August 30, 2011
Cheney Defends the Indefensible in New Book
Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir “In My Time” was released today (just a week from the tenth anniversary of 9/11), and he’s been out promoting it, on Dateline last night and The Today Show this morning. As you might expect, Cheney is doing his best to justify the terrible, and sometimes illegal things the Bush administration did in the name of fighting terrorism. But the facts just don’t add up. Cheney vociferously defends the use of “harsh” or “enhanced” interrogation, saying on The Today Show, “I was a big advocate of pursuing controversial policies in order to keep the country safe.” Substitute the phrase “illegal, ineffective and un-American” for “controversial” and you get a little closer to the truth. To be clear, the interrogation techniques Cheney is defending include forms of torture outlawed under both U.S. and international law. Not only are they illegal, but the techniques (including waterboarding) Cheney advocates are ineffective according to professional interrogators, including those whose work led to Saddam Hussein and Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq. General David Petraeus opposes torture, saying over and over that we need to live our values as Americans, and noting that the evidence of these abuses are “nonbiodegradable” in their negative effect on our war effort and in their ability to inspire our enemy. Retired General Charles Krulak, former Commandant of the Marine Corps, opposes torture too: Cheney claims that terrorist detainees don’t deserve to have the protections that the Geneva Conventions extend to them. But the Supreme Court disagreed in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, and the Geneva Conventions require humane treatment and fair trials for all detainees, whether they are entitled to Prisoners of War status or not. Cheney also clings to the talking point that those who remained in Guantanamo after the Bush administration were “the worst of the worst.” He made the same claim years before in 2005. But between 2005 and the end of the Bush administration, over 200 more detainees were released. Maybe he should throw another “worst” in there for effect. If these men are so dangerous, let’s put them on trial and bring them to justice. Speaking of which, our U.S. federal court system also gets the Cheney revision treatment, being deemed “not suited for the trial of enemy combatants,” when compared to the military commissions at Guantanamo. According to Cheney, federal courts “couldn’t provide the safeguards in terms of security or protection of classified information that a military commission could.” In fact, federal courts have convicted over 400 people in terrorism-related cases since 9/11 (compared to six in military commissions), and none of those federal courts have faced any retaliatory attack. And the “protection of classified information” in military commissions that Cheney lauds is actually based on the robust set of rules in federal courts. Cheney is wrong a lot in “In My Time.” He is wrong when he says that American values were not sacrificed in the war on terror. Under Cheney’s watch, we have tortured detainees, we have imprisoned thousands without due process, we have forced some prisoners through a system of military trials that mocks justice. He is also wrong when he claims that these policies made us safer. From inspiring violence to delaying interrogations to tarnishing America’s image as a beacon of human rights, the fact is that the policies Cheney defends in “In My Time” are indefensible.