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Pompeo is Trump's man, at least for the time being

Mar 21,2018 - Last updated at Mar 21,2018

Donald Trump's choice of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) director Mike Pompeo as secretary of state to succeed sacked Red Tillerson has made many in Washington uneasy. Pompeo has been officially involved with Trump since November 2016, when the president-elect said he would nominate him for the CIA post. Pompeo was confirmed by the US Senate in January 2017 following Trump's inauguration and, when not travelling on official missions, personally delivered Trump's daily briefing to the Oval Office in the White House, thereby creating a cosy relationship between the two men.

Pompeo is Trump's man, at least for the time being. Pompeo agrees with Trump on the issues with which he must deal in coming months: the Iran nuclear deal, the shift of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, the Yemen war and, perhaps, North Korea. Unlike Tillerson, Trump says that he and Pompeo are "always on the same wavelength." This is true except on Russia, where Pompeo prefers a harder line than Trump. 

Pompeo is a man who moulds his positions to merge with those of his boss and could be expected to do so on Russia. A right-wing Tea Party Republican hawk who served in Congress, he is dubbed an "extremist". As an "extremist", Pompeo could endorse the erratic and childish Trump's most risky proclamations and actions in foreign policy. Along with “the adults in the room,” chief-of-staff HR McMaster and Defence Secretary James Mattis, both professional military men, Tillerson had attempted to curb Trump's inane impulses. 

A graduate of West Point, Pompeo also served in the military as a cavalry officer deployed in Berlin before the collapse of the Soviet Union and as an infantry officer during the 1991 US war on Iraq. His service has, apparently, made him believe international problems can be resolved by war rather than diplomacy. One commentator argued Pompeo can be best described the new "secretary for war".

He has said the US should wage war on Iran, deepen its military involvement in Syria, support the Saudi war on Yemen and take a hard line with Russia over its annexation of Crimea and policy toward Ukraine. He has suggested regime change in North Korea. 

He takes a strong line against immigration to the US, particularly by Muslims, has made anti-Muslim statements, and, while CIA director, favoured close surveillance of Muslim citizens and residents of the US. He has characterised conflicts in this region as wars between Christians and Muslims. During his time in Congress, he made a name for himself by antagonising the country's Muslim community. 

Pompeo is particularly dangerous because he is clever. In 1994 he graduated from Harvard Law School, where he was one of the 81 members of the Board of Editors of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. After graduation, he and two friends founded a Kansas-based firm making aircraft parts. This had a small amount of funding from Koch industries. The firms' clients included major US aircraft companies. Pompeo sold his shares in his firm and was appointed president of an oilfield equipment company, associated with the billionaire Koch brothers, who became powerful allies. Following his election of the House of Representatives in 2010, he was known as the "Koch Brothers' Congressman" since his campaign was partially funded by the brothers. They also helped finance his 2012 and 2014 reelection bids. In return, he has been a Koch loyalist and put forward business-friendly policies David and Charles Koch want pursued.

The Koch brothers control the second largest privately-owned US company, with earnings of $115 billion. The brothers have been involved in US politics since 1980, when David Koch became the conservative Libertarian Party's vice-presidential candidate. Since then, they have created a network of right-wing donors, think tanks, and organisations to promote right-thinking Republicans and Libertarians. The Koch brothers dismiss climate change and seek tax cuts for big business and the rich. Last year, although the brothers take an anti-Israel political line, they formed a high-tech fund to invest an initial $75 million in an Israeli company manufacturing non-invasive medical equipment.

If Pompeo is, as expected, confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, the Koch brothers will have their man at Trump's elbow in the White House, at least for as long as Pompeo lasts. Trump tires of "yes men" as well as "adults" who try to rein him in.

The nomination of Gina Haspel to replace Pompeo as CIA director is highly controversial and could create problems for Trump. A 33-year veteran of the agency and the first woman to be chosen for the post, Haspel is under challenge because she had a role in CIA torture and waterboarding of Al Qaeda prisoners at a secret "black site" prison in Thailand during 2002. She has also been accused of destroying evidence of the abuses.

Speaking to US National Public Radio, former CIA operative John Kiriakou said her nomination "sends a message [to CIA recruits] that you can commit crimes. You can be involved in something as odious as torture. And you can get promoted".  It is notable that during his election campaign, Trump spoke favourably about the use of torture and, specifically, waterboarding, although this has been banned.

Haspel's nomination has given rise to serious opposition in the Senate, where even a few concerned Republicans, including John McCain, who was tortured in a North Vietnam prison, could torpedo her appointment.

 

The writer is the deputy chief editor of the Jordan Times.

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Please stop calling the Libertarian Party "conservative" . The LP is only conservative in the fiscal sense. Do most conservatives support ending the war on drugs, marriage equality for all gender identities, ending US military involvement abroad and protecting immigrants, and especially there children, who came here illegally only because there was no way to come legally?

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