Background for Open Letter


Rob Crawford, facilitator for WSRCAT—March 22, 2018

The Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture (WSRCAT) is mobilizing a broad-based effort to call upon Senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to take strong leadership in opposing the nominations of Gina Haspel and Mike Pompeo. Ms. Haspel and Mr. Pompeo do not represent the values we cherish and insist on for our country. The office of Secretary of State represents the United States to foreign governments around the world. The Central Intelligence Agency is our premier clandestine institution. It has a notorious past, most recently its involvement in torture, and we believe it essential that the CIA is led by someone who has no association with torture and is committed to the rule of law.

We are also deeply concerned about what these nominations signal about the direction the Trump administration is taking in foreign and national security policy.

We oppose both nominations because we want our national leaders to 1) reject torture and cruel treatment without qualification; 2) speak with a united and clarion voice against Islamophobia, a growing and dangerous threat to our nation; and 3) lead our country to peaceful resolution of conflict wherever possible. We stand against torture, against Islamophobia and against aggressive and limitless war.


Both Haspel and Pompeo are unacceptable nominations, given their record on torture:

- Haspel was chief of base at a CIA “black site” in Thailand where waterboarding and other forms of torture were systematically applied. In this position she oversaw the use of torture.

- Haspel ordered or conveyed orders to destroy evidence of torture.

- Pompeo has also expressed support for waterboarding and other forms of “enhanced interrogation.” He also has defended those involved in “enhanced interrogation” as “heroes, not pawns in some liberal game being played by the ACLU and Senator Feinstein.”

Implications: These nominations signal that torture is no impediment to high office, a crucial step in normalizing torture. They give weight to the claim that “enhanced interrogation” and extraordinary rendition were legal, even though they are clearly and without exception forbidden under international and domestic law. No rulings of the Office of Legal Counsel, provisions of immunity by Congress, or failure to prosecute can alter these facts. The nominations also lend support to the claim, contrary to the Nuremberg principles, that perpetrators of torture were doing their duty by obeying orders.

Crucially, the record of these nominees is consistent with the views of President Trump, who on several occasions has expressed his support for torture: In November 2015, Trump told his supporters, “Would I approve waterboarding? You bet your ass I would; in a heartbeat. I would approve more than that. It works. And if it doesn't work, they deserve it anyway for what they do to us.” A return to torture would be an unacceptable moral failure for our country with both global and domestic consequences and would contribute to perpetual war.


It is unacceptable that a nominee for U.S. Secretary of State is on record for his anti-Islamic views:

- Pompeo has expressed extreme views and used inflammatory rhetoric about Islam and American Muslims. One notorious example is when, after the Boston Marathon bombing, he falsely accused American Muslim leaders of remaining silent and said they were therefore “potentially complicit in these acts” of terrorism. And in 2016, he claimed that “people who deeply believe that Islam is the way” are a “threat to America.”

- He received the National Security Eagle Award from ACT for America, the leading anti-Islamic organization in the United States. Brigitte Gabriel, who runs ACT and who refers to Pompeo as a “steadfast ally,” has said a “practicing Muslim, who believes in the teachings of the Koran, cannot be a loyal citizen to the United States of America.”

- He has been interviewed over 20 times on Frank Gaffney's radio show. Gaffney is perhaps the most influential Islamophobe in the country.

Implications: Pompeo's nomination signals that extreme anti-Muslim views are no impediment to high office and thus promotes the normalization of Islamophobia and the movements that are propagating this vicious ideology. If Pompeo held anti-Semitic views, he would be automatically disqualified. The absence of universal condemnation of Pompeo's Islamophobia is profoundly disturbing and illustrates the danger we face. Further, Pompeo's anti-Muslim views are consistent with those of the president (“I think Islam hates us.”); and several of Trump's other appointments underscore the danger. Anti-Muslim ideology within the highest levels of the U.S. government inevitably increases resentment toward the U.S. among Muslims around the world. It also invites discrimination and violence against Muslims in our own country and elsewhere and sows fear and dismay. It cannot be allowed to find a home among our leaders or within our institutions.


The nominations of both Pompeo and Haspel are unacceptable:

- Pompeo is militantly opposed to the multilateral nuclear deal with Iran. While the negotiations were in progress, he expressed a preference for a military solution.

- Pompeo has repeatedly expressed belligerent views toward Iran.

- While at the CIA, Pompeo sought to conjure up an alliance between Iran and al Qaeda. As exhibited by the lead up to the Iraq War, this could be a pretext for war.

- Haspel, by participating in torture, has demonstrated her willingness to embrace an ideology of war without legal or moral limits. Pompeo has done the same by his past statements in favor of torture.

Implications: War with Iran would be catastrophic and unpredictable. It would cost countless lives of combatants and civilian bystanders. It would displace millions of people in combat zones. Already, a proxy war with Iran in Yemen, undertaken by Saudi Arabia with U.S. backing, has resulted in immense loss of life, displacement, starvation and disease. Israel and Saudi Arabia are currently preparing for war with Iran. President Trump, in his vitriolic attacks on the nuclear agreement with Iran, joins with a powerful anti-Iranian coalition among Republicans in Congress to destroy a diplomatic achievement in favor of military confrontation.

A central feature of Islamophobia emphasizes that Islam and the West or Islam and Christianity are already at war or will soon be at war. Islamophobia evokes images of a hateful and determined enemy, an essential ingredient of war culture. Trump's support for torture is one indication among many of his embrace of an ideology of limitless war, “dark side” war as Cheney called it, or “a new kind of war” as Bush stated. Civilian and military proponents of this ideology are influential in every war and too often prevail. Trump's recent decision to keep Guantanamo open and his use of the term “enemy combatant” is another indication of his cruel disregard for legality or human rights. The long struggle against militarism is in part an effort to outlaw and wage moral struggle against wars of aggression and means of war-making that violate core principles of human dignity. Finally, there are ample reasons to believe that Trump thinks that war will solve his political and potential legal problems.

In sum, the nominations of Haspel and Pompeo reveal a combination of views, dispositions and demonstrated actions that are characteristic of the present administration, now dramatically reinforced by the replacement of H.R. McMaster with John Bolton as National Security Advisor. These nominations take us one step closer to the brink of aggressive war, war without moral or legal limits, and war that exploits fear and hatred of Islam and Muslims. There are both global and domestic consequences that betray our fundamental values.

These nominations must be opposed for each of the above reasons but also for their lethal combination.

Washington State Religious Campaign Against Torture - WSRCAT

Torture is a crime against humanity.


Torture is Always Wrong