This week, in one fell swoop, Donald Trump announced to his 49.1 million Twitter followers a shakeup of epic proportions in his revolving-door administration.
Mike Pompeo, director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), is to replace Rex Tillerson as the secretary of state, while the seldom-seen CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel got sent upstairs as director of the agency, an American answer to Britain’s M, if you will – James Bond’s female boss.
Mike Pompeo, Director of the CIA, will become our new Secretary of State. He will do a fantastic job! Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service! Gina Haspel will become the new Director of the CIA, and the first woman so chosen. Congratulations to all!
The replacement of Tillerson with Mike Pompeo, a former House member who ran the CIA for a little over a year, suggests that Trump is looking for a bit more teeth, so to speak, in his foreign-policy bite. That’s not to suggest that Tillerson was a toothless teddy bear; he wasn’t. The former ExxonMobil CEO did many rather unsavory things during his stint with State, including suggestingways the US could help Saudi Arabia to more effectively bomb Yemen targets, reminding that military action against North Korea was always “an option,” and predicting that the reign of Syrian President Bashar Assad would sooner or later “come to an end.”
The question now, however, is whether Tillerson’s replacement will actualize what was before the merely hypothetical. Pompeo will bring to the State Department not only more government expertise, but 15 months of experience serving at the commanding heights of the US intelligence agency – not enough time for the CIA chief to present any ‘problems’ for one of America’s most divisive leaders of all time – a possibility that Senator Chuck Schumer was brazen enough to hint at while Trump was still president-elect – and just enough time to give an extra edge to US foreign policy.
But will Pompeo be able to remember that the golden rule for any secretary of state is diplomacy with a capital ‘D’? His track record makes it seem highly unlikely. Pompeo’s impatience with tedious diplomacy became apparent in 2014 as then-President Barack Obama was attempting to hammer out the details of the Iranian nuclear agreement, which Trump later called “one of the worst deals of all time.” Pompeo, for his part, showed preference for a quick surgical strike before lunch to resolve matters.
“In an unclassified setting, it is under 2,000 sorties to destroy the Iranian nuclear capacity,”Pompeo, then serving as House member, told a group of reporters. “This is not an insurmountable task for the coalition forces.”
On another occasion, while serving as the CIA director, Pompeo seriously oversimplified the situation in Syria, where Russian forces have been assisting the Syrian government – by invitation only – to fight forces aligned with the Islamic State terrorist group.
“They love a warm-water naval port, and they love to stick it to America,” Pompeo said, in reference to Russia’s long-term lease of the naval facility at Tartus, which was first rented to the Soviet Union back in 1971.
Such a kneejerk, reactionary worldview that believes Russia can do absolutely no good, or that every move made by Moscow is seen as a way to trip up the American superpower, does not bode well for future bilateral relations. Another example: when asked if he believed Russia meddled in the 2016 US presidential elections, Pompeo took the current conspiracy theory being peddled by the mainstream media to the next level.
“Of course, and the one before that, and the one before that,” he said, without offering any evidence to support the claim. “They’ve been at this a hell of a long time.”
Jon Rainwater, executive director of Peace Action, the largest peace and disarmament organization in the US, summarized what we can expect with Pompeo serving on the foreign policy front.
“By tapping Mike Pompeo to be secretary of state, Trump is handing over the reins of US diplomacy to one of the most hawkish members of his administration,” Rainwater wrote. “For all of Tillerson’s flaws, he served as a check on Trump’s more hawkish positions. With Pompeo, Trump’s worst instincts… will be reinforced.”
Although Pompeo’s nomination may be cause for serious concern among peace activists, it is compounded one hundred times by Trump’s nomination for CIA director, Gina Haspel, who is best known for playing an active role in one of the darkest chapters of American history.
During Washington’s so-called ‘War on Terror,’ which continued throughout most of George W. Bush’s tortuous two-term presidency (2001-2009), Haspel supervised the first CIA ‘black site’ facility, a prison in Thailand, which went by the code name ‘Cat’s Eye.’
Given their extremely controversial backgrounds and credentials, a tag team made up of Pompeo and Haspel will introduce a hawkish element to Washington not witnessed since the Bush years. Although some sectors of the US government, particularly the defense sector, will be overjoyed at the profit prospects, thanks to the new militarism that will set on the nation like the plague under Pompeo and his former CIA deputy, the price that will be paid in global chaos will offset any gains.
With any luck we will never reach that ominous day. Already there is a groundswell of opposition building against the hawkish intelligence duo. Republican Senator Rand Paul, for example, said he would vote against Haspel for director of the foreign intelligence agency, saying he was disturbed by the “joyful glee” she demonstrated during the torture of detainees.
“To really appoint the head cheerleader for waterboarding to be head of the CIA?” Paul told reporters. “I mean, how could you trust somebody who did that to be in charge of the CIA? To read of her glee during the waterboarding is just absolutely appalling.”
Paul then accused both Pompeo and Haspel of supporting the disastrous Iraq war, while pushing for the very same catastrophic scenario in Iran.
“I’m perplexed by the nomination of people who love the Iraq war so much that they would advocate for a war with Iran next,” Paul said. “I think it goes against most of the things President Trump campaigned on.”
Indeed, the only way Trump’s choice of Pompeo and Haspel makes any sense is that he is gambling that the Senate will block their confirmation, thus allowing him to bring on board another two candidates, who will most likely shine in comparison with the current nominees. At least we can hope, for the sake of world peace and sanity, that this is what will ultimately transpire.