Cheney shows his arrogance in revisionist version of history
Former Bush 'deputy sheriff' portrays himself as a one-man show
By Jonathan Manthorpe, Vancouver Sun September 27, 2011 1:06 AM
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Former American vice-president Dick Cheney's memoirs have been crafted into a most peculiar book, In My Life.
It's peculiar because there is only one character in it who is presented as more than the shadowy figures who flit through the shadows around the spotlight at centre stage.
This is a one-man show and that man is Cheney himself. This book is not so much a memoir as a bombastic attempt at repudiating the manifold evidence that as George W. Bush's deputy sheriff he dissembled, misrepresented, bullied and generally steamrolled everyone and everything in the path of what he often ignorantly and arrogantly held to be right.
This book is a mind-boggling demonstration of self-obsession spun out over 565 pages.
Bush, the former president of the United States and in theory Cheney's boss in the events recounted in the last half of the book, hardly has a speaking role and is not fleshed out as a character or adorned with any fresh insights.
Instead, Bush is a pasteboard cut-out whose role is as a prop for the main actor.
Condoleezza Rice, Bush's national security adviser in his first term and secretary of state in his second, hardly even gets a walk-on part. When she does, it is to face Cheney's scorn for what he portrays as her naive wimpishness and lack of moral stamina, especially over her attempts to negotiate with North Korea.
But he does give her a halfhearted absolution when she appears in his office one day nd "tearfully" admits to having een wrong when she defied is judgment over questions rising from false informaion that Saddam Hussein was eeking uranium from Niger to ake bombs and the leaking of he identity of Central Intellience Agency operative Valerie lame.
Even Donald Rumsfeld, who became Cheney's mentor soon after he arrived in Washington from Wyoming as a young political thug in the late 1960s and who was instrumental in Cheney's first star turn as the youngest-ever presidential chief-of-staff to Gerald Ford in the mid-1970s, becomes by the 2000s only a bit player in the Cheney saga.
Cheney's greatest scorn is reserved for Colin Powell, whom he selected as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff when he was president George H.W. Bush's defence secretary in 1989.
But Powell as the second president Bush's secretary of state from 2001-'05 is presented as a wimp, forever opting for negotiations and other cop-outs when Cheney is adamant the only choice is an overwhelming display of brute force.
We are left in no doubt that the War on Terror is Dick Cheney's war.
Cheney's vision of himself is as the only clear mind and lone voice of muscular resolve after the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in September 2001.
Cheney developed what comes across as a rather unhealthy voyeuristic passion for the military and the intelligence community during his time as defence secretary and this froths into vigorous fermentation during his vicepresidency.
A few days after 9/11, he went on television and said the administration was going to have to "work the dark side" in the War on Terror. "It's going to be vital for us to use any means at our disposal, basically, to achieve our objective."
In the book he defends what is called "enhanced interrogation techniques," such as near suffocation through drowning called waterboarding, which he once called a "dunk in water" but which many lawyers, politicians and others insist is torture.
This denunciation, Cheney writes, "is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims."
Cheney appears to have felt the administration's program of "extraordinary renditions," by which suspected terrorists were secretly flown to allied countries for torture, or to U.S. "black prisons" in places like Poland and Thailand, was not capable of the same bull-nosed defence, because he ignores the subject entirely.
He can't ignore the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad. So he simply puts the blame on a few bad apples in the military and, in passing, denies that these events represented an institutional culture of abuse of suspects.
But where Cheney is at his most arrogantly bone-headed is over the invasion of Iraq in 2003, which he championed on what turned out to be the spurious claims that Saddam was in league with al-Qaida - and therefore an author of 9/11 - and that Saddam had "stockpiled weapons of mass
destruction." George W. Bush in his book Decision Points says he was "sickened ... when we didn't find weapons of mass destruction."
Even Rumsfeld, who leans toward a Cheney view of the world, in his memoirs says he regretted saying "we know where Saddam's weapons of mass destruction are." Cheney dances around the issue, emphasizing Saddam had used chemical weapons in the past against Iraq's Kurdish minority and in the war with Iran.
In a sleight-of-hand trick that doesn't stand to much scrutiny, Cheney attempts to deflect blame by pointing out the Democrats also believed Saddam had these weapons and so did the British.
But the Democrats were responding to what Cheney and his allies insisted the intelligence agencies were saying. British intelligence services, we now know, were tailoring their assessments in the "Dodgy Dossier" to allow British PM Tony Blair to stay in bed with the Bush administration.
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