Thursday, September 1, 2011

The Devil's in the Details

I heard this morning that the forward for Dick Cheney’s new book, In My Time, was written by Satan.

Just kidding of course.  Satan doesn’t write forwards, though he might have stood at Cheney’s shoulder during the writing of the memoir, offering reminders about how things went down during their time together in the Bush administration. 

Again, a joke.  Too easy I know.  I should be ashamed. 

It’s just hard to look at Mr. Cheney while he confirms that he advocated the torture, excuse me, “enhanced interrogation” of prisoners of war in US custody on his watch.  It was the right thing to do, he says.  It was “safe, legal, and effective.”  Safe for whom is unclear.  Legal unless you’re bound by United Nations’ regulations.  (Cheney would be arrested if he were to stray into Europe.)  Even its effectiveness is in question.

Nevertheless, he says he’d do it again.  Without hesitation. 

OK then.  How about this:  Other foot.  Gander and goose.  Is it OK for our enemies to torture US citizens they have in custody if they are suspected to be spies?  No, says Cheney.  “We would object.”  He implies he expects US citizens to be treated according to the aforementioned rules of the UN.   

But…but….isn’t that a contradiction?  What about turnabout?  We didn’t “interrogate” American citizens, says the Dark One.  We only water-boarded 2 or 3 prisoners who were not US citizens. 

Oh.  Well then.  What’s all the fuss about?  Haven’t yet heard John McCain’s take on Cheney’s do si do. 

Word has it that Cheney drove Bush into the war with Iraq.  He doesn’t deny it.  Bush was on the fence about Sadam for too long in his opinion when, according to NBC News, Cheney turned to him and said, paraphrasing, “Are you going to take this guy out, or what?” 

Asked about the 4,000 American lives lost in Iraq (not to mention the uncounted, devastating, life-changing injuries), the 100,000+ Iraqi casualties, and the $1trillion cost of the war, Cheney says without equivocation – worth it.  To him, I guess. 

Of course, what else can he say?  It wouldn’t do for him to express remorse now even if he felt it.  That would be tantamount to serial killers caught and convicted who then apologize for their crimes.  Just doesn’t cut it.  Of course we’re also outraged if they show no shame or repentance.  What’s a poor serial killer to do? 

While memoirs are by nature introspective, Cheney’s cannot offer up insights gained from self-reflection since he does not engage in it.  In hindsight he instead looks outward, assuming credit for saving Americans from further “mass casualty” attacks, the demise of Qaddafi, and by extension it would seem, the entire Arab spring. 

During a pre-release interview Cheney responded to questions about how his book would be received in Washington.  He said with a chuckle, “Heads will explode all over town.” 

The New York Times allows that most Washington memoirs follow a pattern:  The author explains the events that transpired during his or her time in office according to the “I was right and if they agreed with me, they were right too” doctrine.  It naturally follows that “If they didn’t agree with me, they were idiots.”  The difference with Cheney is the bluntness of his declarations. 

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell appeared on Face the Nation saying Cheney’s marketing hyperbole and “cheap shots” are more expected of a gossip columnist or a grocery store tabloid than a former vice president of the United States of America.  Guess Powell didn’t agree with Cheney back in the day. 

Cheney admits to revealing the content of private conversations with then-President Bush, Condoleeza Rice, and others, shrugging his shoulders saying he can’t see how they would feel betrayed.  Indeed. 

It’s certain that Cheney relishes in his characterization as the most powerful vice president in US history.  He even called up the moniker “Darth Vader” when his interviewer failed to mention it.  

Dick Cheney’s role in our history is secured.  Historians will pour over his words, those of Secretaries Powell and Rice, and certainly those of former President George W. Bush, piecing together a dispassionate chronology and even an objective assessment of the impacts of all these players on the world stage.  Cost-benefits analysis.  Means and ends.  Hindsight with wave-length laser surgery. 

Who writes the afterword remains to be seen.