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Cheney's Desperate Defense

Cheney at AEI. (AP Photo/Luis M. Alvarez)

Former vice president Dick Cheney's snarling, duplicitous speech contrasting Bush and Obama administration counter-terrorism policies yesterday is best seen in the context of his understandably strong desire to avoid investigation or prosecution in the near future -- and ignominy in the history books.

While his speech is primarily being touted as a ferocious attack on President Obama -- and it certainly was that -- what Cheney is really doing is playing defense.

Running through his remarks were several familiar themes: That investigating what really happened during the past eight years is tantamount to prosecution, that criminalizing political behavior would be a terrible precedent, and that the Bush administration had absolutely nothing to do with the kind of abuse illustrated by the notorious photographs from Abu Ghraib prison.

That final point is really key. For five years, ever since the photos became public, Bush officials have been engaged in a concerted disinformation campaign aimed at denying that White House policy was in any way responsible for the widespread abuse of detainees.

I describe new evidence of that disinformation campaign in an article on today. One of the torture memos released last month proves how baldly then-White House counsel Alberto Gonzales was lying in June 2004, as he tried to distance the administration from what happened at Abu Ghraib.

The latest iteration of the campaign has been Cheney's relentless focus on debating the appropriateness and efficacy of the techniques used on "high-value" detainees at CIA secret prisons. Cheney realizes that even if he loses this argument, as far as the American public is concerned, it's a close call.

To avoid more scrutiny, it's essential that he keep distancing the administration from the kind of abuse that is universally considered indefensible.

Indeed, Cheney said yesterday: "In public discussion of these matters, there has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib prison with the top secret program of enhanced interrogations. At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulations, and simple decency. For the harm they did, to Iraqi prisoners and to America's cause, they deserved and received Army justice. And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful, and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men."

The campaign has been so effective that there's only been limited public awareness of the mounting evidence -- including a bipartisan report from the Senate Armed Service Committee -- definitively linking decisions made by Bush and Cheney not just to the torture at the CIA's hands, but to the pervasive, inhumane treatment of detainees – many of whom were utterly innocent -- at prison facilities such as Abu Ghraib, Bagram, and Guantanamo.

The photographs that Obama recently decided not to release would have called renewed attention to the pervasiveness of abuse -- one reason Cheney was obviously delighted with that decision. (He called it "wise" yesterday.)

But even more so, the truth would come out in a thorough official investigation -- which is why Cheney is so opposed to one. He spoke contemptuously yesterday of a "so-called 'Truth Commission.'"

One other thing about Cheney's speech: He has yet to offer up any verifiable evidence that even a single life was saved through any of the administration's extreme tactics, including torture and warrantless surveillance. Nevertheless, he insisted yesterday that the "intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work and proud of the results, because they prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of innocent people."

Hundreds of thousands? Is Cheney now explicitly suggesting that torture averted a nuclear attack? That would be a first, even for him. Call it the return of the imaginary mushroom cloud.

Here's how you cover Cheney! Jonathan S. Landay and Warren P. Strobel write for McClatchy Newspapers: "Former Vice President Dick Cheney's defense Thursday of the Bush administration's policies for interrogating suspected terrorists contained omissions, exaggerations and misstatements."

Among them: "Cheney said that 'the key to any strategy is accurate intelligence,' but the Bush administration ignored warnings from experts in the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the State Department, the Department of Energy and other agencies, and used false or exaggerated intelligence supplied by Iraqi exile groups and others to help make its case for the 2003 invasion."

And "Cheney said that only 'ruthless enemies of this country' were detained by U.S. operatives overseas and taken to secret U.S. prisons.

"A 2008 McClatchy investigation, however, found that the vast majority of Guantanamo detainees captured in 2001 and 2002 in Afghanistan and Pakistan were innocent citizens or low-level fighters of little intelligence value who were turned over to American officials for money or because of personal or political rivalries.

"In addition, German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Oct. 5, 2005, that the Bush administration had admitted to her that it had mistakenly abducted a German citizen, Khaled Masri, from Macedonia in January 2004.

"Masri reportedly was flown to a secret prison in Afghanistan, where he allegedly was abused while being interrogated. He was released in May 2004 and dumped on a remote road in Albania.

"In January 2007, the German government issued arrest warrants for 13 alleged CIA operatives on charges of kidnapping Masri."

Fred Kaplan writes for Slate that Cheney "built a case on straw men, red herrings, and lies."

