The strange mind of Dick Cheney

>> Monday, March 30, 2009

Last night, I slogged through Seymour Hersh's new expose/article in this week's New Yorker mag, "Syria Calling." TPM had noted that Dick Cheney had made some remarks about Obama, which is what piqued my interest. The article is actually about Syria/U.S. relations, not the Bush administration or Dick Cheney, so I consider TPM's headline about the article, which I don't exactly remember, misleading. Anyhow, the single paragraph TPM was bringing attention to was this:

The Obama transition team also helped persuade Israel to end the bombing of Gaza and to withdraw its ground troops before the Inauguration. According to the former senior intelligence official, who has access to sensitive information, “Cheney began getting messages from the Israelis about pressure from Obama” when he was President-elect. Cheney, who worked closely with the Israeli leadership in the lead-up to the Gaza war, portrayed Obama to the Israelis as a “pro-Palestinian,” who would not support their efforts (and, in private, disparaged Obama, referring to him at one point as someone who would “never make it in the major leagues”). But the Obama team let it be known that it would not object to the planned resupply of “smart bombs” and other high-tech ordnance that was already flowing to Israel. “It was Jones”—retired Marine General James Jones, at the time designated to be the President’s national-security adviser—“who came up with the solution and told Obama, ‘You just can’t tell the Israelis to get out.’ ” (General Jones said that he could not verify this account; Cheney’s office declined to comment.)
Slightly outrageous comments by Dick; although, Barton Gellman mentioned on tonight's Rachel Maddow show that he wasn't necessarily sure Cheney made the "pro-Palestinian" comment as Israel may just be positioning itself with the Obama administration by making that comment.


Even more interesting was Andrew Sullivan's article yesterday that Dick Cheney has been doing interviews because he fears possible repercussions for authorizing torture.
So what was Cheney thinking? My guess is that he fears he is in trouble. This fear has been created by Obama, but indirectly. Obama has declined to launch a prosecution of Cheney for war crimes, as many in his party (and outside it) would like. He has set up a review of detention, rendition and interrogation policies. And he has simply declassified many of the infamous torture memos kept under wraps by Bush.

He has the power to do this, and much of the time it is in response to outside requests. But as the memos have emerged, the awful truth of what Cheney actually authorised becomes harder and harder to deny. And Cheney is desperately trying to maintain a grip on the narrative before it grips him by the throat.

The threat, however subtle, is real. Eric Holder, the new attorney-general, while eschewing a formal investigation, has told Republicans “prosecutorial and investigative judgments must depend on the facts, and no one is above the law”. The justice department is also sitting on an internal report into the calibre of the various torture memos drafted by Bush appointees in the Office of Legal Counsel. The report has apparently already found the memos beneath minimal legal credibility, which implies they were ordered up to make the law fit the already-made decision to torture various terror suspects...
This is what Cheney is desperate to avoid. It is unclear whether he will actually ever be prosecuted, but the facts of his record will wend their way inexorably into the sunlight. That means he could become a pariah. Even though the CIA actively destroyed the videotapes of torture sessions, it could not destroy the legal and administrative record now available to the new administration.

So Cheney is reduced to asserting that what he did saved countless lives and averted many plots. He is reduced to asserting the same Manichean view of the world that gave us Guantanamo, Bagram and the Iraq war: fighting terrorism is “a tough mean, dirty, nasty business”, he told Polit-ico, an American political website. “These are evil people. And we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.”

But no one is urging that we turn the other cheek: they are simply saying the West has to obey the laws of war and the rule of law in its battle against jihadist terrorism. By coming out so forcefully and so publicly so soon after he left office, Cheney is intent on asserting that the torture programme he set up was legal, moral and defensible. Like many of Obama’s former foes, he may come to regret making that move in his own defence.
I'm not sure which is the correct interpretation of Cheney's recent round of interviews, Gellman or Sullivan's. But it's pretty clear that with the Spanish security court's investigation and other countries planning to investigate, such as France and Italy, that Dick Cheney better shut up or start looking forward to squealing like a pig.


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