If you ask Dick Cheney, changes in counter-terrorism tactics by the Obama administration mean we're all going to die in a big terrorist attack. And that's what CNN's John King did this weekend; ask Dick Cheney. As always, he was less than convincing. I don't think Dick's capable of excitement and this makes him a pretty bad liar -- his warning of the inevitable destruction of the world's first modern democracy was delivered in the same tone of voice he might use to talk about a flat tire. The destruction of America's unfortunate, of course, but that's just the way things are. No use getting all riled up about it.
Maybe Dick's like Cassandra, who was able to predict the future, but cursed in that no one would believe her. Why knock yourself out with histrionics if no one's going to buy it?
Another possibility is that Dick's not especially worked up over our oncoming doom because he knows it's a bunch of crap. That'd put him in the same boat as most of us, who also aren't extremely concerned about Cheney's doomsaying either. Other than the wingnut right who'll believe anything, we're all pretty sure that Dick's a BS dispenser and we don't lose a lot of sleep over his warnings.
There's a third possibility; that Dick believes what he says because he's a dangerous lunatic prone to paranoia. Cheney's not especially animated at the thought of another 9/11 because he's used to living in a world where disaster is always right around the corner. His lack of excitement doesn't indicate a lack of earnestness, it's just the consequence of living in constant fear.
After all, this is the man who wouldn't let Google Earth display his residence. If you're a paranoiac, the knowledge that satellites really are looking down and watching you must be unbearable. His obsession with secrecy was taken to absurd lengths, when he argued that the Office of the Vice President was actually a fourth branch of government.
Dick Cheney may have said and done crazy things as VP because Dick Cheney's crazy. Take his Vice Presidential Hit Squad. The White House had an "executive assassination ring" that answered to Cheney's office. "Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving," says investigative reporter Seymour Hersh. "That’s been going on, in the name of all of us." It's this sort of that Cheney argues is the only thing standing between us and destruction. He must believe it -- otherwise, why would this hit squad have existed?
"When you go back to the law enforcement mode, which I sense is what they're doing, closing Guantanamo and so forth ... they are very much giving up that center of attention and focus that's required, that concept of military threat that is essential if you're going to successfully defend the nation against further attacks," Cheney told King in the interview.
It's an unfortunate coincidence for Dick that the things he thought had to be done to keep us all safe were revealed that same weekend. In an op-ed for the New York Times, journalist Mark Danner revealed details of a 2006 Red Cross investigation of US treatment of detainees. Not surprisingly, the methods used by US personnel indicate a desperation born of paranoia. These are the sorts of things you'd do if you really did believe the world was going to end tomorrow.
A few accounts from the detainees themselves tell us all we need to know:
– “I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck; they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room.”
– “Both my feet became very swollen after one month of almost continual standing.”
– “A thick flexible plastic collar would also be placed around my neck so that it could then be held at the two ends by a guard who would use it to slam me repeatedly against the wall..."
Unfortunately for the mental health of the nation, there's no shortage of cowardly "patriots" who are willing to argue that waterboarding isn't torture. Let's see them defend these practices; in what lunatic world is physical beating not torture?
"What we can say with certainty, in the wake of the Red Cross report, is that the United States tortured prisoners and that the Bush administration, including the president himself, explicitly and aggressively denied that fact," writes Danner. "We can also say that the decision to torture, in a political war with militant Islam, harmed American interests by destroying the democratic and Constitutional reputation of the United States, undermining its liberal sympathizers in the Muslim world and helping materially in the recruitment of young Muslims to the extremist cause. By deciding to torture, we freely chose to embrace the caricature they had made of us. The consequences of this choice, legal, political and moral, now confront us. Time and elections are not enough to make them go away."
Torture didn't make us safer, it just proved the terrorist propaganda right. We were evil and unjust.
And how does this keep you safe? I'd point out that all of these people were suspects. None of them had been convicted of a crime. If the US government can grab you off the street, stick you in prison, and torture you without having to prove you did anything at all, how safe are you from the government? 3,000 people out of a population of some 300,000,000 died on 9/11 -- that's one in every 100,000 people. One million are on the terrorist watch list -- that's one in every 300 people. Which set of odds do you like better?
Maybe the time has come to admit the truth; there's a good chance that Dick Cheney -- who many believe was the real power in the Bush White House -- is pretty much completely insane. Keep that in mind the next time some media type seeks out his opinion.
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