Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Dick Cheney waves his bloody hands

     Former vice president Dick Cheney leapt into the news with a snarl this past week, the bloody bone of officially-sanctioned U.S. torture clenched in his dripping jaws. No regret, not from him. "I would do it again in a minute," he said. 
    And who could doubt him? Not me. People in general are like that. They not only do evil, but then try to justify it—they have to, to preserve the exalted self-image that allowed them to stray so far in the first place. Everything they do is right, because they did it, and had results for the same reason. The idea of complexity, shades of gray, trade-offs, ambiguity, unexpected consequences, it's all noise to them. Much easier just to repeat, "I'm right," over and over, which is in essence what Cheney did in the media.
     Some people believe him, and repeat the fiction: these were the 9/11 planners themselves being tortured, they were giving us key information that saved lives. 
     Yet the report is plain. Mistaken identity, bungling and indifference led to the wrong people being snatched and tortured pointlessly, yielding nothing but another atrocity to lay at the feet of our country. It was wrong, and made us less, not more secure.
     A dynamic that reminds me of the one time I set eyes upon Cheney. It was Jackson Hole, Wyoming on the 4th of July, 2009. The boys and I were on our epic 7,000 mile odyssey to the Pacific and back, and had stopped in Jackson Hole to see its Independence Day parade. This is how I describe the scene in The Quest for Pie, my unpublished travelogue of the trip.
     Before the parade had started, rather than claim one spot, we explored the downtown strip of shops. From snatches of conversation, filtering in from the crowd, bits of words like cricket chirps, I got the impression the Dick Cheney, George W. Bush’s vice president, was somewhere nearby, and the boys and I worked our way toward the thickest part of the crowd — his position marked, ironically, by the big beefy security guys, milling around him.  We’d have never noticed him otherwise.  Cheney was sitting in a folding chair, wearing a mustard beige leather jacket and a white Stetson hat — he has a house around here — and I figured the boys might enjoy saying hello to such a prominent political figure.     
     "You want to meet the former vice president of the United States?” I asked them.  Kent made a face as if he had eaten something bad.  “No! he said.  “Why would we want to do that?” asked Ross, genuinely puzzled.  We moved on.  I was proud of them for snubbing Cheney — me, I’d have said hello, just for the bragging rights, but I could pass him by with only a faint regret.   
     Once business took me to the White House, and I had a glimpse of George W. Bush and Laura heading to the Marine One helicopter, which had landed on the South Lawn to take them to Camp David.  I waved goodbye like a schoolgirl, happily, sincerely — the president’s the president, at least when he’s standing in front of you.  An 8-year-old’s worldview, but there you go.  It isn’t like turning your back on the president leads to better policy.
     What makes this relevant is Cheney's security men. He must have had four, and, ironically, what benefit they brought in numbers they lost by standing around him, giving away his position. If he been sitting in chair with maybe one security guy sitting next to him, he'd have had ample backup in case some citizen decided to angrily confront him about the shame he brought to our once great country. But three or four towering oafs with curly wires in their ears, twitchy Secrete Service types whose body language practically shouted "Attention! Vice president over here!!!" Now I'm sure if you asked Cheney, he'd insist that no, this squad of giant goons was absolutely necessary, considering his countless enemies. But the truth is, he was less safe because of them. Just as his policy of snatching foreigners off the street and spiriting them away to black site torture centers only undermined what it was trying to protect. Were it possible for him to see it now, he would have realized it then. But of course he can't. That's how he is, and we shouldn't blame Cheney too much. We elected him. Twice.


  1. I hope someone sends this to Cheney. Let him grind his teeth in frustration over your sophistry as we have done over his for so many years.

  2. And it's main friend is? C'mon Bernie, I let you post your thoughts here, to stretch the word. The least you can do is not just spout platitudes that are wrong on their face.

  3. OK Comrade, we'll be behind you when you man that barricade. WAY behind you.

  4. I've become fascinated by the egomaniacal rich & famous, who believe they need all that security around them, when in fact, 99.99% of them, could wander through a crowded mall & get ignored, except for the huge, angry security guys, pushing everyone away from them.
    Even better are the ones who block off a public toilet, so they can be alone in there. Why don't you just rent a porta potti on a trailer & carry it around everywhere you go?

    1. They already do that. They just call it "public policy."

  5. Mr. Steinberg, you may suspect that he was less safe because his security ID gave him away, but do you know this is "the truth"? Consider that while you may not have recognized him without the security detail, somebody bent on killing him and who had studied his appearance, etc. might have had little problem, and thus the security detail increases not decreases his security. I remember similar scenes with others under secret service protection, including 2 with former President Carter - by your logic the Secret Service are incompetent and don't know how to do their jobs. Of course, thinking back on recent Secret Service news reports, I can't rule that out...

  6. Not wanting to come close to Lord Voldemort?
    Some smart kids you raised there, Neil.

  7. I'd argue we only elected him once. The Supreme Court elected him in 2000.

  8. And Illinois didn't elect him even once. But when people get super-moralistic about the Bush/Cheney regime, I like to ask them what they know about the two Indian Trust litigations (in which the United States, after forcing Native Americans to live on reservations, stole their mineral rights with the promise that they would pay royalties to either the tribes or individual landowners (hence the two lawsuits), then ADMITTED they had lost the records and otherwise bungled the program beyond recognition, but fought tooth and nail against giving people who live in poverty worse than anything on the south side of Chciago an accounting for damages). I wonder if they know how the Clinton and Obama administration's Justice Department (and Democratic congressfolk) acted in this lawsuit. To date, none of them have, but if they did, I'd then ask them why they would harbor sooooooo much resentment for the Republicans and soooooo little for the people they vote for and even praise. Guess it depends on whose lives matter to you.

  9. He should have been in jail with those Haliburton ties.


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