Mike Pompeo on Muslims, torture and Guantanamo Bay

Latest news

    Pompeo has supported torture, highlighted a blog on ‘turban toppers’, and wants to keep the prison camp in Guantanamo Bay open [Leah Millis/Reuters]

    The appointment of former CIA director Mike Pompeo as US secretary of state occurred on Tuesday after months of rumours that Rex Tillerson was on the way out.

    Tillerson was often depicted as a calm hand of “peaceful pressure” while US President Donald Trump usually opted for hasty decisions, bombastic rhetoric, and controversial policy positions. The two men disagreed on many issues, including the Iran nuclear deal and the Gulf crisis.

    Pompeo, meanwhile, is a controversial figure who has voiced support for torture, wants to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open, and has a history of xenophobic remarks.

    How will Pompeo’s past affect his role as the US’ top diplomat? 

    On Muslims, immigrants

    Pompeo was elected to the House of Representatives in 2010, representing Kansas state during the era of the Tea Party, the ultra-conservative branch of the Republican Party.

    He ran against Democratic candidate Raj Goyle, a lifelong Kansas resident and son of Hindu-Indian immigrants.

    That didn’t stop Pompeo from posting a link to a blog on his campaign’s Facebook page that called Goyle “just another turban topper we don’t need in Congress or any political office that deals with the US Constitution, Christianity and the United States of America!”

    The slur was written by Bob Pinkstaff of Wichita, a retired US military serviceman. The remarks came after Goyle “dodged” a question about his religion during a debate before the 2010 election.

    Goyle called Pompeo out for sharing the blog, saying the “bigoted attack” went “beyond the rules of engagement in politics”. Pompeo apologised, saying it was “inadvertently posted“.

    In 2013, two months after the Boston Marathon bombing, Pompeo took to the House floor to accuse US Muslim leaders of failing to condemn “extremist” attacks.

    “Silence has made these Islamic leaders across America potentially complicit in these acts,” he said.

    Corey Saylor, former director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations department that monitors Islamophobia, told Al Jazeera that Pompeo being appointed secretary of state is a “continuation of the troubling policies we’ve seen coming out of the Trump administration”.

    Regarding the message it sends to leaders of Muslim-majority states, Saylor said it will signal a lack of “respect” for their faith and ways of life.

    Juan Cole, a visiting professor at Qatar University, was more direct about the US’ new top diplomat, describing Pompeo as “out of control.

    “He’s a huge Iranophobe. He really has it in for Iran … He’s a huge Islamophobe. He’s accused American-Muslim leaders of potentially being in cahoots with terrorism … He’s a hardliner. I think Pompeo is so ideological, so one-sided,” Cole told Al Jazeera.

    “I think this is bad news for Qatar, for instance, because I think he’s very close to the Saudis. He’s said openly if the Saudis and the Israelis want to combine against Iran this is all to the good. And of course Qatar is caught in the middle of that.”

    On Torture

    Pompeo has also taken a stalwart stance in favour of “enhanced interrogation” tactics, or torture methods, including waterboarding, used to question those suspected of violent activities.

    Pompeo criticised the administration of former President Barack Obama for closing “black sites” – secret prisons used to interrogate suspects overseas – and the requirement for interrogators to adhere to anti-torture laws.

    In 2014, Pompeo accused Obama of neglecting to “take the war on radical Islamic terrorism seriously”.

    The comments were said to have motivated Trump to consider Pompeo as the future CIA director. Trump said on the campaign trail for the 2016 elections that he would consider bringing back waterboarding “and a hell of a lot worse”.

    At his 2017 confirmation hearing before US legislators to take the role of CIA chief, Pompeo said the agency would not restart torture on his watch.

    On Guantanamo Bay

    While he has backtracked on torture, Pompeo’s support of Guantanamo Bay, the US naval base in Cuba where foreign nationals suspected of acts of “terrorism” are imprisoned, appears to be unwavering. 

    The prison camp was one of the testing grounds for the “enhanced interrogation” tactics of the administration of former President George W Bush.

    Numerous US officials have called for the prison’s closure, including Obama.

    One of Obama’s first acts as president was to sign an order to close Guantanamo. The base was never closed. Pompeo has spoken favourably of this outcome.

    “GTMO has been a goldmine of intelligence about radical Islamic terrorism,” Pompeo said in 2016.

    Many of the 41 detainees at Guantanamo have never been tried. Of these men, 31 are being held in indefinite “law-of-war” detention. Five of these are recommended for transfer if security conditions are met.

    Another seven have been charged by the military criminal justice system, which is separate from US civil law. Another three were convicted.

    {articleGUID}

    The newly appointed secretary of state wrote in an op-ed in the Kansas City Star in 2015 that “there is no evidence that these and other detainees wouldn’t quickly return to the battlefield looking to do harm to our soldiers, our citizens and our way of life.”

    Omar Farah, a senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitution Rights who litigates cases at Gitmo, told Al Jazeera that “vilifying the prisoners is a tired trick to excuse a Guantanamo policy that was brutal and stupid from day one.”

    Even if the 41 detainees are the “hardened terrorist” Pompeo contends, a “just, constitutional democracy owes even its worst prisoners better than 16 years and counting of indefinite imprisonment”, said Farah.

    The appointment of Pompeo as the US’ top diplomat also signifies that “Trump’s instincts are sharpening”, the attorney added. Pompeo will also be a “disaster for Guantanamo.

    View the original article: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/03/mike-pompeo-muslims-torture-guantanamo-bay-180313145408365.html

    “Former secretaries of state and their envoys had responsibility for negotiating Guantanamo releases. With Pompeo at the helm, it’s doubtful anyone leaves Guantanamo alive without a judicial order,” Farah said.

    In the same category are

    Uneasy calm in Gaza after Hamas-Israel deal More than 140 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since protests on March 30 A brittle quiet has taken hold in the Gaza Strip as a deal...
    Steve Bannon ‘planning foundation’ to boost far right in Europe Bannon and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen Stephen Bannon, the controversial former chief strategist to US President Donald Trump, is plannin...
    China President Xi welcomed in Senegal at start of Africa trip Xi was received by Senegalese President Macky Sall on Saturday China's President Xi Jinping has arrived to Senegal for a two-day visit, the first l...
    What’s triggering protests in Nicaragua? It's a revolution against the man who led the revolution in Nicaragua. Thirty-nine years ago, Daniel Ortega and Sandinista rebels were victorious in d...
    Trump says ex-lawyer’s tape over ‘model payment’ may be illegal US President Donald Trump has reacted to reports that his former lawyer secretly taped him discussing payments to a former Playboy model two months b...
    At least 10 Iranian Revolutionary Guards killed in border attack The attack caused the largest number of Iranian troops killed in a single incident on the Iraqi border in recent years At least 10 Iranian border g...

    Leave a comment

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.