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The Fire in Cheney's Belly

Former vice president Cheney says he's not going to shut up, no matter what some of his fellow Republicans -- and even his former boss -- think about it.

Cheney hagiographer Stephen F. Hayes once again interviewed the former veep, although he doesn't say when. He writes in the Weekly Standard: "I asked Cheney about George W. Bush's statement that he would not criticize his successor. In a comment that many took to be a shot at his former vice president, Bush said of Obama, 'He deserves my silence.'"

Said Cheney: "I worked in the trenches, and I was a loyal and supportive vice president. And when the president made decisions that I didn't agree with, I still supported him and didn't go out and undercut him. Now we're talking about after we've left office. I have strong feelings about what happened and what we did or didn't do and what's happening now. And I don't have any reason not to forthrightly express those views. I feel it's important to do so especially when President Obama is wrong on important issues facing the nation."

Worked in the trenches? Yes, he worked on the darkside, but he was hardly a worker bee. In fact, when it comes to the darkside, there's growing evidence that he was the undisputed master.

And here's more from Cheney: "I went through the Iran-contra hearings and watched the way administration officials ran for cover and left the little guys out to dry. And I was bound and determined that wasn't going to happen this time. I think to George Tenet's credit–I don't agree with George on a lot of stuff–but I think he was of the same view and that's why we had all of these requests coming through for policy guidance and for legal opinions. And this time around I'll do my damndest to defend anybody out there–be they in the agency carrying out the orders or the lawyers who wrote the opinions. I don't know whether anybody else will, but I sure as hell will."

But, as Satyam Khanna notes on Thinkprogress.org: "Cheney's defense of the 'little guy,' especially with regard to torture, is unusual. First, the Bush officials implicated in approving torture were hardly 'little' — they were the senior-most Bush administration officials, such as David Addington, Jay Bybee, and Alberto Gonzales.

"Second, after Abu Ghraib broke in 2004, Cheney and the Bush administration systematically laid the blame for the abuses on low-level interrogators and attempted to exonerate senior officials. Cheney, for example, blamed 'folks doing something improper, inappropriate, illegal.' Paul Wolfowitz famously called it the work of 'a few bad apples.' Former press secretary Tony Snow called the abuses 'a criminal infraction for which people were charged.'

"Yet as a recent Senate Armed Services Committee report observed, 'The abuse of detainees in U.S. custody cannot simply be attributed to the actions of 'a few bad apples' acting on their own.' Indeed, the tactics were directly approved by Donald Rumsfeld in 2002."

And here's yet more from Cheney via Hayes: "This is the first time that I can recall that we've had an administration come in, take power, and then suggest using the power of the government against their predecessors, from a legal standpoint. Criminal prosecution of lawyers in the Justice Department whose opinions they disagreed with on an important issue. Criminal prosecutions. When was the last time that happened?"

Ah, but when was the last time anyone broke the law this spectacularly?

Celestine Bohlen writes in her Bloomberg opinion column about how Cheney is "shamelessly undercutting the incumbent president on sensitive issues of national security."

But, she writes: "Maybe we should be grateful. How else would we be reminded of the specious logic and mental contortions that prevailed during the Bush administration?"

What is Cheney's real motivation for being so outspoken? Harry Shearer writes for Huffingtonpost.com: "Three words: 'don't prosecute me.'

"Cheney's goal is now revealed: to stir up enough passion on the Republican side to make a decision to prosecute the Bush administration's torture syndicate a political hot potato.

"Without the former Vice President's publicity tour ginning up a 'torture debate,' public revulsion at the revelations in the declassified torture memos, and at the photographs the Pentagon is preparing to release, might have made prosecution not only politically desirable, but, to use a Tenetism, a slam dunk."

Jonathan Chait writes in the New Republic: "The best defense against holding Bush officials accountable for torture is that September 11 freaked out the entire country and that we can't judge their actions by the standards of how they look 'on a bright, sunny, safe day in April 2009,' as Obama's intelligence director puts it. This argument would carry more weight if Republicans had changed their thinking on torture and could be expected to follow the law the next time they won the presidency. Alas, they show little sign of intellectual progress.