For example: "Cheney ... dismissed the idea—hardly Obama's alone—that the interrogation policies and the detention operations at Guantanamo have served as a 'recruitment tool' for al-Qaida and other terrorists. This claim, he said, 'excuses the violent and blames America for the evil that others do. It's another version of that same old refrain from the Left: We brought it on ourselves.'

"This is nonsense on a few levels. Nobody is claiming that Osama Bin Laden and his crew would go away if we treated prisoners more nicely. However, it is indisputable that the reports of torture, the photos from Abu Ghraib, and the legal limbo at Guantanamo have galvanized al-Qaida's recruitment campaigns. Everyone acknowledges this, hardly just 'the Left.' It's why many Republicans lamented the news stories and the photographs—because they might help the enemy."

Joe Klein writes for Time: "From the very first--the notion that those who oppose his policies saw 9/11 as a 'one-off'--Cheney proceeded to mischaracterize, oversimplify and distort the views of those who saw his policies as extreme and unconstitutional, to say nothing of the views of the current Administration. This is the habit of demagogues. Cheney's snarling performance was revelatory and valuable: it showed exactly the sort of man Cheney is, and the sort of advice he gave, when his location was disclosed. I hope he continues to speak out. We need his voice to remind us what we've happily escaped."

Joe Conason writes for Salon: "Beyond the distortions and the lies, there was one passage in Cheney's speech that underlined the authoritarian character of the former vice president and his hosts. Not only must we not reverse the policies of the previous administration, but according to him, we should not even debate them -- because the merest discussion of the troubling issues raised by the war on terrorism only encourages the enemy."

Dana Milbank writes in The Washington Post: "It was not Cheney's logic but his prodigious anger that was on display yesterday....

"Cheney used the word 'attack' 19 times, 'danger' and 'threat' six times apiece, and 9/11 an impressive 27 times. It was as if all the angry thoughts edited out of his speeches by Bush aides over eight years were finally free to tumble forth. He railed about 'contrived indignation and phony moralizing' among Democrats and a stance that 'blames America.'"

Michael Tomasky
writes in the Guardian: "Let's cut to the chase: If, God forbid, there is another terrorist attack on America, Cheney has with this speech ensured that rather than uniting behind the sitting administration – as conservatives insisted we all must do eight years ago – this country will be torn in two. That's a very toxic and dangerous game, and it certainly won't make for a stronger country. Now who's playing politics with national security?"

MSNBC's Keith Olbermann devoted his "Special Comment" to Cheney, who he described this way: "Neurotic. Paranoid. False to fact and false to reason. Forever self-rationalizing. His inner rage at his own impotence and failure dripping from every word and as irrational, as separated from the real world, as dishonest, as insane, as any terrorist."

Michael D. Shear writes in The Washington Post: "It has been evident for weeks that the relative seclusion Cheney kept as vice president was ending. In his speech yesterday, Cheney made it clear that he views himself as the principal keeper of the Bush legacy and a key player in making sure Obama does not mischaracterize the past eight years.

"Bush confidants said Cheney is not explicitly channeling his former boss. Bush is neither asking him to make the appearances nor discouraging him from doing so, said former Bush press secretary Dana Perino, who remains close to the 43rd president. But Perino applauded Cheney's decision to offer what she said is a 'full accounting' of the Bush presidency."

Eric L. Lewis writes for the Huffington Post: "Former Vice President Cheney has masterfully shifted the debate about torture from the realm of law and ethics to that of pure efficacy....

"The absolute prohibition on torture is not based on a consensus that it never works. Rather, it is based on the sad realization that the impulse to torture is ever-present; that human beings who are frightened or zealous or full of rage -- as human beings invariably are -- will feel a powerful need to torture and a powerful justification for acting on that need. It is useful to recall the understandable fear and anger after September 11 not to justify or excuse torture, but to understand that it is precisely at the moment of most stress that the norm against torture must be powerfully affirmed....

"We do not allow torture in the ticking time bomb scenario because when the would-be torturer looks out on the landscape, he sees it littered with ticking time bombs and people who might know something about them. We do not balance the costs and benefits to see if torture works because there will always be some argument that can be made that it works or it might work or people believed at the time that it would."

