While Capitol Hill steels itself for what hopefully will be a tooth-and-nails nomination battle to keep former CIA torture black site director Gina Haspel from ascending to the head of the agency, it appears that the supremely arrogant Central Intelligence Agency is already back to their questionably legal and remorselessly murderous ways.
Buzzfeed is reporting that under former Director Mike Pompeo, whom Trump recently appointed as Secretary of State, the CIA has been deploying death squads of specially trained commandos to target and execute “suspected terrorists” without any kind trial or due process.
The CIA murder squad program was originally created under President Bush, who contracted the job out to the brother of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, Erik Prince, a mercenary contractor who once ran the notorious Blackwater paramilitary outfit.
That program was shuttered by President Obama, who preferred to perform his extrajudicial killings by drone strike rather than place any American lives in danger – with the exception of the Osama bin Laden raid.
But it appears that Trump, who has been very vocal about his desire to kill the families of “terrorists” and whose administration has already killed at least 6,000 civilians while fighting insurgents across the Middle East, has no such regard for the lives of American soldiers.
The CIA currently has around a hundred commandos as part of their “Special Activities Center,” the absurdly vague and sanitized moniker for their paramilitary units. “In the past, they were largely seen as support staff, helping case officers on projects, or for training foreign forces. Now they are used in direct actions and are operating on their own” explains Buzzfeed’s Aram Roston.
This is extremely bad news for many reasons. It goes without saying that the execution of “suspected” terrorists without trial or any kind of due process is deeply immoral, unethical, and should absolutely be illegal.
The American people hold the rule of law and our flawed legal system dearly in their hearts; why should we not extend the same rights to other humans simply because they were born outside our geographic borders?
Secondly, if the CIA’s detention and torture program was any indication, the agency is terrible at determining who is and who isn’t a “terrorist.” Out of 119 detainees, 26 of them – 22% – were wrongfully imprisoned and three of them were even tortured, forced to suffer horrifying pain and terror while having committed no crime but to have been in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Given the cavalier way in which the Trump administration sends missiles into mosques packed with civilians or sends SEAL teams in to slaughter entire villages, it’s clear that the body count from these extrajudicial operations would be stunningly high.
The callous disregard that the Trump administration shows for the lives of non-Americans is matched only by the utter absence of any kind of concern from the majority American population, be they Democrat or Republican, about the murderous excesses of America’s foreign policy.
The media obsesses over the reality TV show drama of the White House as the President endlessly replaces one set of rich, white, ghouls with another – as if any of it matters at the end of the day – but barely gives lip service to the endless slaughter of people of color across the world by America and its allies.
“Enemy ‘civilian casualties’ ok by me!” gleefully wrote the diminutive conservative grievance preacher Ben Shapiro way back in 2002. “One American soldier is worth far more than an Afghan civilian.” That repugnant sentiment is unfortunately echoed by the political establishment of both parties and a large segment of the population, who have been trained to dehumanize people of color so successfully that not even the preventable lead poisoning of black communities in the United States could hold the nation’s attention for more than a week or two.
What does it say about us when Flint, Michigan still does not have clean water three years later?
If one wants to find proof of how deeply white supremacy has been ingrained in American society and how people of color have been utterly dehumanized, we only need look at how many innocent people our interminable foreign wars kill, the complete absence of any kind of real oversight of our intelligence agencies, and the inevitable rubber-stamping of bloated military expenditure budgets by both parties.
These days, the Democratic Party seems more intent on enforcing political obeisance to the Central Intelligence Agency in a misguided and ultimately fruitless attempt to “out-patriot” the Republican Party on the issue of the Trump-Russia investigation.
We cannot allow our hatred for Donald Trump and everything he stands for to overwhelm the need to prevent our intelligence agencies from carrying out acts of violence that make us no better than the terrorist groups that we fight against – the terror groups that those same intelligence agencies played a significant role in creating and arming in the first place.
I shudder to think of what the CIA might do under the stewardship of Trump nominee Gina Haspel, who directed a torture black site and destroyed evidence of the agency’s many crimes against humanity.