"Even after the release of the torture memos, Republicans persist in denying that techniques like waterboarding or chaining a prisoner in a standing position for hours constitute torture."

And, via Huffingtonpost.com, David Letterman reminds us of how seriously we should take Cheney's pronouncements.

But as Robert A. Rankin writes for McClatchy Newspapers: "American public opinion is split almost evenly over whether a bipartisan blue-chip commission should be created to investigate how the U.S. government interrogated detainees captured during the Bush administration's war on terror.

"A new McClatchy-Ipsos poll found that 46 percent of Americans oppose creation of such a commission, while 41 percent favor it. Some 13 percent were unsure.

"The public is similarly split on whether to prosecute the government officials who authorized interrogation techniques that are found to be torture, with 48 percent saying they should not be prosecuted and 43 percent saying they should be, with 9 percent uncertain."

And CNN reports similar findings.

To me, these poll results demonstrate the genius of the Cheney strategy, which is to keep the argument limited to what happened at the black sites, which have an aura of "24" to them. The torture there was still inexcusable, but I guess forgiveable to many.

I doubt they would feel the same way if they were shown proof of a direct relationship between Bush policy and not just the torture of "high value" detainees, but also the vile abuse of garden-variety suspects at Guantanamo and Bagram, and of mostly innocent Iraqis at Abu Ghraib.

Meanwhile, Carrie Johnson writes in The Washington Post: "Efforts to impose professional sanctions on Bush administration lawyers who drafted memos supporting harsh interrogations of terrorism suspects face steep hurdles, experts on legal ethics said yesterday.

"Law professors and legal practitioners who have handled such cases said the difficulty of gathering witnesses and evidence could present 'nearly insurmountable challenges' for state investigators who may wish to pursue a case against the lawyers, John C. Yoo and Jay S. Bybee.

"Government sources indicated this week that a forthcoming Justice Department investigative report would refer both men to state bar associations for possible disciplinary action as early as this summer. The report, which summarizes the findings of a nearly five-year review, cites sloppy legal analysis, misjudgments and possible political interference in the process, the sources said."

And Murray Waas, writing for Huffingtonpost.com, has more on that report, which I wrote about yesterday.

Waas writes: "In attempting to discern the attorneys' motives, investigators have reviewed emails traded between the three men as they drafted the legal controversial legal opinions, as well as emails between the three OLC attorneys and other Bush administration attorneys, according to sources close to the case.

"Additionally, the investigators closely tracked drafts of the four legal opinions until they reached final form.

"In some instances, the drafts changed progressively over time to afford those who wanted to engage in aggressive interrogation techniques additional legal cover, according to people who have read the draft OPR report.

"One source indicated that at least two of the earlier drafts were 'equivocal' and 'nuanced' -- but noted over time they became 'more advocative' of the views of then-Vice President Dick Cheney and others in the Bush administration that aggressive interrogation techniques were necessary to prevent new terror attacks."

UPDATE: Bob Schieffer tweets that Cheney will be on CBS's "Face the Nation" on Sunday.

By Dan Froomkin  |  May 7, 2009; 12:20 PM ET
Categories:  Looking Backward , Torture  
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Comments

The Torture Regime must be held accountable or their Nazi tactics can be used on American citizens someday.

Posted by: patriot76 | May 7, 2009 12:40 PM | Report abuse

Good.

I hope he talks himself right into prison.

We're still losing the wars he started.

Posted by: thegreatpotatospamof2003 | May 7, 2009 12:50 PM | Report abuse

"I have strong feelings about what happened and what we did or didn't do and what's happening now."

Sure you do, Dick. You have strong feelings that "what happened" is going to be pinned squarely on you. You have strong feelings that "what's happening now" is going to nail your rear to the wall.

No surprises there.

"And this time around I'll do my damndest to defend anybody out there–be they in the agency carrying out the orders or the lawyers who wrote the opinions. I don't know whether anybody else will, but I sure as hell will."

You bet. Each and every one of those co-conspirators has at least some of the dirt on you, Dick. By protecting them, you're just trying to protect yourself.

It isn't going to do any good. You're going to make it easier than ever for the courts to put the blame where it belongs. It's only a matter of time.