By Dan Froomkin  |  May 22, 2009; 3:00 PM ET
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President George W. Obama is in agreement with Cheney on most issues relating to torture, dentention, and secrecy. Obama just wants to label it differently. Obama wants to close Gitmo, but deny habeus corpus in the rest of the world (like the prison at Bagram, Afganistan). He wants to hold people indefinitely without charges or trial or any form of habeus corpus, but he wants it to look legal. And Obama definitely wants to expand the state secrets privilege.

Posted by: dickdata | May 22, 2009 3:42 PM | Report abuse

Cheney has played fast and loose with the truth and has done so for so long now he does not even know he is doing it. When he was CEO at Halliburton he claimed they did no business in sanctioned countries when it was well known they were in Libya at the time.

I think Michael Tomasky has the most salient point here. And it certainly makes you wonder if deep down inside the Republicans wouldn't mind a small attack on us so as to regain their political footing.

Posted by: scott1959 | May 22, 2009 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Cheney is concerned with "criminalizing political behavior"? That is a smokescreen, and it frames the issue exactly backwards. What he's seeking to obscure is his history of politicizing criminal behavior for the past eight years.

Posted by: bprittenhouse | May 22, 2009 4:17 PM | Report abuse

Dan, Thank you for not falling for the Obama vs Cheney meme most of the MSM has been touting, including the WaPost. Given Pres. Obama's strides in just over 100 days, I am close to despair that the left wing of the Democrats and the blue dog Democrats are becoming equal to the Republicans in attacking Obama. I have been waiting for an Obama like president all my life (just turned 67) and I can't believe the treatment he is getting. Good thing he is such an even tempered person--I'm trying to emulate him with less success than he demonstrates.

Posted by: Barbara5 | May 22, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

Nothing could demonstrate the important differences between the Obama and Cheney approaches than watching them discuss these issues. When someone cites verifiable facts and attempts to build logical structures it is possible to debate them - and it is probably possible to change their mind through debate. To equate the two approaches, to rail against George W. Obama is to reveal that you are no match for either man.

Posted by: ath28 | May 22, 2009 4:34 PM | Report abuse

Given all of the evidence that's come out over the past few years indicating that Cheney was one of the principals in the decision to torture detainees (the Senate report and the memos released by Justice are just the latest in a long list of documents and interview transcripts), I'd like to see one of his interviewers ask him a tough question as he continues his attempts to justify what he's done - something like this, perhaps:

"Mr. Cheney, as you know, torture is forbidden under the U.S. Criminal Code, as well as under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to which we are signatories. Memos obtained from the Dep't of Justice, the Dep't of Defense, as well as interviews with FBI and military personnel involved in the so-called "enhanced interrogations", indicate that 1) these practices amount to torture as defined by U.S. law and treaty obligations, and 2) that you were a principal figure in developing and implementing this policy. Are you prepared to respond to these charges in a court of law, and would you accept the final decision of the Federal Court System, whatever that might be?"

Posted by: apn3206 | May 22, 2009 4:44 PM | Report abuse

Along time ago, "we" argued that Corporate Flunkies are attracted to Federal Government because it is the last safe haven for people to escape liabilities of their own making. Am surprised Cheney has not faked a heart attack by now to "escape" (and that's no joke because I witnessed an Elitist fake a heart attack once to avoid paying the tab at a large dinner party he called).

History can show right now that Republicans wanted a "Corporate Style" Executive Branch and they certainly got it but that it looks more and more like enron each day in which history is revealed.

In Public Life, Cheney looks like a basterd, selfish, arrogant and ignorant prick. The role model still is being carried by numerous followers today. And the motive is probably the same, capitlalization while trying to avoid the liabilities created in the process with a Bully mentality. Am told that the way to the future is ADR.

The only redeeming quality of Fox News to me is Neil Cavuto. I read his "stuff" each day and have been known to listen to him on Sat. Radio. I hope that does not hurt Mr. Cavuto's ratings. I will make another reminder here that the term "Bridges to Nowhere" was actually coined on these message boards. I will infer that know one could waste money as well as Dick Cheney's influence on Congress enabling deficit spending as someone said, "I believe in Supply-Side Spending" as if it were a religion.

Posted by: markwpa | May 22, 2009 4:57 PM | Report abuse

The Republican Party is in disarray - one the one hand, you have former VP Cheney criticizing Obama for making the country less safe, by deviating from the "effective" terrorist policies of the Bush Administration.

