Notes from the Perimeter

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


It’s nice to finally get a good look at Dick Cheney. After eight years of lurking as a shadowy figure in his famously secure, undisclosed location, that legendary snarl is on every television screen.

Nobody can accuse our former vice president of donning the mantle of power reluctantly. And I suppose that once one has been puppeteer-in-chief, it might be hard to descend to lesser activities, like playing golf or masterminding a vast criminal conspiracy -- oh, wait, as CEO of Halliburton didn’t he already do that?

Liz Cheney – where’d she come from? – on a recent This Week with George S... kept referring to her dad as “the” vice president. What does that make Joe Biden, the “other” vice president? I think where Dick Cheney is concerned the adjective “former” has a most reassuring ring.

Ignoring his abysmal approval rating and armed with a secret weapon – his signature death-ray Look – the former vice president (FVP) is doing what he does best: going on the offensive. The tale he’s telling? That his policies, which led directly to war and the torture of suspects, kept our country safe. Furthermore, he claims that the Obama administration, in calling for an end to “extreme interrogation techniques,” is putting us in harm’s way – does “letting the terrorists win” sound familiar? The FVP, according to himself, is a selfless martyr to the cause of the safety of the American homeland. What a guy.

Not to make a Federal case of it (well, maybe just a little), let’s examine some of the more glaring inconsistencies in FVP’s contentions.

According to many experts in interrogation techniques, the extreme measures that FVP advocated and approved are of dubious value. Because any so-called intelligence is gained only under great duress, its validity is questionable. At a Senate hearing on May 14, a key witness, former FBI agent Ali Soufan, testified that “the harsh interrogation techniques may actually have hindered the collection of intelligence, causing a high-value prisoner to stop cooperating.” ( I can tell you that if I were being hung upside down by my toes and dunked repeated into a bucket of water, I’d swear on my mother’s grave to just about anything.

Investigative journalist Robert Windrem writes that FVP’s office insisted on waterboarding an Iraqi prisoner to force him to confirm a Saddam Hussein-Al Qaeda relationship. Torturing this prisoner based on political motivation made the act indisputably illegal since the prisoner was not considered a terrorist. More importantly, this connection, a primary rationale for the war, has been thoroughly debunked, although FVP’s modus operandi seems to be based on the theory that telling a lie often and loudly enough makes it the truth. WMDs anyone?

FVP brags that his policies kept America safe for seven years. But he was in office for eight years. FVP seems to have forgotten that 9/11 happened on his watch and that he ignored repeated warnings about Al Qaeda from chief counter-terrorism advisor Richard A. Clarke and others. According to the National Security Archive, a recently declassified January 25, 2001 memo from Clarke to the Bush Administration read in part: "We urgently need . . . a Principals level
review on the al Qida network." Bad spelling, good intelligence – but FVP dismissed the Clinton Administration’s warning that terrorism should be their highest priority.

During the FVP years, as news about Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, black sites, rendition, etc., leaked out, the United States lost the respect and the goodwill of much of the rest of the world. The torture of prisoners served not to make us safer but to bolster the ranks of those who would harm us. (Funny how the Bush Administration went from indignantly denying the use of torture – How dare you accuse us of that? – to huffily defending its necessity.)

If it weren’t so egregious – and scary – FVP’s demanding that the public accept his take on things simply because he says so seems almost bizarrely naïve. The Bush Administration is a story of failed policies, broken promises, missed opportunities, mind-boggling incompetency, lies and damned lies. This is Dick Cheney’s lasting legacy and all the talk show appearances in the world can’t spin that truth into another of his deceptions.


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