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The Significance of Dick Cheney, Part II

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In Part 1 of this two-part series, I briefly reviewed what are perhaps the four most significant elements of the "Cheney Legacy:" the War on Afghanistan, the War on Iraq, the principle that Presidents can violate the Constitution at their pleasure as long as they claim to do so "in the interests of national security" (in Cheney's case through the establishment of the use of torture as national policy such use violates Article VI), and also most important, the attempt to establish Permanent War or at least the Permanent Preparation for Permanent War as the central element of US government policy.

911: President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney in President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), 09/11/2001.  Just wondering.  Are those titles reversed?  In any case, is Bush saying, .you did what?!?.
911: President George W. Bush and Vice President Cheney in President's Emergency Operations Center (PEOC), 09/11/2001. Just wondering. Are those titles reversed? In any case, is Bush saying, .you did what?!?.
(Image by The U.S. National Archives)
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There are certainly other elements in the "Cheney Legacy." Not particularly in order of importance, one could start the list with the "outing" of the former CIA agent Valerie Plame. This was done in apparent retaliation for the revelation by her husband, Joseph Wilson, that the Nigeria-"Yellow Cake-Saddam Hussein story was a complete fabrication. Committing such an act violated several laws, but of course Cheney hid behind subordinates like "Scooter" Libby and was never held to account for his action. The continued use of the 9/11 tragedy to promote fear over the whole country. In his current attack on President Obama Cheney is specifically use fear-mongering as a central element in that attack.

Then there are the current top-three GOP-termed "scandals:" the "IRS," the VA (which is a scandal, but just not how the GOP defines the term), and of course "Benghazi." The three attacks have in common the use of lies and distortions designed to attack the opposition political party, not to find any solutions to the problems raised. Finally there is the Cheney principle of the Privatization of Government, including or perhaps beginning with the military and intelligence services. Any way that traditional government can be turned to enable profit-making by the private sector is, in Cheney's eyes a good thing. One of the ironies of that policy is that if Edward Snowden had remained as a government employee rather than working for a private intelligence contractor, it is possible that he might have a) not decided to make the revelations that he has, and b) might not have had the opportunity to do so.

But in terms of the historical significance of Dick Cheney, it is none of these above specifics, as important as each them is as an element of national policy. It is, rather, what Dick Cheney represents. Any government is the creature of the "ruling class" of the time, that is the owners and major operators of the major sectors of the economy. From the time of the beginning of the Republic, the United States has always followed this pattern. The legislative and executive branches of the Federal government have always been under the control of the top operators of the economy, and it is those branches of the government which determine the composition of the judiciary. "Citizens United" has made this pattern much more apparent (while at the same time shielding the identities of many of the individual donors) and in some cases more bizarre, but it represents a quantitative, not a qualitative change.

For the most part, the persons who are the ruling class and those in the government who do their bidding are usually different. Dick Cheney's principal significance is that unlike any other politician whose name comes readily to mind (and perhaps commentators on this column will come up with other examples), Cheney, as the former President of one the largest operating companies, Halliburton, in one of most dominant sectors of the US economy, the fossil fuels industry, combined both in one person. He was a major element in the ruling class at the same time that he was major element in the Federal government, at least during George W. Bush's first term. Just consider the example that as Vice-President-elect, this top petroleum industry executive convened a meeting of other top executives form the industry, and their top lobbyists, to draw up a plan for industry policy for the then next four-to-eight years. And to this day, the proceedings of that meeting have been kept secret. Some have asked whether the plan might have included a commitment to invade Iraq in order to gain direct access to the major oil reserves that lie under that country. Well, to this day, we don't know and won't unless someday a President is elected who decides to unlock those files. (Of course, Obama could have chosen to do so, but didn't. But that, along what Obama didn't do to deal with many criminals of various types, in the previous administration, is another story.)

As I said in Part 1 of this series, if you want to embody what has become the Military-Industrial-Fossil-Fuels Complex in one person, Cheney is as good as any other. He is fighting very hard to maintain its present hammerlock on the political economy of the United States. This explains, as I also said in the previous column, why just now, once again, he has come to the defense of himself and the policies that he has made in his now-famous diatribe against President Obama published recently in the Wall Street Journal. It was entitled "The Collapsing Obama Doctrine: Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."

Cheney is very worried about what might happen in the 2016 Presidential election. We are starting to see the possible emergence of a wing of the ruling class that is opposed to current policy as it is being set in large part by the Republican-dominated Congress, serving the interests of the present-dominant wing of the ruling class. We are also seeing the possible emergence of a possible Presidential candidate who could be supported by that opposing wing: Sen. Elizabeth Warren. A more extensive discussion of these developments will be the subject of one or more columns in the future. But for now, Cheney, with a major foot still in the presently-dominant wing of the ruling class as well as a political presence that refuses to go away, is fighting hard to maintain the control that his wing presently has. Bashing Obama is just one arrow in his quiver. This man is not going to go quietly into the good night. After all, there is simply too much power to still have and too many interests to still defend for that to happen.

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Steven Jonas, MD, MPH, MS is a Professor Emeritus of Preventive Medicine at StonyBrookMedicine (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 35 books. In addition to his position on OpEdNews as a "Trusted Author," he is a Senior Editor, (more...)
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