Contrast this with columnist Charles Krauthammer claiming in his Washington Post column today that Obama is morphing into former President Bush (that his pronouncements of change are minor and irrelevant) - and having the effrontery to chastise him for his so-called hypocrisy for doing so. This is the political equivalent of "having your cake and eating it too".

Never mind that Obama was handed a mess by the former administration, and that whatever compromises he has had to make in regard to campaign promises probably reflect a realism that such a mess cannot be cleaned up in a few months. I fervently hope that the President can wade through this muck and eventually live up to his high minded campaign pronouncements. It is not possible to deal with two war situations, a negative view of the US around the world as represented by GITMO and Abu Graib, not to mention a serious economic crisis.

By the way, a Washington Post article today pointed out that there are more than 30 convicted terrorists already incarcerated in the US - one of which (Ramzi Yusef) was involved in the first attack on the World Trade Center,

If given the opportunity, I would like to ask Mr. Cheney one question: What was he and the President doing to address the clearly defined terrorist threat in the eight months prior to 9/11? Obviously, it was not geared toward "cleaning up the mess" of the Clinton administration. Secret meetings with Oil officials was apparently higher on Mr. Cheney's agenda.

Posted by: MillPond2 | May 22, 2009 5:57 PM | Report abuse

The passage of almost a decade with as yet unfinished carnage of two big wars thousands of miles away from their homeland has finally made it plain to some of the 350 million Americans that the shock of 911 was in reality no more than a pinprick considering the enormous might and standing of United States.

The manipulated over-reaction causing glaring stupidities such as establishing Guantanamo prison camp and abuse of foreigners taken as prisoners were obvious to any discerning mind from their very beginnings. It is a sad reflection on the capacity of clear thinking in US that it has taken 8 years of gloating self-pity and a new president to spark some sense in the country at long last.

Finally Americans are beginning to realize that 911 was perhaps not the biggest event in the world since the Big Bang; and view it for what it was: a pinprick.

Posted by: Open-I | May 22, 2009 6:04 PM | Report abuse

Bush & Cheney are responsible for any Al Qaida attack in the future for it is they who let Bin Laden go to invade Iraq. Simple as that, he is trying to cover that fact and obsfucate on torture to stay out of jail.

Posted by: gordie1 | May 22, 2009 6:29 PM | Report abuse

Cheney is in complete denial. Not the slightest bit of true insight anywhere in the man.

Posted by: buzzsaw1 | May 22, 2009 6:31 PM | Report abuse

Dear Dan,
Thank you for your thoughtful article today regarding D.C. I find it troubling that so many news media organizations are even bothering to pay any attention to D.C. First of all, he has no credibility . Remember 911 happened on his watch. Even though Bill Clinton and Richard Clark and others had warned the Administration all through the summer of a probable attack by Osama Bin Laden. Oh yes, and Condi Rice could not even remember Bill Clinton coming to the White House. Hummm. It was D.C that told us that Sadaam had WMD, and about the smoking gun and mushroom cloud and of course the tubes coming from Africa. It was D.C. that insisted that there was a link to Sadaam and the terrorists that attacked us. And of course he insisted that we would be treated as liberators as we crushed Iraq . Thousands of Iraq people, babies, children, young women and men have been killed because of this war, not to mention the 5,000 American soldiers and 3,000 Americans at the WTC. Actually I can not think of one thing that he has said that turned out to be true. But you know they ARE in their last throes. Hummm. Why should anyone be wasting their time on the man? He really does need to be prosecuted and pay the price for what evil he has done to our country. The American people are oh so tired of D.C.

Posted by: donnajorobinson | May 22, 2009 6:49 PM | Report abuse

Dick Cheney is very careful not to use the name "Iraq" in conversation, but, in building his post-911 security case he always includes "state-sponsors" of terror. To those familiar with the post-911 Republican message, that clearly refers to Iraq, and Cheney's continued efforts to justify that disastrous occupation.

How can we be "secure" with wide open borders - especially our southern border? What Republicans fail to see is that a secure country is one that has not only military power, but one that has an educated, healthy, working, and prosperous population.

When has Cheney been right in his predictions, which are always said with certainty? I haven't forgotten:

o Saddam Hussein consorts with terrorists;
o Saddam has WMD;
o We'll be greeted with flowers;
o The insurgency is in it's "last throes";
o Deficits don't matter; ... etc., etc.

Haven't we heard enough?

Posted by: donaldeasley | May 22, 2009 9:23 PM | Report abuse

Great picture of Cheney to accompany this post. He looks like he could use some prunes.

