Rutland Herald and Montpelier (Barre) Times Argus

Sunday December 21st, 2014 

Former Vice President Dick Cheney was once identified in a Washington Post editorial as Mr. Torture.  Cheney will have been gratified to see the new Washington Post-ABC News poll this past week showing that a majority of Americans now think that the CIA’s harsh interrogation techniques used on terrorist suspects were justified. They did so by a margin of 59 percent to 31 percent. This new poll shows a clear ideological split on the subject of torture. For example, while 82 percent of conservative Republicans support the CIA’s actions as justifiable, only 38 percent of liberal Democrats did so.

About half of those polled considered the CIA’s brutal tactics tantamount to torture. Yet nearly six in ten Americans said the torture of suspected terrorists can be justified “sometimes” or “often.” And the vast majority of those who supported the use of torture said they believed it had produced valuable intelligence.

This all flies in the face of the of the recent withering Senate Intelligence Committee investigation into the CIA’s detention and interrogation program, which began under President George W. Bush after 9/11 and was ended by President Barak Obama in 2009.

In significant measure, this new poll reflects the views of Dick Cheney, who was back on Meet the Press, some thirteen years after he appeared on that program to tell Americans that the government might have to go to “the dark side” to deal with those responsible for the tragedy of 9/11. This was how the New York Times, began its report on Cheney’s latest Meet the Press performance:

“As vice-president, Dick Cheney was the most enthusiastic sponsor for the brutal CIA interrogation program used on al Qaeda suspects. Now that a Senate Intelligence Committee report has declared that the CIA’s methods violated American values and produced little or no useful intelligence, Mr. Cheney is fiercely defending, not just the agency’s record, but his own as well.”

Cheney remains unrepentant. “I would do it again in a minute,” he said emphatically on NBC, while totally denying that waterboarding and other harsh methods constituted torture.

I would hate to believe these new polls, in any true sense, represent a vindication of Dick Cheney, or mean that a majority of Americans support his failed policies or his values.

For those who don’t know, or have forgotten, let me remind you of some of Cheney’s history.

First and foremost, Cheney was the driving force behind the invasion of Iraq – even before 9/11. He is the man who deliberately misled the country about the vital threat of Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction; the man who promised that American troops would be welcomed by the Iraqis as “liberators.”

Yet this man who schemed to take the country to war, was the classic “chicken-hawk.” When the United States was at war in the 1960s, Cheney received four student draft deferments. When they ran out, he got married. When the war heated up and the Selective Service commission decided childless married men could be drafted, Cheney’s wife Lynne became pregnant. In her first trimester he applied for and received still another exemption. The child was born exactly nine months and two days after the draft rules had been changed to include married men without children.

 When Cheney appeared at his Senate confirmation hearings to become President George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense, he was asked why he had failed to serve in the military. Cheney answered that he “would have been happy to serve had I been called.” Seeking five deferments doesn’t exactly imply being “happy to serve.” With considerably more frankness Cheney later told the Washington Post, “I had other priorities in the ‘60s than military service.”

In the 1980s Cheney was elected to Congress where his record included the following votes: against abortion rights; against the Equal Rights amendment; against funding for Head Start and the creation of the Department of Education; against the imposition of sanctions on the apartheid regime in South Africa; against the ban on armor piercing bullets (the so- called cop killers); against the ban on plastic guns that could escape detection by airport security systems; against refunding the Clean Water Act; against legislation to require oil and chemical industries to make public, records of their emissions known to cause cancer, birth defects and other chronic diseases.

As Defense Secretary, Cheney’s most significant act was the privatization of the military- or to put it another way – the creation of a private army of mercenaries. They call them “contractors” and at one time during the Iraq War, they outnumbered regular troops two to one. They played by their own rules and often were paid huge amounts more for the same jobs as those serving in the regular military.

How did this happen? The company that was paid ten million dollars by Cheney’s Pentagon to do a feasibility study of privatization, concluded (surprise, surprise) it was a great idea, and was given the first lucrative contract to put the new system into place. You may have heard of that company - it’s called Halliburton, considered the world’s largest oil and gas services company. Oh, and by the way, Halliburton was the place where Cheney landed as its CEO, after he left the Defense Department.

Cheney was paid $44 million for his services to Halliburton. After he became vice president, he claimed to have “severed all my ties with the company.”  However Jane Meyer of the New Yorker subsequently reported that Cheney was receiving deferred compensation of $150,000 a year, plus stock options worth $18 million. Meantime it is widely believed that during Cheney’s tenure, it’s hardly a coincidence that Halliburton, and its then subsidiary KBR, became the biggest private contractors for American forces.

No matter what the present polls may say, Cheney’s views on torture are far outside the mainstream of America’s historic values. And at another time, when a war’s victors sat in judgment of the defeated, he would almost certainly have been tried as a war criminal.

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