Torture Kabuki Commentary
Torture Kabuki
Edited by: Henna Bagga

JURIST Guest Columnist Benjamin G. Davis of University of Toledo College of Law discusses President Trump’s affection for torture…

President Trump likes torture. He has said that Secretary of Defense Mattis convinced him not to use it and he would defer to Mattis. CIA Director Pompeo in his written responses before his confirmation showed himself open to reopen the possibility of torture. In voting for Pompeo, Senator Feinstein noted she did it thanks to the late further clarifications she received from him as to his commitment not to torture on which she relied.

With the ink barely dry on his confirmation, Pompeo then proceeds to name as CIA Deputy Director Gina Haspel who is a torturer. President Trump now can bypass Mattis and Pompeo who can retain plausible deniability vis-à-vis the Senate Armed Services Committee or the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, respectively, about ordering any torture. The torture will come by having things routed through Haspel who has demonstrated herself as being ready, willing, able and enthused about the torture to the point that she was perfectly happy to assist in the destruction of the famous torture tapes.

Haspel is one of the persons that would have been prosecuted in a normally constituted society for putting in place the torture. But, in our cesspool, instead she gets a promotion.

Let us be absolutely clear. In the coming war or action against ISIS and possibly others, there will be torture done by the United States. Trump as much as promised that in his Prayer Breakfast speech on February 2, 2017 when he said, “It was not going to be pretty.”

So now that the torturers are back in business, we see the action we will be taking against the barbarians of ISIS and see again that we have become the barbarians. It really would have been something if President Obama had formally apologized to the world after the election and before the inauguration (as I had suggested at the Annual Review of National Security Law of the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security in mid-November) for the United States putting in place a 54 country torture regime.

Now, the torturers are being put back in the saddle and we shall again be witness to barbaric state violence by ourselves.

Benjamin G. Davis, professor of law, is a former member of the American Bar Association (ABA) Standing Committee on Law and National Security. He is a Founder of Advocates for US Torture Prosecutions. Davis led the adoption of the 2006 American Society of International Law Centennial Resolution on Laws of War and Detainee Treatment. Davis is an international expert on topics such as cyber dispute resolution, drones, detainee treatment, military commissions, torture and international law. He is a graduate of Harvard College (BA), and Harvard Law School and Harvard Business School (JD/MBA).

Suggested citation: Benjamin G. Davis, Torture Kabuki, JURIST – Academic Commentary, Feb. 21, 2017,

This article was prepared for publication by Henna Bagga, an Assistant Editor for JURIST Commentary. Please direct any questions or comments to her at

Opinions expressed in JURIST Commentary are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of JURIST's editors, staff, donors or the University of Pittsburgh.