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Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Exit Interview with a Vampire

A final "exit interview" of Dick Cheney was aired on The NewsHour on January 14, 2009. (#1) Topics ranged from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war on terror (TM), adventures in economic crises and that special relationship between the Presidency and We the People. Of course, none of Cheney's comments on any of these topics are surprising in the least. When printed out in black and white and held up against the headlines of January 14, 2009, however, the contrast between reality and the fantasy world Cheney inhabits borders on the pathological.

Early in the interview, Jim Lehr asked Cheney about mistakes made in his role as Vice President. Cheney responded by citing assumptions about the ability and willingness of the Iraqis to hop onto their feet and take control of their country after our heroic toppling of their dictator as a mistake. Lehr asked a followup:

Is it fair to say the miscalculation resulted in the chaotic situation that existed immediately after for a while , immediately after the invasion?

I can't say that, I can't link those two particular points. What I can say is I think if we had been able to move more rapidly to stand up a government that was capable I think we might have avoided some of that but I don't want to blame all that on the Iraqi government - it was a difficult situation but It was successful. We now find ourselves in a situation where 5 years later we've achieved most of the objectives that you would have set out when we set out in the spring of 2003 when we launched into Iraq.. We've got the violence level down to its lowest level since 03, we've had three national elections, a constitution written, a new government stood up, a new army recruited and trained, the Iraqis increasingly able to take on responsibility for themselves, and we've now entered into a strategic framework agreement with the new Iraqi government that will provide for the ultimate withdrawal of US forces. You could not have asked for much more than that in terms of the policies that we started on in 03.

Mr. Vice President, getting from there to here, 4500 Americans have died, at least one hundred thousand Iraqis have died. Has it been worth that?

I think so. I believed at the time that what Saddam Hussein represented was -- especially in the aftermath of 9/11 - was a terror sponsoring state -- so designated by the state department -- he was making payments to the families of suicide bombers., he provided a safe haven and sanctuary for Abu Nidal and other terrorist operations, he had produced and used weapons of mass destruction -- chemical and biological agents -- he had a nuclear program in the past, he had killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and he did have a relationship with Al.Queda. We've had this debate and people keep trying to conflate these arguments. That's not to say Saddam was responsible for 9/11. It is to say -- as George Tenet, CIA Director, testified in open session of the Senate -- that there was a relationship there that went back ten years. This was a terrorist sponsoring state with access to weapons of mass destruction and that's the greatest threat we faced in the aftermath of 9/11 with the next time we found terrorists in the middle of one of our cities, it wouldn't be nineteen guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters, it would be terrorists armed with a biological agent or maybe a nuclear device. So I think given the track record of Saddam Hussein, I think we did exactly the right thing, I thing the country is better off for it today. I think it's been part of the effort, alongside Afghanistan, to liberate 50 million people and establish a vibrant democracy in the heart of the Middle East. I think those are major, major accomplishments.

On the same day Cheney is citing "accomplishments" in a pre-emptive war of choice based on demonstrably and utterly false intelligence,

* the Pentagon confirmed a 9/11 suspect was tortured and his case will never be prosecuted (#2)
* factions within a party that won power in an election America promoted are firing rockets into Israel and giving Israel an excuse to return fire through innocent Gaza civilians
* Osama bin Laden released a new tape, confirming $588 billion haven't silenced the man who launched the "war on terror" (TM)
* despite promises of a drawdown in Iraq, net deployments of US troops will RISE as America attempts to catch up in the war we almost won then abandoned in Afghanistan, after seven years of fighting (#3)

If that's success, I'd hate to see what Dick Cheney and his boss would deem a failure.

Another question Lehr posed about the standing of the Bush / Cheney Administration with the American public might have captured the true inner sneer and contempt of the upper echelon of the Bush team more effectively than anything else published so far.

It doesn't trouble you at all to be leaving office next week with the overwhelming disapproval of the majority of the people as measured by the polls?

I don't buy that. No, first of all - I don't buy that. And I find, when I get out and talk with people, that that's not the unanimous view, as you would have it. Things that count for me, in terms of the people I want to make certain are with us are, for example, the American military - young men and women who serve, the folks who go out and put their lives on the line to carry out the policies we've decided upon. President and I had the opportunity, for example, last Saturday. We went down to Norfolk; we commissioned a brand-new aircraft carrier named after his father. Then we went over and spent the afternoon with about 650 Navy SEALS. These are guys that have been in the battle in Iraq, in Afghanistan, deployed many, many times, have done all the heavy lifting in connection with our policies that we pursued in that part of the world and they are a magnificent group of people. They are also very, very supportive of what we did and they're the ones that put their lives on the line for the rest of us, It's not just cocktail party talk for them, this is the real world they live in and having THEIR respect and THEIR approval counts for an enormous amount.

Cheney is so confident in his unique insight into all things political, military, social and economic that he absolutely DOES NOT CARE one iota what the America voters -- We The People -- think about their policies and strategies. Once we vote them in, they have free reign to do whatever they want -- Constitution and decades of established military and legal precedents be damned -- until we remove power from their cold dead hands or they leave office. There is no other middle ground. Cheney is so isolated from the real world he thinks attending a gathering of active-duty Seals held in conjunction with the christening of a new Navy ship named after the sitting President's father, himself an ex-President, constitutes a reflective cross section of validating American public opinion.

Cheney's contempt for any balance of power and rejection of accountability is nothing new. It was readily apparent less than three months into the first term when secret Energy Task Force meetings were held and quickly became the subject of the first power struggle between the Administration and the American public via Freedom of Information Act suits. It's hard to fathom even in hindsight how telling that omen was for the country.

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1) http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/jan-june09/cheney_01-14.html

#2) http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20090115/wl_afp/usattacksguantanamotorture

#3) http://uk.reuters.com/article/burningIssues/idUKTRE50D65O20090114