Posted by: kjohnson3 | May 7, 2009 12:51 PM | Report abuse

Where was Mr. Pseudo Tough when the soldiers at Abu-Ghraib were demonized as a few bad apples? Why didn't he stand up then and shout, "it was my idea and I'm proud!!"? Where was Mr. Phony Truth Teller when he kept babbling about Saddam & Al-Qaeda, and the mushroom cloud he knew existed only in his stories? Where was Mr. Forthright when he encouraged and abetted the most secretive administration in history? He is a phony sneering hypocrite, capable only of bile and misdirection; a pathetic figure trying to rewrite history by peddling fantasies and scare tactics. Hope the Spanish get him.....

Posted by: bklyndan22 | May 7, 2009 12:59 PM | Report abuse

Lost in the past.

Posted by: GaryEMasters | May 7, 2009 1:41 PM | Report abuse

Cheney is truly a dreadful man. I hope he and his torture colleagues get what they deserve.

Posted by: JCinCT | May 7, 2009 2:01 PM | Report abuse

Standing up for the little guy? How touching!

Begin by enlightening us what you did to stand up for that little Scooter guy.

You didn't even show up at his trial!

Oh, you were working on an eleventh hour pardon? Why weren't you out in front of your little coterie of press people taking the responsibility for your actions back then? Hell, your notes are scribbled all over the Rob't. Novak article.

Posted by: Anadromous2 | May 7, 2009 2:02 PM | Report abuse

Standing up for the little guy? How touching!

Begin by enlightening us what you did to stand up for that little Scooter guy.

You didn't even show up at his trial!

Oh, you were working on an eleventh hour pardon? Why weren't you out in front of your little coterie of press people taking the responsibility for your actions back then? Hell, your notes are scribbled all over the Rob't. Novak article.

Posted by: Anadromous2 | May 7, 2009 2:06 PM | Report abuse

Imagine a post-war Germany in which Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels were free to take pot-shots at the government that was trying to recover from their wreckage.

Himmler would be warning about how letting up on the International Jewish Conspiracy was making the country "less safe."

Posted by: motorfriend | May 7, 2009 2:26 PM | Report abuse

"At long last, Mr. Cheney, have you left no sense of decency?"

Posted by: BigTunaTim | May 7, 2009 2:30 PM | Report abuse

No softball questions for Cheney, Mr. Schieffer. Let HIM feel the screws a little bit.

Posted by: jfern03 | May 7, 2009 2:45 PM | Report abuse

I've read that those that wrote the torture memos will neither face prosecution nor will they possibly face judgement from boards with regards to their careers. What hasn't been mentioned however is what will happen to those that got them to write the memos. Hopefully the buck will stop exactly where it is supposed to stop, and not disappear into oblivion. Those responsible for this entire mess need to be brought to justuce. Bush and Cheney are out of office now, as Cheney likes to say. They are no longer politically relevant.

Posted by: dlsoops | May 7, 2009 3:36 PM | Report abuse

Uh, jfern03, Bob Schieffer is a good personal friend of George W. Bush. He never mentions that, but he is. In any case, Cheney will just lie - torture saved lives.

Posted by: dickdata | May 7, 2009 3:39 PM | Report abuse

motorfriend,
Nice analogy.

Posted by: boscobobb | May 7, 2009 7:04 PM | Report abuse

Bob Schieffer can be a tough interviewer, but he's been a patsy for Cheney in the past.

Now that Cheney is out of power, will Schieffer have his Edward R. Murrow moment?

C'mon Bob, the whole world is watching. Do you want your country to have a reputation for torture? Do you want to travel around and be seen as an apologist for torture? Is that the legacy you want to leave your kids and grandkids?

Posted by: boscobobb | May 7, 2009 7:07 PM | Report abuse

It appears that, for once, the only Republican demonstrating any common sense is Georgie. As long as Cheney, Bolton, Dana Perino and the gang insist on being the Government in Exile, they will keep the wounds open and bleeding, and keep the chief causes of the decline and decomposition of the Bush administration right out there for the voters to remember and reject.

