In a break with Donald Trump, McCain told his Senate colleagues that they should vote against Haspel, because “her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying.”
McCain said that the pro-torture Haspel in her speeches to the Senate Intelligence Committee did not address his serious concerns about her part in an enhanced interrogation (torture) program in the amoral George W. Bush administration. The sadistic methods used in the program are regarded as torture now.
Haspel can’t afford to lose any more Republican support. McCain is currently recovering from surgery for his brain cancer out in Arizona and he was not expected to be there when the Senate will vote on Haspel’s nomination. With John McCain out and Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) against her, Haspel needs support from one Democratic senator at least as well as every single Republican besides Paul and McCain to be confirmed.
“Like many Americans, I understand the urgency that drove the decision to resort to so-called enhanced interrogation methods after our country was attacked. I know that those who used enhanced interrogation methods and those who approved them wanted to protect Americans from harm. I appreciate their dilemma and the strain of their duty,” McCain stated on Wednesday.
“But as I have argued many times, the methods we employ to keep our nation safe must be as right and just as the values we aspire to live up to and promote in the world.”
McCain explained that he still thinks Haspel “is a patriot who loves our country and has devoted her professional life to its service and defense.”
“However, Ms. Haspel’s role in overseeing the use of torture by Americans is disturbing. Her refusal to acknowledge torture’s immorality is disqualifying,” he said. “I believe the Senate should exercise its duty of advice and consent and reject this nomination.”
McCain himself was tortured multiple times while a prisoner of war in the Vietnam War. McCain had previously expressed skepticism and dissent about Haspel’s nomination.
Gina Haspel’s ties to the “interrogation” (torture) program caused a contentious confirmation hearing Wednesday in which the Senate Democrats focused heavy criticism towards her views on torture. She failed to answer when Senator Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) repeatedly asked Haspel if she believes the past interrogation techniques are “immoral.”
However, she promised that she would never bring back the torture program, a way of phrasing the issue that falsely implies that America ever stopped torturing people, rather than simply ceasing to officially endorse it. The fact that America continues to use discreetly use torture as an interrogation tactic, especially overseas, makes it especially important to have a CIA director with a moral objection to torture.
Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) unfortunately said on Wednesday that he supports Haspel’s nomination. Several Republican senators remain undecided.
McCain’s opposition to Gina Haspel’s nomination is just the latest instance where the Arizona senator disagreed with Trump.
The president got harsh criticism in the 2016 campaign when he claimed that McCain is not a war hero, insensitively saying that he prefers war heroes “who weren’t captured.” McCain spent six long years in a POW camp during the Vietnam war.
Since Donald Trump’s election, McCain has often spoken out against his rhetoric as well as the “spurious nationalism” that is sweeping the nation, and he wrote critically of Trump within his upcoming book.
Also, McCain cast the decisive vote to prevent an ObamaCare repeal in the Senate last summer.