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    • Kelvin Wade

    • March 17, 2013 in Columnists

    This Dick’s a war criminal

       “Almost any man can stand up under adversity, but if you want to really know a man’s character, give him power.” —Ron Susskind



    The new Showtime documentary “The World According to Dick Cheney” by R.J. Cutler (“The War Room”) begins with an off-screen questioner asking Cheney simple questions. What’s your favorite virtue? “Integrity.” What do you look for most in a friend? “Honesty.” What’s your favorite food? “Spaghetti.” What’ do you consider your main fault? He freezes. “Um…My main fault? Um…well I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my faults I guess would be the answer.”

    That speaks volumes.

    We learn that Richard B. Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyoming and excelled in sports. But when he attended Yale on a scholarship, he hung around with the wrong crowd, partied and flunked out. He later went back to Yale and flunked out a second time.

    After his second DUI and urging by girlfriend, Lynne, he cleaned up his act, graduated from the University of Wyoming and began a life in politics, eventually landing a job as Donald Rumsfeld’s right hand man in Richard Nixon’s Office of Economic Opportunity. Avoiding involvement in Watergate, he became deputy chief of staff under Rumsfeld in Gerald Ford’s Administration.

    Cheney and his boss Rumsfeld urged President Ford not to go to Congress to answer their questions on the Nixon pardon. Cheney worried that that it would diminish the presidency. Even then Cheney dreamt of consolidating executive power.

    Rumsfeld and Cheney pushed Ford further to the right to stave off a primary challenge from Ronald Reagan. They instituted the Halloween Massacre: taking out Henry Kissinger as National Security Advisor, pressured Vice President Nelson Rockefeller not to run for reelection, and fired Secretary of Defense James Schlesinger. Rumsfeld became the new secretary of defense and Dick Cheney became the youngest White House chief of staff in history.

    Given that backdrop, when Cheney selected himself as George W. Bush’s vice-president in 2000, it should’ve been obvious to all just what he had in mind. After all, this was a man who was used to being the power behind the throne.

    The film, narrated by actor Dennis Haysbert’s rich baritone voice, features Dick Cheney speaking to the camera interspersed with stills and video from his life as well as interviews with reporters Bob Woodward, David Corn, and Charlie Savage as well as administration officials like Donald Rumsfeld, and Cheney legal counsel David Addington among others.

    No new ground is broken here. It’s just Dick Cheney justifying his use of the United States Constitution as his toilet paper of choice. It’s frustrating because it reminds you of how one man thoroughly and completely dominated a third of the government using the 9/11 attacks to lie us into a war with Iraq, institute torture as U.S. policy, and push through a massive warrantless wiretapping program all while outing a CIA agent in the process. He manipulated a clearly in over his head president and not only cost thousands of American lives, thousands of Iraqi lives, but circumvented the Constitution’s checks and balances and destroyed America’s image at the same time.

    What’s missing is the prosecution of Dick Cheney. Where were the questions holding Cheney accountable for his lies and cherry picking of intelligence to bring us to war? What does he have to say to the family of service men and women who gave their limbs, minds and lives for his lie? How could he so casually send men and women to war when he received five deferments to avoid Vietnam? Where are the Iraqis who were to greet us as liberators? Where in the Constitution does it say that the President and Vice-President can subvert Congress? Why did you blatantly lie to Dick Armey to get the use of force authorization? Why did his office sacrifice one of our own CIA agents, Valerie Plame, to settle a political score? Would he submit to waterboarding since he doesn’t believe it is torture?

    It’s true that had Cutler been prosecutorial in tone, Cheney wouldn’t have agreed to do the interview. After all this is the man who arranged for he and the President to testify to the 911 Commission without taking an oath, with no transcript and no cameras. This is also the man who said, “Reagan proved that deficits don’t matter.” When informed that a new poll showed the overwhelming majority of Americans thought war with Iraq was a mistake his response was, “So?” Cheney’s world has no accountability. The ends always justify the means. He learned well from his old boss, Richard Nixon.

    “Are you gonna trade the lives of a number of people because you want to preserve your honor?…That’s not a close call for me,” he quacks about waterboarding and other so-called ‘enhanced interrogation’ methods.

    It’s hard for Dick Cheney to err on the side of preserving honor because he has none to preserve.

    Of course Cheney didn’t pull this off on his own. There was a cabal of chickenhawks just waiting for the opportunity to expand American influence globally while a weak-kneed, cowed Congress and frightened public went along for the ride.

    Watching this unsatisfying documentary, I couldn’t help but think it was an indictment. The fact that this man is living out his golden years in Wyoming while freely admitting having tortured people and circumventing Congress is an indictment of the Obama Administration for not investigating the alleged crimes of the former administration. It indicts us for not holding the new President’s feet to the fire to reach justice.

    University of California at Berkeley Law School Dean Christopher Edley, Jr, who worked on President Obama’s transition team in 2008, revealed that Team Obama decided before he took office not to prosecute Bush officials for fear the CIA and military would revolt and that Republicans would block Obama’s agenda.

    How did that work out for them?

    It’s the ten year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq War which Dick Cheney and others lied us into with shady evidence, on their way to torture, secret prisons, warrantless wiretaps and God knows what else. It’s not a matter of partisan politics that says there should’ve been at least an investigation into torture, but justice called for it. Our national honor called for it. The rule of law cried out for it.

    In the last decade we not only learned that some companies can be too big to fail, but certain individuals can be too big to jail.

    That’s the horrible taste left in your mouth as the documentary ends as you see this old man without an ounce of introspection fly fishing on a river.

    Go @#%* yourself, Mr. Cheney.

    • Thank you for highlighting the horror of what this man did. It’s frightening to think of how much he got away with. Your article is spot on. I appreciate your ability to spark the outrage in me.

    • Thanks for this Kelvin as you always point out things we all must see. Cheney got away with murder.

      • Maya North

      • March 17, 2013 at 8:18 pm
      • Reply

      I am deeply grateful for this column, Kelvin. Not only did you offer facts I’d not previously known, you brought to light that this man is, indeed, a war criminal and a murderer. He and the other two partners in the triumvirate of evil got us into an illegal war based on admitted lies–I would call every person who has died as a result of this — including my precious and irreplaceable son-in-law — their murder victims. I am particularly unsurprised by his disinterest in introspection and his utter lack of conscience. He is a sociopath and it is known that a sociopath can kill a kitten without even a rise in pulse rate…

      • Peter Dyer

      • March 22, 2013 at 9:42 am
      • Reply

      Hi Kelvin–Peter Dyer here. It was your fine article that inspired me to dust off my old one from 2003 and ask Debra if she would consider publishing it on iPinion. Well done. But I do feel that you, Cutler and almost everyone else are missing the forest for the trees.

      The “trees” would be all the crimes and other offenses you listed: lying, torture, warrantless wiretaps and more, as well as the vendetta against Valerie Plame and Joe Wilson and general subversion of the Constitution by Cheney & Co.

      The “forest” is aggression: starting a war. This is the perspective outlined by the U.S. prosecution at the first Nuremberg Trial. All the other crimes are subcategories of the overarching crime of aggression: “the supreme international crime”. But, even after ten years, this is not part of the general discourse.

      If you’re a national leader of a powerful country and you decide you want a war, you will probably get one. And if you do, you will certainly be allowed to live out your days in comfort. No matter the mayhem and the suffering you leave behind.

      Thanks for your fine work.

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