These are the people who, over eight years, made themselves the most thoroughly disliked ADMINISTRATION in the history of the republic, and that won't help Republicans who have to try to campaign on returning Bush Administration policies to prominence.

Apparently they think that keeping the very redolent Bush Albatross hanging in the square will give their candidates a cachet that will draw voters, when, by going silent, they might at least let the poor carcass be buried in the avalanche of current events.

Americans might not be inclined to forgive, but they demonstrate a strong ability to forget over the course of a couple election cycles. Parties that keep recalling the pats of their opponents find themselves less and less credible, but never before has a political party gone ought of its way to keep its own dirty laundry on display for the public to turn away from in disgust.

By all means, Darth, keep reminding the empire of how you singlehandedly slew all those young Jedi apprentices in service to your Sith Master.

See if it gets you back in the Imperial Senate.

Posted by: ceflynline | May 7, 2009 7:18 PM | Report abuse

"Where was Mr. Pseudo Tough when the soldiers at Abu-Ghraib were demonized as a few bad apples? Why didn't he stand up then and shout, "it was my idea and I'm proud!!"? Posted by: bklyndan22 "

Well, if I remember the coverage of the Courts Martial that tried those low level miscreants, their service appointed lawyers asked to be able to subpoena those self same high ranking White House Officials, and they were denied the opportunity, mostly apparently on White House orders. It would seem, then, especially given Mr. Cheney's present protestations, that they were denied fair trials, and ought to get new ones, this time with Cheney and Addington and Yoo compelled to testify, and, given their already public statements, denied the availability of the Fifth Ammendment.

Lets listen to the eminence gruise under oath on the witness stand when he is asked what he knew about what was going on at Abu Ghraib when it was actually happening.

That ought to be a truly edifying and entertaining few minutes.

Posted by: ceflynline | May 7, 2009 7:27 PM | Report abuse

Is it just me, or does anyone else see that the system of checks and balances has been compromised and our representative government is effectively broken. If the Justice Department investigates itself and the Executive with conflicted interests, and Congress has knowledge, acquiescence and culpability for allowing violations to the Constitution, then who in the hell is supposed to prosecute themselves?!?

How about good ole' Bob Scheiffer just asks Cheney if he violated his Constitutional oath by approving acts which clearly constitute torture and are forbidden by law? Why doesn't Scheiffer ask "Dick, you pushed an Iraq invasion and that proved catastrophic, you pushed torture and that's neither reliable or legal, you pushed executive over-reaching and that's proved disasterous, you pushed your partisan energy and tax agenda by shamelessly exploiting the political capital from 9/11, and you couldn't even appear alone and under oath for the 9/11 Commission - our greatest security failure ever. Why in the world would we possibly think you were a reliable source of political wisdom and insight?!? Mr. Vice President, sir, you must think us fools or be mad. Perhaps you should seek the counsel of a priest or a doctor, or both."

Judging from approval polls, that would most likely boost ratings significantly for CBS. Perhaps a little truth-telling and house cleaning could actually help the mainstream media's bottom line. It would get me back as a viewer. Short of that, they're just cover for the corporate and political elite.

We are in need of some serious reform, people. I think we're still one anomolous incident away from Patriot Act II and a real expansion of the security state. If they can't obey their Constitutional oaths they should at least be asked to resign. This whole past decade has been straight out of Alice In Wonderland, with some Orwell and Huxley to boot. I guess the warnings of "1984" were just a generation off. God save the U.S. of A., 'cuz we're just watching it drown a slow death.

Posted by: russgeer | May 7, 2009 9:48 PM | Report abuse

"I doubt they would feel the same way if they were shown proof of a direct relationship between Bush policy and not just the torture of "high value" detainees, but also the vile abuse of garden-variety suspects at Guantanamo and Bagram, and of mostly innocent Iraqis at Abu Ghraib."

The culture of corruption Republicans are sticking to their "talking point" that torture was only used to avert another 9/11 attack, but what about all the evidence that torture was also used on detainees (before March 2003 and the start of GW Bush's Iraq War) to try to establish a link between Iraq and al Qaeda, while after the March 2003 invasion, torture was used on Iraqi detainees at numerous black sites around Iraq to extract any information about 1) the whereabouts of Hussein and his sons while they were on the run or in hiding through the end of 2003 and 2) the whereabouts of Hussein's alleged massive stockpiles of WMD.

