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Cheney’s Legacy of Deception

Posted on Dec 23, 2008
Cheney and Bush
AP photo / Ron Edmonds

Watching his back: Vice President Dick Cheney looks on as President Bush speaks in this file photo from Jan. 18, 2008.

By Robert Scheer

In the end, the shame of Vice President Dick Cheney was total: unmitigated by any notion of a graceful departure, let alone the slightest obligation of honest accounting. Although firmly ensconced, even in the popular imagination, as an example of evil incarnate—nearly a quarter of those polled in this week’s CNN poll rated him the worst vice president in U.S. history, and 41 percent as “poor”—Cheney exudes the confidence of one fully convinced that he will get away with it all.

And why not? Nothing, not his suspect role in the Enron debacle, which foretold the economic meltdown, or his office’s fabrication of the false reasons for invading Iraq, has ever been seriously investigated, because of White House stonewalling. Nor will the new president, committed as he is to nonpartisanship, be likely to open up Cheney’s can of worms.

Cheney has even had a pass on torture, the “enhanced interrogation” policy that he initiated in his first months in office. “Was it torture? I don’t believe it was torture,” he told The Washington Times on Monday, a week after the release of a unanimous Senate report concluding that the policies Cheney initiated indeed were responsible for torture. In fact, the Senate committee concluded that the model for the Cheney-Bush interrogation policy was the torture practices of the Chinese communists during the Korean War. But it’s not torture when the U.S. president does it, according to the legal judgments that Cheney’s chief counsel, David Addington, pushed through the administration.

Fortunately, Cheney’s view of the unquestioned unitary power of the presidency was scorned by Vice President-elect Joe Biden: “His notion of a unitary executive” Biden said, “meaning that, in time of war, essentially all power, you know, goes to the executive I think is dead wrong.”

With Biden occupying Cheney’s old office and presumably his secret bunkers as well, maybe we will, at last, learn a bit more of the nefarious truth about the man. One place to start is with the statement of retired U.S. Army Col. Larry Wilkerson, who was Colin Powell’s chief of staff and who stated unequivocally that Cheney was the primary author of the torture policy: “There’s no question in my mind where the philosophical guidance and the flexibility in order to do so originated—in the vice president of the United States’ office.”

That lame-duck Cheney was bellowing his claim of innocence in a series of friendly interviews should have been expected. For he, like the president he served, can use the self-proclaimed “global war on terror” as a convenient cover for eight years of treachery on all fronts: “If you think about what Abraham Lincoln did during the Civil War, what FDR did during World War II; they went far beyond anything we’ve done in a global war on terror.”

Actually, neither of those presidents authorized the waterboarding of prisoners or the other explicit acts of torture approved by this administration largely under the vice president’s direction. But the true absurdity of Cheney’s self-defense is in placing the nebulous war on terror at the same level of threat as the civil war that tore apart this country or the Nazi military machine that rumbled unstoppable across most of Europe, augmented by the military might of Japan.

The invocation of a “global war on terror” is a big-lie propaganda device that has no grounding in reality. The proof that “terrorism” does not exist as an enemy identifiable by commonality of structure, purpose and leadership comparable to the World War II Axis or the Confederacy can be found in its use as a target to justify the invasion of Iraq. An invasion billed as a response to the 9/11 attacks, which had nothing to do with Iraq.

The Bush administration, with Cheney in the lead, did not so much fight the danger of terrorism as exploit it for partisan political purpose. The record is quite clear that the administration was asleep at the switch before 9/11, blithely ignoring stark warnings of an impending attack. But the hoary warmongering after 9/11 afforded a convenient distraction from the economic problems at home. As I asked in a column on June 26, 2002: “Has the war on terrorism become the modern equivalent of the Roman circus, drawing the people’s attention away from the failures of those who rule them? Corporate America is a shambles because deregulation, the mantra of our president and his party, has proved to be a license to steal.”

That is the true legacy of Dick Cheney and the president he ill-served.

Robert Scheer is editor in chief of Truthdig and author of a new book, “The Pornography of Power: How Defense Hawks Hijacked 9/11 and Weakened America.”


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By Margaret Currey, December 24, 2008 at 4:18 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I would like to ask Tao Walker what HokaHey means.

I think that this country has heard the matra we need less government, that is code for A dictatorship is good, it is certainly good for the rich.

When this congress acts like it really serves the people who elect them not just the rich and powerful than we will have a better government.

I know that there will always be some good ole boys network and I hope that more woman in government might change the good ole boys network.

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By mike112769, December 24, 2008 at 3:44 am Link to this comment

TAO Walker is right. It is the fault of the American sheople that this has happened. As far as Cheney is concerned, he was only trying to make a buck. Isn’t that what America is all about? Making money regardless of how many people you lie, cheat, steal and kill? Quite a lot of our politicians made good money off of the Iraqi “War on Terror”. History should judge Cheney (and Bush) as treasonous bastards who deserve impeachment, at the least. They would look good at a modern day Nuremburg.

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By MzScarlett, December 24, 2008 at 1:33 am Link to this comment

this nation’s democracy: image of it’s own in Afghanistan: corrupt & abusive; Iraq: dictatorship, worse than under Saddam Hussain, graft, corruption; Bush said “dysfunctional” not dictatorship; I would say deception is the name: dictatorship trying to disguise itself by another name claiming wrongfully that it is THIS or communism; torture didn’t begin with Cheney; see youtube power of nightmares; it is the history of this country to our shame. We trained the torturers & sent them out; to Chad, to Egypt, to Mexico, all around the world: shame everyone knows this EXCEPT the American people.

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By TAO Walker, December 23, 2008 at 11:01 pm Link to this comment

Railing against their “rulers” is not really a valid option for theamericanpeople and the legions of pundits who presume to lecture and pretend to inform.  Under the allamerican civil arrangement ALL responsibility comes to rest on the doorsteps of the subject/citizenry….just like shit rolls downhill.

The Bush/Cheney gang may’ve done everything they’re accused of here, but it’s still all the “property” of the “public”....just like eight trillion dollars of “government debt” doled-out to that “....loose affiliation of millionaires and billionaires….” who’ve hijacked the machinery of that government.  Robert Scheer has to know that, but still insists on kow-towing to the cult-of-personality altar upon which the “blood and treasure” of the dead and looted “republic” is being sacrificed to the tin gods of finance and industry….the TRAPpings of “power.”

If he and other contributors to his blog still can’t do any better than to parrot platitudes and propagate official lies, maybe they should retire and leave the field to Persons with more honest courage….not to mention integrity.  Knee-jerk apologists for a patently failed ideological and institutional and electro-mechanical contraption really aren’t helping here.

Party’s over.  Time to get out the shovels, mops, and brooms.


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By jovlns, December 23, 2008 at 10:55 pm Link to this comment

Yes, Robert Scheer puts it so succinctly. And who is left to comment on the destruction that followed Enron and the economic meltdown.  The absolute power of this man is so abhorrent that he will slither away from popular view. His actions will judge him. And render him into obscurity.

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