Some in Congress are stung by charges that former Vice President Dick Cheney ran an international assassination op from the White House without telling them about it. They say he told the CIA to withhold the facts from Congress. This raises the question of how much power Cheney actually wielded---and the answer apparently is plenty.
In (Bush lawyer) John Yoo's version of events, writes Jane Mayer in her book "The Dark Side"(Anchor) "the impetus to break out of Geneva's strictures"came from the CIA. Many at the Agency, however, saw this differently, suggesting it was Cheney and his lawyer, (David) Addington, who pushed the Agency to take the path toward torture." A few days after 9/11 Cheney observed the CIA had gone over "to the dark side," but whether he starred in the role of Darth Vader needs to be established or denied.
The record appears to weight the case against him. Cheney has a long history of yeoman service to the Dark Side. To begin with, he is an unapologetic advocate of force, stating that force "makes your diplomacy more effective going forward, dealing with other problems." When the first President Bush failed to swing Panama's voters against General Manuel Noriega with $10 million in cash bribes, he called on Cheney, then his defense secretary, to crush Panama. Cheney did. During Christmas week of 1989, writes Tim Weiner in "Legacy of Ashes"(Anchor), "smart bombs blasted Panama City slums into rubble while Special Forces soldiers fought their way through the capital. Twenty-three Americans and hundreds of innocent Panamanian civilians died in the two weeks it took to arrest Noriega and to bring him in chains to Miami." That was an example of Cheney'swork.
Later, as Vice President, Cheney led the charge for war on Iraq's Saddam Hussein by asserting there was "no doubt" he had WMD. "Many of us are convinced he will acquire nuclear weapons very soon," Cheney told the VFW in Nashville in August, 2002.
Cheney also lowered an Iron Curtain of secrecy around the Bush regime. As John Dean writes in "Worse Than Watergate"(Warner Books), Bush-Cheney secrecy "is extreme---not merely unjustified and excessive but obsessive." Dean notes, "It has given us a presidency that operates on hidden agendas. To protect their secrets, Bush and Cheney dissemble as a matter of policy."As U.S. News reported in December, 2003, the Bush-Cheney actions are "a reversal of a decades-long trend of openness in government."
According to Weiner, six days after 9/11 President Bush issued a secret directive to the CIA ordering it to hunt down and interrogate suspects the world over. "It set no limits on what the agency could do," Weiner wrote. "It was the foundation for a system of secret prisons where CIA officers and contractors used techniques that include torture." And just in case the CIA questioned whoskippered the ship, Cheney would call its Inspector General into his office, an unprecedented violation of that supposedly independent post.
Upon becoming Vice President, his powerled many observers tosee Cheney as a "co-president." Author Dean wrote, "Dick Cheney, effectively a co-president incognito, works behind closed doors and does not answer to Congress or the public." Noam Chomsky wrote in 2006 in his book "Failed States"(Metropolitan/Owl), "The Cheney-Rumsfeld team for which Bush is the front man has shown repeatedly that it is obsessed with authority and discipline." That Cheney did run the show is suggested by the fact that, "with the apparent exception of Rice, it was Cheney who did the appointing (of top personnel), not Bush," James Carroll noted in his "House of War"(Houghton Mifflin).
After 9/11, the Bush regime scrapped due process rights for captured suspects. Cheney said his new legal approach "guarantees that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve"---an incredible prejudgment as only a tiny handful of suspects ever saw the inside of a courtroom. Author Carroll asserts Cheney had no less ambitious scheme in mind than "world domination through overwhelming military superiority, with special emphasis on unfettered access to oil"" Carroll says, "Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the rest have on their hands the blood"of each young American killed, and the blood of many thousands of Iraqis----all those who have died and will die in that misbegotten war." Prisoners were just pawns to Cheney, not human beings.
Given this pattern of criminality, a probe into Cheney's alleged directive to the CIA to withhold information from Congress might appear comparatively trivial. But just as Al Capone was convicted and imprisoned for tax evasion rather than his killings, examining Cheney for deceiving Congress could open the dungeon door to other dark secrets. For example, it was Cheney after 9/11 who backed an alliance with Uzbekistan, even if it tied the U.S. to President Islam Karimov's infamous torture regime. What took place there?
Historical note: if the CIA took criminal orders from the White House, it wouldn't be the first time. Author Weiner recounts a January, 1975, meeting at which President Ford discouraged New York Times editors from writing about the CIA's past. Ford said, "the reputation of every president since Harry Truman could be ruined if the deepest secrets spilled. "Like what?' an editor asked. "Like assassinations!' Ford said."
And if he did give the CIA crooked advice, "he broke the law and violated his oath of office," The Nation magazine says of Cheney in its August 3rd issue. "News reports outlined how Cheney had ordered the agency to keep the House and Senate intelligence committees in the dark," the weekly said, adding that Attorney General Eric Holder has "signaled a new openness to investigating the Bush regime's interrogation practices."
"Such an inquiry would focus on abuses other than the covert CIA program, but the constant appears to be Cheney, whose office has repeatedly been linked to the previous administration's torture fetish," The Nation said, adding, "It is clear that inquiries should proceed on all fronts, not from a desire to "get Cheney' but from recognition that accountability is necessary if we are to restore the system of checks and balances."And the only way to prevent any repetition "is to hold him fully to account. Anything less would lend dangerous legitimacy to Cheney's imperial project," The Nation said. Americans need to know the truth about Cheney---and act on it.
(Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based reporter who writes on political and military subjects. To comment on this article or support his research contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org).