Posted by: cristca9 | May 22, 2009 9:49 PM | Report abuse

Wow, nice to see White House Worship hasn’t stopped churning out the slobbering sycophantic rantings despite my absence.

Fact is Obama looked weak when he changed his timeline to overlap Cheney’s. It was the move of an insecure coward who cant stand being challenged seriously. If this is the stuff our Dear Leader is made of god help us all.

Cheney’s best line by far: "It's worth recalling that ultimate power of declassification belongs to the president himself. President Obama has used his declassification authority to reveal what happens in the interrogation of terrorists. Now let him use that same power to show Americans what did not happen thanks to the good work of our intelligence officials."

He wants to play politics with intelligence and its backfired on him.

Posted by: SharpshootingPugilist | May 22, 2009 9:58 PM | Report abuse

Let's be clear, when Dick Cheney says the "intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists," he is really covering for the torturers-for-hire private contractors to whom the Bush/Cheney administration farmed out torture.

Because, based on Bush and Cheney scapegoating the soldiers at Abu Ghraib (plus the treasonous outing of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame Wilson), we know that neither Bush nor Cheney give a damn about soldiers or CIA personnel...but they definitely will defend private contractors 'til their last breath.

This is why the investigation into abuses at Abu Ghraib only focused on the area of the prison where the "softening-up" of detainees occurred by U.S. soldiers following orders that originated at the top levels of the Pentagon (Rumsfeld) and Bush/Cheney administration.

The part of Abu Ghraib prison run by the CIA interrogators (on orders of Tenet) and where private contractor torturers-for-hire plied their torture trade was deliberately left uninvestigated and unaddressed, just as the secret CIA rendition sites have been kept secret and so many CIA torture session tapes have been set up a firewall to protect the private contractor torturers-for-hire involved in all this torture of detainees sanctioned by Bush and Cheney, which was far more widespread than Bush and Cheney want anyone to ever discover.

Posted by: wizard2000 | May 23, 2009 1:19 AM | Report abuse

Comparing the two speeches it was obvious Mr. Cheney had the facts to back up his conclusions. There were NO ATTACKS after those measures were put into place! Mr. Obama knew he was going to be run over by Mr. Cheney's speech so he hastily prepared his speech just before Cheney's scheduled speech. Mr Cheney's speech was scheduled weeks in advance of Mr. Obama's speech. It looks like Mr. Obama is running scared and he has a right to be scared.

All Mr. Obama did was to confirm the policies of the Bush Administration. He will continue with the tribunals. No one is going to allow him to close Gitmo since no Democratic or Republican wants those prisoners in their backyard. He will also continue to hold prisoners indefinitely. Sounds like the policies of the Bush Administration were pretty good. Mr. Obama speech was still without substance and appeared as an attempt to appease both liberals and conservatives with a bunch of half measures that will keep us half safe. It reminds me of putting lipstick on a pig.

You say that Cheney has offered no proof of the positive results received with the EIT's , but you failed to comment that Cheney requested memo's on the results of the interrogation be released by the CIA to prove there was valuable information obtained that saved lives regarding attacks in New York and Los Angeles.

If Obama is free to release the memos, which Cheney originally objected to, then Obama should release the results obtained from the interrogation. Give America all the information and let us decide who is telling the truth. I doubt Mr. Obama has the courage.

Posted by: doug17 | May 23, 2009 1:36 AM | Report abuse

Liz take your husband to be checked for Alzhiemers. He doesn't get it! It's over for him! Take him home, sit him on the porch and let him play with his granchild. He can write a book if he wants but for God's sake keep him home. America is in the process of cleaning up your husband's war and his other messes. He is in the way and taking up our valuable time! Please Liz do America a favor!

Posted by: candycane1 | May 23, 2009 8:20 AM | Report abuse

Ticking BS

When will someone point out that a "ticking" scenario means the tortured's agony need last a short time 'til his plot becomes successful?
A fanatics "goal" (not talking) is easier to reach in that case.
Just now I am reminded of the detainee who spilled the beans when he was not tortured...because he was not, when told by his own that he would be.
They lied, we treated him as normally as possible.

Posted by: amloy | May 23, 2009 10:29 AM | Report abuse

The ticking time-bomb scenario is pure fantasy. Krauthammer's lack of an example should shut the door on that debate. It's up there with super-villains who describe their entire evil plot to the supposedly defeated superhero--just in time so the good guy can escape and foil it.

