As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Honest Dick

Nancy Pfothenpfhaupfer wants you to know that salt of the earth Dick Cheney, the guy who chopped down the cherry tree at Mount Vernon (OK, shot it in the face, actually) and admitted it to his father, would never tell a lie:

"You know, obviously you've got different opinions on the whole issue of harsh interrogation techniques. And of course, Cheney wasn't running in the last election, but Sen. McCain, for who I worked, was very clearly opposed to all these harsh interrogation techniques. And he went on record saying, as a former prisoner of war for five years, you don't get high quality information from these types of interrogations. People will basically say anything in order to make it stop. I don't believe, however, that the former Vice President would be making statements that he knew to be inaccurate."

Shuster just breaks up laughing from that one. And mockery is the right reaction. Because we're now seeing Cheney backtracking from his own statement that CIA classified documents will show that torture saved lives.

The key moment came when his interviewer said: “You want some documents declassified having to do with waterboarding.” Cheney replied:

“Yes, but the way I would describe them is they have to do with the detainee program, the interrogation program. It’s not just waterboarding. It’s the interrogation program that we used for high-value detainees. There were two reports done that summarize what we learned from that program, and I think they provide a balanced view.”

Bear with me here, because this is crucial. Cheney is carefully saying that the documents summarize what we learned from the overall interrogation program. Torture, of course, was only a component of that program. So he’s clearly saying that the docs summarize what was learned from a program that included non-torture techniques, too.

Here’s why this is important. It dovetails precisely with what Senator Carl Levin, who has also seen these docs, says about them. Levin claims the docs don’t do anything to “connect acquisition of valuable intelligence to the use of the abusive techniques.”

Of course, Cheney's only hedging in the event that the documents do get released, so he can find some other rhetorical ground. He was perfectly content to lie when he thought that the documents would never get released to the public. The same way he lied yesterday about the Iraq war saving lives, an unprovable negative based on things Saddam Hussein had no capacity to do. It's an obvious falsehood, but he can retreat to some ground where he can claim that nobody else could prove him false. The same with him foisting 9/11 off on Richard Clarke, on the grounds that counter-terrorism was his job so only he must be responsible. Never mind that Cheney takes all kind of credit for keeping America safe AFTER 9/11. And of course this analysis neglects plenty:

When the moderator reminded Cheney that Clarke had repeatedly warned the administration about al Qaeda’s determination to attack the U.S., Cheney snarkily replied, “That’s not my recollection, but I haven’t read his book.”

In fact, it was Cheney who “missed” the warning signs, not Clarke. New York Times reporter Philip Shenon’s book, “The Commission: The Uncensored History of the 9/11 Investigation,” reprinted some of Clarke’s emphatic e-mails warning the Bush administration of the al Qaeda threat throughout 2001:

“Bin Ladin Public Profile May Presage Attack” (May 3)

“Terrorist Groups Said Co-operating on US Hostage Plot” (May 23)

“Bin Ladin’s Networks’ Plans Advancing” (May 26)

“Bin Ladin Attacks May Be Imminent” (June 23)

“Bin Ladin and Associates Making Near-Term Threats” (June 25)

“Bin Ladin Planning High-Profile Attacks” (June 30)

“Planning for Bin Ladin Attacks Continues, Despite Delays” (July 2)

Similarly, Time Magazine reported in 2002 that Clarke had an extensive plan to “roll back” al Qaeda — a plan that languished for months, ignored by senior Bush officials:

Clarke, using a Powerpoint presentation, outlined his thinking to Rice. … In fact, the heading on Slide 14 of the Powerpoint presentation reads, “Response to al Qaeda: Roll back.” … The proposals Clarke developed in the winter of 2000-01 were not given another hearing by top decision makers until late April, and then spent another four months making their laborious way through the bureaucracy before they were readied for approval by President Bush.

Dick Cheney is a pathological liar, who knows enough to give himself a minor rhetorical out should anyone call him on it. He's also a pathetic child for relying on 9/11 trauma to explain their terror policies.

"Unless you were there, in a position of responsibility after September 11, you cannot possibly imagine the dilemmas that you faced in trying to protect Americans," Condoleezza Rice said last month as she admonished a Stanford University student who questioned the Bush-era interrogation program. And in his May 21 speech on national security, Dick Cheney called the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, a "defining" experience that "caused everyone to take a serious second look" at the threats to America. Critics of the administration have become more intense as memories of the attacks have faded, he argued. "Part of our responsibility, as we saw it," Cheney said, "was not to forget the terrible harm that had been done to America." [...]

Yes, we went for days with little sleep, and we all assumed that more attacks were coming. But the decisions that Bush officials made in the following months and years -- on Iraq, on detentions, on interrogations, on wiretapping -- were not appropriate. Careful analysis could have replaced the impulse to break all the rules, even more so because the Sept. 11 attacks, though horrifying, should not have surprised senior officials. Cheney's admission that 9/11 caused him to reassess the threats to the nation only underscores how, for months, top officials had ignored warnings from the CIA and the NSC staff that urgent action was needed to preempt a major al-Qaeda attack.

Thus, when Bush's inner circle first really came to grips with the threat of terrorism, they did so in a state of shock -- a bad state in which to develop a coherent response. Fearful of new attacks, they authorized the most extreme measures available, without assessing whether they were really a good idea.

Read that whole thing. It's an indictment of the worst Administration in history, who used a crisis to pursue long-sought goals, and rationalizing them through fear and deception.

Labels: , , , , , , , , ,