Why Does the Media Keep Forgetting Cheney's a Liar?

Dick CheneyDick Cheney is a liar. That anyone would find this a controversial statement is beyond me. He lied about outing Valerie Plame, he lied about WMD, he lied about Iraqi ties to al Qaeda. If the birthers want to see anyone's birth certificate, make it Dick Cheney's -- I want to see that name on one before I'll believe it's really his. He is a well-known liar.

If you want to say something nice about Cheney, about the best you could say is that he's a very good liar. He has a talent for it and, if it weren't for the tens of thousands of lives those lies have ended, you might admire him for his grasp of plausible fiction. The question isn't whether or not Dick's a liar, the question is why the media treat him as if he were anything other than one. Whenever a story involving Cheney crops up, the press is right there, asking him questions and treating his answers as if there were any reason in the world to believe him.

The credulity of the national media was demonstrated once again, when Cheney spoke out about an upcoming probe into CIA torture of terrorist suspects. Cheney's a good liar because Cheney's a horrible coward. And the more danger Dick's in, the better the lies get. The Justice Department probe is reportedly of "limited scope," but students of history will remember that the crimes of Richard Nixon were exposed by a similar limited investigation, thanks to a few minutes of missing audio tape. The trail of evidence -- made obvious by the missing evidence -- led directly to the White House. Clearly, the lesson to be learned here -- for the deceptive, at least -- is that any crime even remotely connected to yourself must never, ever be investigated. The law of unintended consequences can come around and smack anyone. Even the world's finest fabricator.

So Cheney looked at the investigation into what any honest observer would describe as either war crimes, human rights abuses, or both and saw danger. That trail of evidence leads to the White House and directly into the Vice President's office. This investigation will not be stopped, that much is clear, but it can be crippled. If public opinion is whipped up against it, it may just be possible to make sure that "limited scope" remains limited. It may be possible to make people hate the truth or see it as the enemy of the nation.

So Dick got right to work. In a statement sent to the extremely friendly neocon publication The Weekly Standard, Dick fired his well-crafted shot. "The documents released Monday clearly demonstrate that the individuals subjected to Enhanced Interrogation Techniques provided the bulk of intelligence we gained about al Qaeda," he said.

Arguably true, but they don't show that those inexplicably capitalized "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" resulted in that information. Not surprisingly, they don't show that at all.

[Talking Points Memo:]

During the debate over torture this spring, Cheney claimed that CIA memos, which he had asked to be declassified, would prove that torture proved effective in obtaining actionable intelligence.

Well, yesterday, those memos were released, along with the CIA inspector general's report. And, surprise surprise, they don't begin to show what Cheney said they did.

The memos, from 2004 and 2005, do say that some detainees, particularly Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, gave up useful information during debriefing sessions. But nowhere do they suggest that that information was gleaned through torture.

In fact, Washington Independent's Spencer Ackerman did the hard work of digging through the documents to check Cheney's claim -- a long-abandoned media practice once known as "journalism" -- and found that they show the opposite of what Cheney claimed. "Cheney's public account of these documents have conflated the difference between information acquired from detainees, which the documents present, and information acquired from detainees through the enhanced interrogation program, which they don't," Ackerman writes. The truth is that the bulk of the intelligence came from traditional interrogation techniques, not from torture. Cheney's claiming credit where credit is not due.

But hey, what difference does it make? You've got to remember that we're dealing with the American media here. They don't do all that fact-checking stuff, they just put a byline above Cheney's statement and call it done. In a separate Talking Points Memo piece, Justin Elliot reports that media outlets are taking Cheney's claims at face value. A man who history shows should never be given the benefit of the doubt gets it by default.

And where these people tortured in order to protect the nation? Please, this is Dick Cheney we're talking about. If he says it, it's probably not true. In fact, we already know this isn't true and the media is either forgetting that fact or just ignoring it.

[Marjorie Cohn, truthout, April 2009:]

...It turns out that high Bush officials put heavy pressure on Pentagon interrogators to get Mohammed and Zubaydah to reveal a link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 hijackers, in order to justify Bush's illegal and unnecessary invasion of Iraq in 2003. That link was never established.

They were tortured for the same reason that Cheney now lies; because Dick Cheney was afraid of the consequences of his actions. Not only didn't the torture result in intelligence that kept Americans safe, it wasn't meant to result in intelligence that would keep Americans safe. Detainees were tortured to cover George W. Bush's and Dick Cheney's asses. The media already knows that, they just aren't reporting it.

Dick Cheney may be a world-class liar, but he'd be a lot less successful liar if the news media didn't forget he wasn't trustworthy every, single time they reported on him. I'll say it again, Dick Cheney doesn't deserve the benefit of the doubt.

And the media will start serving us better when they stop giving it to him.


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