As for those who say that Obama is really just Bush in disguise--you couldn't be any more wrong. The simple fact that Obama is laying out such extreme tactics as preventive detention without court approval is a 180-degree change from the covert governance of the Cheney-Bush era, who tried to conceal every last act. Obama is exposing his program to the light of day, not building a shadow government the way the imperialists did.

Furthermore, it can't be overstated that he intherited a huge legal mess, hundreds of tortured detainees, and no miranda-sanctioned means of dealing with them. By any standard, Obama will have to skirt American law in order to resolve this situation, because it's obvious to everybody that too many of these prisoners are genuinely dangerous guys.

Those of you who refuse to see nuance--who look for an object of rage in every word or act of the government--it's plainly too late to wish that you'd grow up. You already have, into hyper-aggressive and stunted views of things. Our own technology has made it possible for small numbers of people to cause disproportionately large amounts of damage in our world. I think this does call for a new paradigm of justice, where military mixes with police, and conspiracy (i.e. prevention of attacks in the planning stage) is much more the target. I think Bush and Cheney merged these goals with Cheney's view of the president as king, which is utterly wrong. Obama's now divorcing anti-terror activities from illegitimate governance. It's going to take a while, and it'll involve lots of decisions that violate human rights.

But it's been often said, including by Obama himself--we need to balance the human rights of possible conspirators against the rights of the innocents they might attack.

Shame on the demagogues from Montana. Hardin sounds like the ideal spot to put those prisoners.

Posted by: whizbang9a | May 23, 2009 12:16 PM | Report abuse

The fault with Cheney is that he is wrong on one issue, but won the war. Dan's fault is that he gave up before anything was decided. He will always lose.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | May 23, 2009 4:19 PM | Report abuse

Mr Cheney if you cant do the time, dont do the crime

Posted by: marcedward1 | May 23, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cheney is a war criminal; end of discussion. Thankfully, he is OUT OF GOVERNMENT, so why is anyone listening to him? Rather, let's begin the trials. If this country exists because of the Rule of Law, then supeona Cheney and his puppet, Georgie boy; plus all the rest of the conspirators in the prior administration. If Pelosi and Harman were involved, then supeona them too. We can't heal until this mess is exposed and corrected.

Posted by: sailorflat | May 24, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cheney is a war criminal, end of discussion. Thankfully, he is OUT OF GOVERNMENT, so why is anyone listening to him? Rather, let's begin the trials. If this country exists because of the Rule of Law, then supeona Cheney and his puppet, Georgie boy; plus all the rest of the conspirators in the prior administration. If Pelosi and Harman were involved, then supeona them too. We can't heal until this mess is exposed and corrected.

Posted by: sailorflat | May 24, 2009 4:09 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cheney is a war criminal, end of discussion. Thankfully, he is OUT OF GOVERNMENT, so why is anyone listening to him? Rather, let's begin the trials. If this country exists because of the Rule of Law, then supeona Cheney and his puppet, Georgie boy; plus all the rest of the conspirators in the prior administration. If Pelosi and Harman were involved, then supeona them too. We can't heal until this mess is exposed and corrected.

Posted by: sailorflat | May 24, 2009 4:20 PM | Report abuse

This so called "land of opportunity" is becoming less and less desirable each passing day. I did vote for President Obama, but I do believe the damage caused by 8 yrs of Bush and 10yrs of Republican control of the House and Senate may be too much to be fixed. On their watch, we've had the highest outflow of cash from our country ever and we've created a debtor class society that are now beholden to creditors. I don't like this version of America and can't imagine myself continuing to live here.

Posted by: ATLGuy | May 24, 2009 7:43 PM | Report abuse

Jim Hoagland offers some superb commentary:

Posted by: whizbang9a | May 24, 2009 10:33 PM | Report abuse

Cheney is seeking to legitimise his behaviour. If his arguments are accepted then his next step must be directed towards stopping inquiries into the behaviour (and guilt) of those soldiers who carried out the torture sessions.

If his position is rejected then inquiries will follow. If adverse findings are made then he is guilty of torture (ie cruelty).

One must remember that many detainees were not charged for several years and that the so-called evidence that justified their incarceration was nothing more than hearsay and unsupported claims and conclusions.

Many people were rounded up, placed in secret prisons and subsequently released because there was no reason to hold them. These actions amounted to the kidnapping of innocent people. They received no compensation and no apology.

