No man in the 200 year history of the United States has embodied the "banality of evil" as thoroughly as Dick Cheney; a dumpy, mid-level bureaucrat who ascended the political ladder through hardnosed calculation and cold-blooded vindictiveness. Cheney would be fine behind the counter of a fast-food restaurant snarling at the help and flaunting his authority, but as Vice President he's been a dead-loss.
His appearance on Capital Hill last week only confirms his moral vacuity and contempt for decency. Cheney addressed the Senate in a closed door session and made an "impassioned" plea to continue the "cruel, degrading, and inhuman" treatment of prisoners in American concentration camps sprinkled across the globe. His arguments follow the twisted logic of Harvard attorney Alan Dershowitz, who claims that state-sponsored atrocities like torture can be justified if they produce greater security. Cheney's appeal should be seriously considered, after all, this is the warped rationale that underscores the entire war on terror; the end justifies the means. We can see where this thinking inevitably leads by the appalling photos from Abu Ghraib and the reports of starving victims at Guantanamo Bay. These are the fetid sites where Cheney's theories are put into practice.
The testimony of Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell's former chief of staff, has clarified Cheney's role as the mastermind of America's new torture-regime. Wilkerson stated that, "The Secretary of Defense under cover of the Vice President's office began to authorize procedures within the armed forces that led to what we've seen"There was a visible audit trail from the vice president's office through the secretary of defense down to the commanders in the field." (NPR)
Wilkerson puts Cheney at the epicenter of the torture scandal, a fact that the VP does not deny himself. In fact, he has filled his office with "like-minded" individuals who vigorously defend the president's right to commit any conceivable transgression in the name of national security. His appearance on Capitol Hill identifies him as the driving force behind the present policy and its main champion. His petition to the Senate is in fact a request that we scrap the Constitution, and its explicit defense of human rights, and accept his sordid proposals for state-sanctioned brutality.
Cheney has succeeded in many of his political endeavors, but he's hit a brick wall on torture. The Senate has overwhelmingly rejected his request and created the possibility that the VP could eventually be tried for crimes against humanity. At the very least, Cheney's role as the architect of this onerous policy is bound to come under greater scrutiny, further spotlighting the criminal vagaries of the current regime. It is impossible to anticipate how Cheney will react when he is finally cornered by his own excesses.
From the very begging, Dick Cheney has been entirely devoted to establishing the supreme authority of the presidency. He knew that the Bush was a disengaged poseur whose political acuity never exceeded the melodic bromides fed through his ear-piece. He worked assiduously behind the scenes to overturn long-held treaties, congressional oversight, and constitutional protections. He enthusiastically embraced the policies of unprovoked aggression (preemption) and the indefinite suspension of inalienable rights (enemy combatant). He transformed the existing system, with its many checks and balances, into a personal fiefdom for rewarding venal corporate kingpins with "no bid" contracts and for sluicing billions of tax-payer dollars into the coffers of defense contractors.
More than any politician of his era, Cheney mastered the Machiavellian flair for marshaling public fear into support for unpopular policies. He is the perennial man behind the curtain, a Texas Rasputin, using the public relations hologram, George Bush, to conceal his malevolent ambitions. A skillful puppet-master, Cheney has lurched to the top of the political anthill straddling his Crawford draught-horse.
But, Cheney's political fortunes have taken an unforeseeable dog-leg. The Plame investigation has left the imperial aircraft stalled in mid-flight and Cheney is increasingly vulnerable. Fitzgerald is clearly putting together a case that will either indict the vice president or leave the administration seriously hobbled. In any event, Cheney's power-base will be gravely eroded. So, what's next?
As the Iraq debacle continues to bog-down and drain resources; public support will continue to erode. The media will provide the recriminations in the vein hope that some equally zealous Democrat will assume the mantle of imperial chieftain and lead the way to victory in Iraq. That means that the churlish Cheney is soon to be jettisoned, an unavoidable casualty in a lost campaign.
As we begin to evaluate Cheney's wretched career in the rear-view mirror, we should note the mountain of disgrace he has heaped on the national honor and how he ineptly skippered the US ship-o-state towards its unfortunate demise. Cheney "out-Kissingered" Kissinger; dragging the nation into a catastrophic war and ruining its prospects for the future. Historians will undoubtedly look back on this period and marvel at the fact that a power-mad vulgarian, with an insatiable appetite for cruelty, became the most powerful man on earth.