John McCain may leave the Senate with a strange epilogue to his Republican career: Blocking an important nominee from a GOP president.
In a move that will only deepen his reputation as a RINO — Republican In Name Only — the ailing Arizona senator spoke out against Gina Haspel on Wednesday.
That woman is President Donald Trump’s choice to become the new director of the CIA, but McCain is leading the charge to block her confirmation in the Senate.
Haspel has spent decades in the CIA and is well regarded in the intelligence community. She has the support of most Republicans including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, yet McCain refuses to budge.
“McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, criticized Haspel’s role in the George W. Bush administration’s ‘enhanced interrogation program,'” Fox News reported.
“Haspel had overseen a detention facility for suspected terrorists in Thailand during the early years of the War on Terror,” the news outlet continued.
That enhanced interrogation, commonly known as waterboarding, is certainly controversial, but many intelligence experts do not consider it torture.
Despite pressure from McCain and many Democrats, Haspel refused to call the techniques used in the early months after 9/11 immoral, and reminded her critics that the measures likely saved American lives.
“I’m not going to sit here, with the benefit of hindsight, and judge the very good people who made hard decisions, who were running the agency in very extraordinary circumstances,” she said.
Although she refused to condemn the 9/11-era practices, she also promised that the enhanced interrogation programs would not be revived under her watch. This didn’t seem to satisfy McCain, who urged his fellow senators to block Haspel’s confirmation.
McCain, who is facing the end of his life due to aggressive brain cancer, may be squeamish about interrogation and torture after his time as a Vietnamese prisoner of war, but it seems he is viewing every American action as equivalent to what the Viet Cong did in Asia.
Sure enough, he witnessed some horrific things. However, even critics of the CIA’s detention programs must admit that supervised interrogation and even waterboarding are in a different category than the murderous treatment and death that McCain saw in Vietnam.
Asking moral questions is one thing; actively blocking the confirmation of a dedicated and competent intelligence expert is something else.
The fact that Haspel’s promise that waterboarding will be left in the past isn’t good enough for McCain suggests that he’s politically grandstanding, instead of putting the security of U.S. citizens first.
One of the great thinkers behind modern conservatism, William F. Buckey, once pointed out the difference between the CIA and America’s enemies.
“To say that the CIA and the KGB engage in similar practices is the equivalent of saying that the man who pushes an old lady into the path of a hurtling bus is not to be distinguished from the man who pushes an old lady out of the path of a hurtling bus,” he wrote.
“On the grounds that, after all, in both cases someone is pushing old ladies around,” Buckley concluded.
The message is clear: Just because actions look at first glance to be the same, does not mean they are.
The context and specifics matter, and pretending that the interrogation of Al Qaeda operatives with information about ongoing terrorist plots is the same as a downed pilot being nearly killed is disingenuous.
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