Many people were tortured. What did Cheney do or say to those detainees who were shown to be innocent of all wrongdoing? From what I gather it did not cross his mind to recognise that America could do wrong or that its failures should be followed by rectification.

For those of you who think that Bush and Cheney are Good Warriors you might remember that their decisions and conclusions led them to invade Iraq. When their reasons for so doing were found to be erroneous they abandoned their original 'justifications' (ie fictions) and came up with newly found reasons. Either way they would not admit that they were wrong.

Another failure is that the invasion led to a civil war in Iraq and caused loss of life and destructions of social fabric and infrastructure so that many individuals, families and societies were ruined.

It was the brilliant (never wrong) decisions of Cheney and Bush that led to the Taliban and Al Qaeda rising to prominence.

If anyone wants to delude themselves into believing that Cheney and Bush made intelligent decisions then they will do so notwithstanding the evidence to the contrary.

Posted by: robertjames1 | May 25, 2009 1:04 AM | Report abuse

Cheney must like to go home and watch himself on the TV in the evening. The loss of the media coverage seems to propel him to make him self available to media talk shows. In my opinion all of his statements have been self serving and demonstrate to us that he regards himself as being above the laws of this country.

Posted by: npsilver | May 25, 2009 2:09 AM | Report abuse

VP Cheney was defending himself and his administration from eventual court preceding. Unfortunately Speaker Pelosi sat on her thumb for two years (possible deal with bush), while she could have haul their asses to the Congress and impeach them. Remember during the last two years of Bush Administration, they did not do squad. They were all waiting for his term to be finish. And off course now is not a good time because it will take so much energy of the current administration. God dam Pelosi!

Posted by: thebullss | May 25, 2009 6:10 AM | Report abuse

If I were a terrorist organization I'd want to do drastic things that would earn me the recognition and parity with my target I otherwise don't have. I can't attract money and volunteers unless my enemy takes me seriously as a threat.
If I were a terrorist organizagtion I'd want Dick Cheney elevating me every day to a position of grave threat to American interests every day. He could instill fear and keep America focused on me without my having to lift a finger. He could help me raise money and volunteers. He'd be my greatest asset. An America that is frozen in fear of me can be counted on to always take drastic action that will sometimes backfire causing distrust, even hatred of its aims.

Posted by: tigman_2 | May 25, 2009 10:14 PM | Report abuse

The administration is making a big mistake by appealing to the public with the argument that waterboarding did not work. The only case study that we have is Zubaiyada, who knew one usefull fact, i.e. Khalid was key in planning the Sept 11th attacks. There is not here nor ever has been any evidence presented that claims that Muhammed would have divulged usefull information by sitting down and talking with him.

Dan you need to quit conflating Zubaiyada and Mohammed. Is there any evidence at all to support the fact that other techniques would have worked on him? I take the silence of the intelligence community as evidence to the contrary.

Secondly, you cannot ask the former V.P. to make secret information public to support his viewpoint. Lol thats why it is secret. Cheney asked for memos that he claims support his viewpoint to be released, and the current administration denied his request.

There is a simple reason for this, i.e. that Obama claims that waterboarding does not work. In fact he realizes rightly that most Americans would support waterboarding in some cases, if it was known to work, so the ethical argument that it is wrong is insufficient to meet his political needs. By telling the American people it is ineffectual, it makes it easy for people to support his ban.

If the intel acquired from KSM was as useless as you claim, and waterboarding unecessary then the White House should release the papers Cheney asked for and embarrass him with a slam dunk so to speak (lol). The reason of course that they don't release these memos is because likely they show that KSM was intransigent until he was waterboarded.

Frankly I think that you are allowing your hatred of the former administration to severely cloud your judgement.

Posted by: DCDave11 | May 26, 2009 1:09 AM | Report abuse

Allow me to rephrase Dick Cheney's argument this way: If criticizing the President during time of war weakens our defenses and emboldens the enemy, as Dick Cheney has often stated, and there follows an attack on the U.S., then Dick Cheney will have contributed to the attack.

Obviously, there is no doubt that Dick Cheney is criticizing the Commander in Chief of the US Armed Forces during Time of War.

PS: DCDave11 knows full well that releasing the memos, still classified by the CIA, will likewise embolden the enemy, as well as give away state secrets.

