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Why All the Debate? Gina Haspel Was Born to Lead the CIA Printer friendly page Print This
By Dallas Darling
Submitted by Author
Saturday, May 12, 2018

I remember well visiting Dos Erres, a small village in the Guatemalan countryside where more than 160 people were killed, including 65 children who were tied to a rope so their heads could be smashed on rocks. This welcome to a Guatemalan hellhole had been preceded by a labor activist who was wanted by the government because he was a labor activist, and a massive protest in Guatemala’s Central Plaza that was brutally crushed by the police and Guatemalan army, with U.S. military advisors looking on.

Meanwhile, and as President Ronald Reagan was meeting with General Efrain Rios Montt, the president of Guatemala and one of the principal architects of the genocide, one of the few survivors of the Dos Erres massacre told of entering her hut after the armed forces had left to find her families’ decapitated heads placed on plates sitting on the table. While telling her story, she reminded me of another mother who belonged to GAM, Mothers of the Disappeared, and who had just had her house firebombed.

A Perfect Fit
I’m not sure why there’s such a heated debate over confirming Gina Haspel as the new Deputy Director of the CIA. Dubbed “Bloody Gina,” it appears she was born to lead the CIA. Her past experience of 33 years, which consisted of secret prisons and renditions, waterboarding, and applying electric shock to prisoners, would actually be a perfect fit for the CIA. So too would beatings and bludgeoning, drilling holes in the skulls of suspected terrorists and removing eyeballs, and destroying the evidence.(1)

Back to Reagan’s Cold War counterinsurgency program in Guatemala, which included El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua, a 1991 report commissioned by the Defense Department concluded that the Indigenous and peasants' infrastructure remained so dense that “only a massacre” could uproot them.(2) Actually, thousands of massacres were more like it. In other words, terrorism worked, and it worked well, as tens of thousands were killed in the name of U.S. national security and corporatism.

Made to Torture
The same department also had to admit that only “lavish” brutality conducted by the death squads and security forces of these countries prevented guerrilla victories. This included an increase in American military aid to Central America’s repressive regimes, and U.S. military advisers and intelligence officers who knew or were involved in the wars - some who I personally met - and understood that the containment of the rebels was not the result of reform but the consequence of the murder of thousands of people.

I also saw torture manuals used by U.S. Special Forces and the School of the America’s in Panama, known as the School of the Assassins. Along with the use of “indiscriminate acts of violence” and “aggressive restraint,” the manual taught torturous psychological methods. This entailed going without sleep and making prisoners stand for days, keeping prisoners naked and in isolation, putting rats and cockroaches in the cell, serving dead animals, and using freezing temperatures and throwing cold water on them.

Tale of Two Infrastructures

For those U.S. political leaders and journalists who graduated from Ivy League schools and only spent a day or two in Central American airports or the finest restaurants and hotels, in order to report on the region’s civil wars or tell constituents they just completed a fact-finding mission, it was easy to dress up the CIA and its torturous counterterrorist campaigns as “winning the hearts and minds.” It was also convenient to tell how the U.S. was democratizing the region while providing medicines and building infrastructures.

But for us who took time to work in refugee camps and to listen to the oppressed, we know otherwise. Central America became a showcase for terrorism and a laboratory of repression. It also displayed how genocides could be censored or justified in the context of a Cold War or national security. It even showed how the CIA could topple democratically elected leaders while freely aiding and abetting military juntas and their torturous death squads. As for infrastructures, they were peasant massacres.

Necessary to Kill, and Kill Again
Gina Haspel and the CIA know the same is still true today. They fully understand how the use of torture will continue to be a centerpiece of the so-called Global War On Terror. They, and the Defense Department, will also continue to realize that winning is not the result of some kind of wonderful political reform or to improve human rights, but the consequence of scorched earth policies and murdering thousands of people. This, despite creating more opposition that becomes necessary to kill(3), and kill again.

In the meantime, why all the debate over Gina Haspel’s confirmation to lead the CIA? As if we too weren’t born, or at least somehow complicit, in either leading or collaborating with the CIA’s torturous programs and scorched earth policies around the world.


Dallas Darling is the author of Politics 501: An A-Z Reading on Conscientious Political Thought and Action, Some Nations Above God: 52 Weekly Reflections On Modern-Day Imperialism, Militarism, And Consumerism in the Context of John’s Apocalyptic Vision, and The Other Side Of Christianity: Reflections on Faith, Politics, Spirituality, History, and Peace. He is a correspondent for You can read more of Dallas’ writings at and

(1) “The Banality of Gina Haspel,” by Ryan Cooper., May 9, 2018.
(2) Grandin, Greg. Empire’s Workshop: Latin America, the United States, And The Rise Of The New Imperialism, New York, New York: Henry Holt And Company, 2016., p. 105.
(3) Ibid., p. 106.
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