Monday, March 30, 2009

Scared Cheney puts his head in the noose.

I heard Andrew Sullivan a while ago talking about Obama's great talent at forcing his opponents to self destruct, and - thinking of the way Obama disposed of both Hillary and McCain - I tended to agree.

There is a way in which Obama presents himself as above the fray, which seems to lead his opponents to ever more outlandish statements in an attempt to bring him down, which ultimately leads to their own downfall. For example, during the recent election McCain employed Palin to bring up the charge of Obama's "terrorist connections", thanks to his friendship with William Ayers. I think Obama and his team were supposed to panic and rush all over the airwaves discussing why Obama is not a supporter of terrorism, but the Obama team didn't. They simply laughed at a suggestion which was blatantly ludicrous.

His failure to take the bait appeared to drive Palin to make ever more ludicrous charges and drove McCain to the point where he referred to Obama during a live debate as "that one". It was quite clear that McCain found Obama's coolness extremely irritating.

Well, Sullivan now detects the exact same process taking place with Dick Cheney:

Obama is about as far from apolitical as you can get; and while he is a decent fellow, he is also a lethal Chicago pol. His greatest achievement in this respect was the total implosion of Bill Clinton around this time last year: Hillary was next. Then came John McCain, merrily strapping on the suicide bomb of Sarah Palin. With the fate of all these formidable figures impossible to miss, one has to wonder what possessed Dick Cheney, the former vice-presi-dent, to come lumbering out twice in the first 50 days of the Obama administration to blast the new guy on national television.

Growling and sneering, Cheney accused the new president of actively endangering the lives of Americans by ending the detention and interrogation programmes of the last administration, and vowing to close Guantanamo Bay. It’s hard to overstate how unseemly and unusual this was.

It is fine for a former vice-president to criticise his successor in due course. But there is a decorum that allows for a new president not to be immediately undermined by his predecessor. To be accused of what amounts to treason – a willingness to endanger the lives of Americans – is simply unheard of.

And Sullivan thinks that Cheney is behaving this way because Obama has unnerved him with the possibility of future prosecution.

So what was Cheney thinking? My guess is that he fears he is in trouble. This fear has been created by Obama, but indirectly. Obama has declined to launch a prosecution of Cheney for war crimes, as many in his party (and outside it) would like. He has set up a review of detention, rendition and interrogation policies. And he has simply declassified many of the infamous torture memos kept under wraps by Bush.

He has the power to do this, and much of the time it is in response to outside requests. But as the memos have emerged, the awful truth of what Cheney actually authorised becomes harder and harder to deny. And Cheney is desperately trying to maintain a grip on the narrative before it grips him by the throat.

And, the more torture memos Obama releases, the more difficult it will be for Cheney to control the narrative; which is perhaps why he has gone on to the offensive regarding aggressive interrogation techniques and why he feels Obama is wrong to abandon them. And things are only set to get worse for Cheney:
But the big impending release may well be three memos from May 2005, detailing specific torture techniques authorised by Bush and Cheney for use against terror suspects. Newsweek described the yet to be released memos thus: “One senior Obama official . . . said the memos were ‘ugly’ and could embarrass the CIA. Other officials predicted they would fuel demands for a ‘truth commission’ on torture.”

The documents detailed horrifying CIA practices that the Red Cross unequivocally called torture – shoving prisoners in tiny, air-tight coffins, waterboarding, beatings, sleep deprivation, stress positions: all the techniques we have now come to know almost by heart. And torture is a war crime. War crimes have no statute of limitations and are among the most serious crimes of which one can be accused.

This is what Cheney is desperate to avoid. It is unclear whether he will actually ever be prosecuted, but the facts of his record will wend their way inexorably into the sunlight. That means he could become a pariah. Even though the CIA actively destroyed the videotapes of torture sessions, it could not destroy the legal and administrative record now available to the new administration.
Cheney has started to argue that what was done by his and Bush's administration was legal and moral and right. But he's panicking because he knows, as does Obama, what is contained in these memos and he's desperate to give us his version of them before Obama gives us the actual memos.

Cheney is snarling and kicking and screaming because he knows what's coming next. He knows the term "war criminal" is about to be fixed around his neck.

Click title for Sullivan article.


nunya said...

"Cheney is snarling and kicking and screaming because he knows what's coming next. He knows the term "war criminal" is about to be fixed around his neck."

Oh God, I hope so. Here is one of my early posts

Kel said...

Thanks for that Nunya, the picture is a great one!

nunya said...

I wondered if you might get a laugh out of that one. :)