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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 5/11/09

Three Worst Reasons to Delay Putting Cheney in Prison

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#1: Cheney says that he and Bush ordered torture but did nothing wrong.

On Sunday, Cheney said: "The fact of the matter is that these [torture] techniques that we're talking about are used on our own people. In the SERE program that in effect trains our people with respect to capture and evasion and so forth, and escape, a lot of them go through these same exact procedures."

If this were true, participants in the SERE program would be kidnapped and tortured by people willing to kill them. They would be waterboarded believing they might be drowned. This would be done upwards of 100 times. They would be hung by their wrists, beaten, electroshocked, deprived of sleep, stripped naked and exposed to cold, attacked by dogs, slammed against walls, kept in isolation, and in many cases killed, in many other cases driven insane.

"Once we [waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed 183 times] he produced vast quantities of invaluable information about al Qaeda," Cheney said, while failing in multiple interviews to cite a single example of such information that has not already been debunked. The same people fall for this sort of claim as fell for this one: "Iraq continues to conceal quantities, vast quantities, of highly lethal material and weapons to deliver it." (Colin Powell, January, 2003). In both cases, the supposed evidence is classified. In both cases, the existence of that evidence and truth of the claim would do absolutely nothing to legalize the action being defended, be it aggressive war or torture.

#2: Harry Reid said last week that if we wait six more months for the Senate Intelligence Committee's report to whitewash the torture story, it'll be easier then to avoid legally required prosecutions of people like Cheney.

According to Reid's way of thinking, Democrats will be able to campaign against torture in future elections even while condoning it, and isn't electing more people like Reid more important than actually ending torture by enforcing the laws against it?

Reid: Something everyone has to weigh is this, we're a nation of laws and no one can dispute that, but I think what we have to, the hurdle we have to get over is whether we want to go after people like Cheney. That's a decision that has to be made....
Christiane Brown: ...Isn't it our obligation if he's violated the law ... ?
Reid: There are a lot of decisions that are made that are right that may not be absolutely totally within the framework of law. For example with President Nixon....

Try This at Home: "But, officer, surely you don't want me to stay totally within the framework of law."

#3: Elizabeth de la Vega says that if we delay, even though we have overwhelming evidence now in the public realm, we'll have even more evidence to work with. And Obama secretly wants to prosecute his predecessors despite everything he's said and done for years now.

These three opinions line up in wanting more delay and more information:

Cheney: "If we're going to have this debate it ought to be a complete debate."

Reid: "No matter how I personally feel about torture, I think that we, as you've indicated, that we are a nation of law. And that's why we have to get the facts."

De la Vega: "There is rich disagreement about particulars, but - in broad terms, at least - I think it's fair to say that the goals are: (1) a cohesive and irrefutable public narrative of the criminal activity; (2) an opportunity for victims to be heard in an open forum; (3) and accountability for the perpetrators of these crimes, from Bush and Cheney on down."

I don't think that's fair at all and is at the very least stated in the reverse order. Many Americans want accountability in order to deter repetition. Narratives and victims' statements do not accomplish that. De la Vega is neither a criminal like Cheney, nor a corrupt spineless collaborator like Reid. She's a former federal prosecutor who wants people like Cheney prosecuted. So there is a danger that people will actually take her opinion seriously. They shouldn't.

De la Vega is a prosecutor, not a politician, not a historian, and not an activist. She believes that it is just as likely that people like Cheney will be prosecuted years from now as it is that they will be prosecuted soon. She believes it is just as likely that the whole gang will be prosecuted in one giant conspiracy case as it is that people like Bybee and Yoo will go down before Cheney and Bush are indicted. She believes, or at least considers it possible, that the U.S. Justice Department intends to enforce the law and is in fact delaying in order to acquire more evidence. She believes not only that decisions to prosecute shouldn't be based on political pressure, but that in fact they are not.

Here's de la Vega's fantasy view of Obama and Holder:

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David Swanson is the author of "When the World Outlawed War," "War Is A Lie" and "Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union." He blogs at and and works for the online (more...)
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