April 30, 2018
I have a column in today’s Brunswick Times Record. It was sparked by Angus King’s “Aye” on the close vote that confirmed Mike Pompeo as Secretary of State.
Deeper Into Madness
With both Maine Senators voting “aye,” the United States Senate voted last Thursday to confirm Trump’s nominee Mike Pompeo as U.S. Secretary of State. That vote takes us deeper into the madness of U.S. foreign policy post 2001.
Susan Collins’s vote was hardly a surprise. Despite her posture of sober, reasonable bipartisanship, she has voted to confirm nearly every one of Trump’s nominees. Yes, she voted for Sessions as Attorney General, Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary, Price as HHS Secretary, Zinke as Interior Secretary, Carson as HUD Secretary, Mulvaney as OMB Director. I wonder what she makes of them now, scandal after scandal? She doesn’t say.
Angus King’s vote on Pompeo was the surprise. “[B]ased upon what I know of Mike Pompeo, I believe that…he will be a calm and well-informed voice. He knows his country expects and needs no less,” King said in justifying his vote.
Calm and well informed? I can believe Pompeo will be both of those. And he will be both of those serving a president who is never calm nor well informed. Perhaps that is what King was thinking: Anyone leading the State Department would be better than Trump acting as his own Secretary of State. Said King, “The simple fact is that we need a Secretary of State, especially as Iran and North Korea are both coming to critically important decision points. In addition, the State Department itself is depleted, dispirited, and in desperate need of leadership and direction, which the Director’s experience at CIA indicates he can provide.”
“Leadership and direction:” there’s the rub. What leadership will Pompeo give to U.S. foreign policy? In what directions will he point the way, not just on Iran and North Korea, but on Syria, Israel/Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Europe, Africa, trade policy and climate change? Bad leadership, bad directions, and King and all the rest of us have good reason to know that.
Even the United States military believes climate change poses huge national security risks for the United States and threatens instability around the world. The scientific consensus has been clear for two decades. And yet Mike Pompeo is a climate change denier. Even the last four long-serving Republican appointed Secretaries of State acknowledged the importance of U.S. leadership on climate and environmental matters: George Schultz, James Baker, Colin Powell, and Condoleeza Rice. Pompeo will oppose any efforts to bring the U.S. back into the Paris Accords.
Or take the rolling disaster that is U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Since 2001, U.S. military expenditures for war in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Syria total at least $5.6 trillion dollars. At least 370,000 people to date have lost their lives in this so-called war on terror (Over 6000 of them Americans.) Ten million people have been driven from their homes. And with all these costs, we are no closer to a just and lasting resolution of these conflicts than we were in 2001.
As Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo will take us deeper into this madness. He has no leadership and no direction to offer except more of the same. He believes Islam is the problem. He believes more military might (and therefore more deaths, especially civilian deaths) are the answer. Who are our friends and who are our enemies? We have no idea and Pompeo will provide no fresh, sane leadership.
He opposes the Iran nuclear weapons deal and will likely encourage Trump to dynamite it: deeper into madness.
Next up on the Senate agenda is visiting again the question of torture. Pompeo comes to his new role from the CIA, where he was Director. Trump’s nominee to now direct the CIA is Gina Haspel, currently the CIA Deputy Director. At the CIA, Haspel oversaw a black site torture prison in Thailand where waterboarding was practiced. She subsequently oversaw the destruction of 92 interrogation videotapes that showed the torture of detainees both at hers and other secret agency locations. Such torture is not just madness but war criminal terrain.
Haspel will need Senate confirmation to become CIA Director. Will she get Aye votes from Maine’s U.S. Senators? Will they take us yet deeper into madness?
Doug Bennett, a Quaker and a retired political science professor, is a Topsham resident.