Posted by: twilightblue | May 26, 2009 3:48 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: apn3206 |

"Mr. Cheney, as you know, torture is forbidden under the U.S. Criminal Code, as well as under the U.N. Convention Against Torture, to which we are signatories. Memos obtained from the Dep't of Justice, the Dep't of Defense, as well as interviews with FBI and military personnel involved in the so-called "enhanced interrogations", indicate that 1) these practices amount to torture as defined by U.S. law and treaty obligations, and 2) that you were a principal figure in developing and implementing this policy. Are you prepared to respond to these charges in a court of law, and would you accept the final decision of the Federal Court System, whatever that might be?"

Good one. And one could add to that, this excerpt of the 1984 signing statement to the UN Convention on Torture of Cheney's old boss, Ronald Reagan to which every breathing Republican somehow aspires:

"The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation of the Convention . It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification of the Convention by the United States will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.

The core provisions of the Convention establish a regime for international cooperation in the criminal prosecution of torturers relying on so-called 'universal jurisdiction.' Each State Party is required either to prosecute torturers who are found in its territory or to extradite them to other countries for prosecution."


Posted by: gordmetcalfe | May 26, 2009 9:12 AM | Report abuse

Make that 'to whom every (mouth)breathing Republican somehow aspires...'

Posted by: gordmetcalfe | May 26, 2009 9:13 AM | Report abuse

@DCDave11: "Frankly I think that you are allowing your hatred of the former administration to severely cloud your judgement."

Funny, I was thinking the same thing about your hatred for the current administration. It's allowed you to disregard centuries of expert knowledge about the efficacy of torture, and to take at face value the words of a proven liar with approval ratings lower than those of most STD's.

And that's all to say nothing about the intentionally-reversed timeline that neocons such as yourself are desperately pushing to obscure the fact that torture was used to manufacture the false Iraq-Al Qaeda link.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | May 26, 2009 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Sorry BigTuna, I am a proud Democrat. I actually like Obama, I just think that in this case he is wrong. On this issue I think he is engaging in a serious re-writing of history that plays on the ignorance of the American people. Cheney and Bush capitalized on this for 4 years, and I still hope Obama will do better, but it is way too early to tell.

I think that the experts are clearly split on the efficacy of waterboarding. I also think its irrational and counter productive to use the fact that Zubaiyada was 1, an imbecile who was easily manipulated, and 2, didn't know anything usefull, as evidence that waterboarding did not work.

Why is it that no one, not the people who testified before congress at least, have talked about the efficacy of waterboarding on KSM. The only evidence we have out there is Obama's own National Security Advisor saying that Waterboarding got us good intel on Al Quaeda from Mohammed. We also have lots of people saying that in his case it did work. The truth is that we do not have enough evidence to tell us really one way or another. So I think that yes Dan is talking out of his ass and that no one should confuse his moralistic proselytizing with anything resembling the truth.

The current evidence is this: In the case of low level mentally deficient Al Quaeda operatives waterboarding is unnecessary. In the case of KSM we know that Waterboarding lead to him telling us what he knew. Yes other means might have given us the same intel, but it is also reasonable to think that traditional techniques might not have worked or have taken a long time to work. The fact that none of KSM plots were near fruition is completely immaterial, because you have no way of knowing what stage they are in.

So I guess my question is still just, what do we know about how quickly KSM cracked when we waterboarded him. Really that is the only important evidence to be assessed.

I find Froomkins arguments and indeed his blogs in general to be an irrational volume of illogical conflation. I.e. conflating Zubaiyada with KSM in assessing the efficacy of waterboarding. Mixing in completely post hoc facts that no one could have had at the time for not using waterboarding, i.e. that KSMs plans were still months away from reaching fruition. The list goes on and on..... Maybe if Froomkin had not have claimed to be making rational conclusions It would bug me less, but frankly his blog is full of the sort of emotional drivel you get in undergraduate english classes.

Posted by: DCDave11 | May 26, 2009 1:31 PM | Report abuse

Cheney is doing exactly what Obama is doing: laying the groundwork for future tyranical and lawless administrations. They are actually working in concert to ensure that any law breaking by government officials is immune from investigation and prosecution. Republicans say that Obama will destroy this nation. I disagreed strongly at first but now I'm seeing it. Obama, by failing to investigate or prosecute, is, in effect, legalizing torture, obstruction of justice, lying to congress, and war crimes. Heck of a job, Barry.

Posted by: davidbn27 | May 26, 2009 1:43 PM | Report abuse

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