by subordinates with impunity.
Donald Trump, in promoting those who supporttorture, demonstrates his lack of care and concern for human dignity. His promotion of warmongers in positions which should be held by diplomats should warn us of the conflicts which are to come. Until these nominations are ratified, we have time to denounce them and hopefully effect some change and have them rejected by Congress; if and when they are approved, we will have to speak up and oppose them, letting the world know where we stand.
[Image=Gina Haspel By Central Intelligence Agency (Central Intelligence Agency) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons]
It now appears the date of Haspel’s work has led to some confusion as to who was tortured in her tenure. Some have said she in charge when Zubaydah was being tortured, but now it appears she arrived afterward and was directing the site when Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was tortured. This does not exonerate her, not make the concern “fake news.” She still led the black ops site while it was engaged in an act of torture, and more importantly, she did what she could to cover up their barbaric actions.
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