Furthermore, the low-level soldiers at Abu Ghraib were scapegoated not only to take the heat off top-level Bush administration torture-authorizing officials, but also to divert attention away from those interrogators who used the harshest of interrogation techniques (like waterboarding) to extract information from detainees, the CIA interrogators and (most importantly to Cheney) the "little-guy" private contract torturers-for-hire.

In other words, one of the reasons the CIA destroyed so many torture session tapes was because recordings of actual harsh, brutal torture sessions (unlike the "softening up" sessions practiced by the scapegoated soldiers at Abu Ghraid) would not only expose the CIA agents present but also the private contract torturers-for-hire who also participated in these Geneva Conventions-busting torture sessions. Dick Cheney, therefore, is desperately trying to keep hidden the identities of these torturers-for-hire corporate thugs who were hired through no-bid contracts in an attempt to keep the torture authorized by top Bush officials "off the radar," even deeper in the dark than other black ops operations.

We are just seeing the tip of the Bush/Cheney-authorized torture iceberg.

Posted by: wizard2000 | May 7, 2009 10:01 PM | Report abuse

@russgeer: "Is it just me, or does anyone else see that the system of checks and balances has been compromised and our representative government is effectively broken."

It's hardly just you, and much of the blame lies with the media establishment for abrogating its duty as a watchdog of truth.

I cannot stress how important it is to repeal the media consolidation rules that Clinton signed in 1996. We've known for centuries that more media diversity leads to better media performance, and we threw that knowledge right out the window along with the lessons about starting wars of choice in the middle east and regulating the economy.

In the long run media consolidation is the most important issue facing our country and its ability to thrive. If we can't trust the press to report accurate, factual information, every aspect of our lives as citizens is negatively impacted.

Posted by: BigTunaTim | May 8, 2009 11:42 AM | Report abuse

If Cheney has so much to say why wasn't his name on the ballot last November? Could it have been because he didn't want to inherit the mess that he and the Bush administration made? Where was his backbone when the draft came his way years ago? Probably AWOL in Alabama helping out a campaign.

Posted by: kimkimminni1 | May 8, 2009 5:36 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Cheney rocks!

Posted by: Kansasgirl | May 8, 2009 6:39 PM | Report abuse

Russgear,
Nice set of questions for Bob Schieffer.

However, your last Schieffer line should be, "Perhaps you should seek the counsel of an attorney-you're going to need many."

We'll see if Scheiffer is really an American, or just a Bush toady.


Posted by: boscobobb | May 9, 2009 4:06 PM | Report abuse

Kansasgirl,

Yep, Cheney rocks our constitutional form of government, and not in a good way.

Posted by: boscobobb | May 9, 2009 4:08 PM | Report abuse

BigTuna,

I think we're seeing the emergence of the Internet to the point where media consolidation can't work.

The collapse of newspapers is the precursor for TV networks. As bandwidth on the web increases and the cost of moving megabytes of video decline (look at a graph and you can see the lines cross), the ability of ad networks like Google's DoubleClick to generate revenue for small media sources will make TV networks uncompetitive.

We will actually see independent video journalists generate revenue just as blogs do currently with text.

The key though will also be subscription or aggregation services to get enough eyeballs with a specific interest in hard news to investigate stories and develop complete news items.

However, the unfortunate item will be that fewer web-savvy people - and that is often those curmudgeons in elected office - will pay attention for quite a while.

Posted by: boscobobb | May 9, 2009 4:15 PM | Report abuse

Cheney can howl on every DC street corner like a dog with a sore tail, but Cheney no longer has credibility. If the GOP has a leader at all now -- one that can draw a crowd -- it's Sarah Palin. Without her the GOP convention wouldn't have had the life of warmed over spit. Sterling Greenwood/Aspen Free Press

Posted by: AspenFreePress | May 10, 2009 9:12 PM | Report abuse

It will be a great day for America when Dick Cheney finally dies and goes to hell. It should be a National Holiday.

Posted by: unpluggedboodah | May 11, 2009 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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