Johanna Neuman of the LA Times asks in the May 17th Sunday Edition why former Vice President Dick Cheney doesn’t just go gently into the night—
Before delving into the substance of the real issue, which is the Obama Administration’s course of action since taking office and its’ ongoing criticism / blame of the Bush Administration’s policies / conduct and Dick Cheney’s counter condemnation thereof, any responsible writer has to condemn the Times for printing such a one sided distortion of the facts. It is exactly this kind of trash journalism that is destroying what was once a great newspaper. Let me give you one example: Neuman writes, “Dick Cheney has made the oft- repeated and truly incendiary assertion that Obama’s policies are making the country less safe from terrorism.” Really, is it “truly incendiary?” Any more so than the assertions’ of President Obama or Vice President Biden on the campaign trail or since taking office? But because Johanna Neuman and the LA Times want to discredit the statements of former Vice President Cheney, Neuman is allowed to use carefully crafted language to do so. This is a disgrace and should be called out as such.
In reality former Vice President Cheney has been on several talk shows defending the Bush Administration’s policies. In doing so he has stated that it is his belief that these policies kept America from being attacked again for a period of seven years subsequent to the 911 / attack. And he went on to say that the Obama Administration doing away with these policies, in his opinion made America less safe. Anyone watching Dick Cheney being interviewed would objectively conclude the following: Dick Cheney is a very smart, well spoken individual. The Bush Administration did in fact not allow another attack on America subsequent to 911. And that Dick Cheney believes what he is saying.
I have personally disagreed with the Bush Administration on a number of policies and actions, but for the good of the country both the media and the Obama Administration would be well served to listen to the former Vice President closely—in fact I can’t help but to wonder why he’s waited until leaving office to make himself so available. The Dick Cheney we’re now seeing is the Dick Cheney that debated Joe Lieberman to a tie, a debate that left everyone watching, wondering why the two Vice Presidential candidates weren’t the one’s running for President. So that Dick Cheney is back—GOOD.
Now let’s take a step back and look at some of the policy differences that have caused this argument and the LA Times to disgrace itself, again. The first major policy change by the Obama Administration to become part of the dispute was the President’s directive to close the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility. The President believes that the facility makes America look bad to the rest of the world and therefore less safe. Former Vice President Cheney believes that the men held in Guantanamo Bay are the worst of the worst terrorists in the world—among these men is the mastermind of the 911 attacks on America. And he believes that we are safer with these men locked up in Guantanamo Bay indefinitely or at least until they face military tribunals that would determine their fates.
As of today the Obama Administration has not been able to produce a plan that would execute the President’s directive. There are a number of reasons for this, but suffice it to say the two largest obstacles are: other countries will not take these prisoners. And no state in the United States, thus far, has a citizenry that will accept these men into their communities. Also, it should be noted that Congress would not allocate funds to close this facility until a plan was presented to them. So, on this policy debate I think former Vice President Cheney has simply proven to be right.
The second policy that President Obama criticized the Bush Administration for, while he was running for office, was the U.S. policy of rendition, which he vowed to end once he was President because he believed this too made the U.S. less safe. And when candidate Obama became President Obama he did change this policy.
Again, Former Vice President Cheney said that this, change of policy, made the U.S. less safe. Who in this case is right and who is wrong? Let’s pause and clarify what rendition happens to be. When the U.S. captures a terrorist that it wishes to interrogate and desires to use torture to extract information it sends the person to a country that does not have laws against torturing people—this is rendition. President Obama stopped this practice for a couple of weeks when he took office, but then reinstituted it as a policy. So again, it would appear that on this former Vice President Cheney was right.
The third policy at the core of this dispute is enhanced interrogation techniques. President Obama ordered them stopped on the grounds that they are not effective and that they should be considered torture. Former Vice President Cheney countered that the justice department’s lawyers said that the techniques being used were not torture and that they were extremely effective in extracting information that saved thousands if not tens of thousands of American lives. This lead to a sub-dispute when President Obama released documents describing the use of enhanced interrogation techniques and did not also release documents, as described by the former Vice President, describing how many lives were saved by their use. The later part of this dispute can simply be settled by President Obama releasing the documents that former Vice President Cheney has requested. The fact that President Obama hasn’t done so would lead to an objective conclusion that again the former Vice President is right in his assertions—regardless these documents will eventually be available to the public and the truth will speak for itself.
The part of the policy dispute that is somewhat more difficult to understand and leads to dispute number four is that each administration seems to differ over what constitutes torture. At the core of this issue is water boarding or more simply put simulated drowning. On this, legal opinion’s aside, most reasonable people will agree that depriving another human being of oxygen until they give over the information being sought is torture. Because it does not leave lasting physical damage or end with the death of an interrogation subject—it should be considered the first level of torture or torture light, but it’s torture non-the-less. But in the end it does not apparently constitute a level of torture that is considered illegal.
Dispute number four is not between President Obama and former Vice President Cheney. In fact President Obama has stated publicly that the country should move forward and not start delving into the torture debate and or any of its’ criminal implications. But a number of Democrats have ignored the President and furthered the issue. And in pursuing this path it turns out that several top ranking Democrats were not only aware of, but approved of enhanced interrogation techniques. The Speaker Of The House Nancy Pelosi in particular seems to have been very aware of these measures, but claims that she and the Congress were mislead by the CIA. This, if it were to be true, would be another crime unto itself, but the CIA has documented that the Speaker was informed of what the techniques were and that they were being used. With respect to right and wrong on this I think it’s safe to say that both the President and the former Vice President are happy to let Speaker Pelosi go this one alone—meaning if the Bush Administration was wrong so were all of our top ranking leaders.
Finally, the argument between President Obama and former Vice President Cheney reached even domestic policy issues. President Obama is desirous that union organization votes be open ballot—meaning everyone would know how everyone else voted. Former Vice President Cheney believes that these votes should remain private so that pier pressure does not play a part in how someone votes. Clearly President Obama’s policy change would give unions more power. And clearly former Vice President Cheney thinks that they have enough. On this the former Vice President makes the argument that he, unlike President Obama, was a card-carrying member of a union for six years. (The former Vice President worked his way through college laying power cables, which required him to be a member of a union.) And based on his personal experience the current policy is as it should be. On this I personally agree with the former Vice President, but I’m sure there is a good argument for the other side.
So, should Dick Cheney go away quietly? Absolutely not. Just on the issues discussed in this blog he has proven to be right more than wrong. Do I personally have lots of issues with the decisions made by the Bush Administration and former Vice President Cheney? We all should. But we all do our country a disservice when we disrespect a man like Dick Cheney. His life is an American success story. He worked hard and had a family. He became one of the wealthiest men in America. And he chose to serve his country. Has he always been right? Have any of us always been right? When the former Vice President speaks, even if we don’t always agree, we should alway listen.