Friday, August 14, 2009

Memoirs to reveal Dick Cheney thought Bush had gone soft on war on terror.

The most interesting thing for me about Cheney's latest outburst is that it confirms that, for a long time, he was calling the shots and guiding a naive president; and that, somewhere near the start of Bush's second term, Bush stopped listening to him and started carving out his own path.

What emerged from the latest account of Cheney's disgruntlement was that the former vice-president thought Bush had gone soft in the last years of his presidency as he veered away from the "you are with us or you are against us" approach following the September 11 attacks in 2001.

In the last days of his administration, Bush halted the waterboarding of terrorist suspects, closed secret CIA prisons, sought congressional approval for domestic surveillance, and put out feelers to Iran and North Korea, governments he previously denounced as part of the "axis of evil".

According to those who have been speaking to the former vice-president, the shift stuck in Cheney's craw.

"In the second term, he felt Bush was moving away from him," an unnamed source told the Washington Post. "He said Bush was shackled by the public reaction and the criticism he took. Bush was more malleable to that. The implication was that Bush had gone soft on him, or rather Bush had hardened against Cheney's advice. He'd showed an independence that Cheney didn't see coming. It was clear that Cheney's doctrine was cast-iron strength at all times – never apologise, never explain – and Bush moved toward the conciliatory."

I have no idea why Cheney would wish this to be known as it, more than ever, implies that Cheney was responsible for the worst of the Bush regime's excesses. He has already been known as the Vice President for Torture, and now he appears to want us to know that he was disgusted when Bush said, "enough is enough."
In contrast to Bush, who has maintained a discreet silence since Barack Obama's election, Cheney has not hesitated in criticising the new president as he disavows one Bush policy after another, particularly on the closing of Guantánamo Bay and the ban on "enhanced interrogation techniques". Cheney has been even more committed than his former boss in defending the vestiges of the Bush legacy.
The truth is that when Cheney attacks Obama's actions, he is actually returning to a battleground where he has already experienced defeat. Bush made it clear that he wanted Guantanamo closed, Bush ordered that waterboarding be stopped.

Cheney never agreed with Bush's decision and is now attacking Obama, as if the decision to stop the practice of waterboarding is somehow a new one.

The truth is that for most of Bush's second term the practice was forbidden, which is why Cheney's argument that Obama is endangering American lives by forbidding the practice now rings particularly hollow.

The first inkling of Cheney's disenchantment with Bush came in a long account in Time magazine of his failed attempt to win a presidential pardon for his aide Lewis "Scooter" Libby. Despite much badgering from Cheney, Bush refused a pardon for Libby, who was convicted in 2007 of perjury and the obstruction of an investigation into the outing of Valerie Plame, a CIA agent.

In a note made public at the trial, Cheney had scrawled that he would not let anyone "sacrifice the guy that was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder". Grand jury transcripts – and independent counsel Patrick Fitzgerald – suggested that Libby's false statements aimed above all to protect Cheney, which went some way to explain his persistence in trying to get a pardon for Libby.

Cheney is continuing to insist that he was right and everyone else was wrong. He still believes that one should "never apologise and never explain". And he is about to put those opinions down on paper.

At a time when Holder is considering prosecutions in the US for war crimes, I am not sure that this is Cheney's wisest course of action. He has already, bizarrely, argued that "torture works" as if the success of the procedure outweighs it's immorality. He's now going to put his entire thesis into print.

It's going to read like the longest confession in history.



Alex Massie:
But note too the sense, as relayed by this Cheney confidante at least, that Cheney was disappointed the President moved away from him. It's almost as if the Vice-President was horrified to discover that the President had ideas of his own. In this piece at least, Cheney actually endorses the caricature of a black-hatted Veep pulling the stings and manipulating a callow, incurious President.


But it's also apparent that Cheney's lack of political ambition was also a weakness. It seems to have persuaded him, in the instances cited by Gellman at least, to ignore any and all political calculations as though they didn't matter and only the weak or the foolish would pay any attention to political realities. In that sense, Cheney was a deeply irresponsible Vice-President.


Freed from any kind of electoral or political reality, Cheney was able to rampage through Washington, doing all kinds of damage to almost every institution or office or agency he touched. That's the price you pay for Cheney's lack of personal political ambition. We often think of political ambition as something to be wary of - and rightly so - but Cheney demonstrates that the quiet lack of personal ambition can have disastrous consequences too, for it frees a man from having to be accountable for his actions, permitting him to justify anything and everything if it moves him an inch closer to achieving goals that he, and he alone, has set.
Cheney's disrespect for the democratic process was a thing of wonder. I think Massie touches upon where that attitude came from.

Click title for full article.

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