Cheney’s tangled web

    Seriously, folks, a Dick Cheney memoir? Haven’t we already filled our quota of summer fiction?The Cheney tome, set for official release on Tuesday, is called In My Time, but, as evidenced by the savage early reviews, it probably should be titled In My Crime. I don’t mean that in the literal sense, although some legal critics do insist he’s a war criminal. I mean that solely in the figurative sense, because it’s a moral crime to repeatedly lie in the service of committing a nation to a disastrous war – and it’s a moral crime to subsequently refuse to own up to those lies.Cheney reportedly writes that “the liberation of Iraq” was “one of the most significant accomplishments of George Bush’s presidency,” and that tells you plenty about his tone and attitude. Cheney ’11 is identical to Cheney ’02. Outside the small cadre of bitter-end Cheney devotees, I can’t imagine why anyone at this point would want to fork over $35 to hear him chant that archaic pro-war catechism. Or to indulge, yet again, his belief that he was always right and everyone else was always wrong. Or to discover that he’s still in a state of denial about the lies and deceptions that he inflicted on the American people during his drumbeat campaign for the invasion of Iraq. The book reviewers have searched in vain for any shred of self-reflection. Big surprise. Cheney even defends the long-documented ’03 State of the Union falsehood about how Saddam Hussein had purportedly sought to buy uranium in Africa. He still insists, even now, that “the sixteen words were true.”I assume that the alternative-reality crowd will love this book, even though it was penned by the intel cherry-picker who declared in August ’02, “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction.” (Italics are mine.) My advice is, skip the book and simply consider the following episode, which tells you all you need know about our serial dissembler:On Dec. 9, 2001, in the early phase of the PR pitch for an Iraq invasion, Cheney sought to pre-justify the future war by linking Saddam Hussein to 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta. On Meet the Press, Cheney said of Atta: “It’s been pretty well confirmed that he did go to Prague and he did meet with a senior official of the Iraqi intelligence service in Czechoslovakia last April, several months before the attack.”In reality, Cheney had seized on a tip from Czech officials – a tip unconfirmed by U.S. intelligence at the time – and tried to peddle it as settled fact. Predictably, the Prague yarn was pronounced dead six months later, in April 2002, when Newsweek reported: “The Czechs quietly acknowledged that they may have been mistaken about the whole thing. U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials now believe that Atta wasn’t even in Prague at the time the Czechs claimed.”But, characteristically, Cheney stuck with his yarn anyway. On Sept. 8, 2002, Cheney floated it anew, again on Meet the Press. “There has been reporting that suggests, of course, Mohamed Atta, who was the lead hijacker, did apparently travel to Prague on a number of occasions. And on at least one occasion we have reporting that places him in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official a few months before the attack on the World Trade Center.” (Note the clever wording: “there has been reporting…on at least one occasion we have reporting…”)But Cheney’s yarn was again rebuked, this time officially, in June 2004, when the bipartisan 9/11 Commission knocked it down: “We have examined the allegation that Atta met with an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague on April 9 (2001). Based on the evidence available – including investigation by Czech and U.S. officials, plus detainee reporting – we do not believe that such a meeting occurred.”Did Cheney ever subsequently admit that he had been wrong? Surely you jest. Shortly after the 9/11 Commission rendered its verdict, Cheney surfaced on CBS News, where he was asked to explain himself. The question: “Let’s get to Mohamed Atta for a minute…You have said in the past that it (the Saddam link) was, quote, ‘pretty well confirmed.'”Cheney’s response: “No, I never said that. I never said that…Absolutely not.”What effrontery. He twice goes on national TV to hype a yarn that was specious to begin with – and then, after he’s conclusively outed by the 9/11 Commission, he denies on camera that he ever hyped it in the first place. Even though his original hyping had also been twice captured on camera. Basically, he lied about his lie. By the way, the phony Atta-Hussein yarn was dismissed again, this time by the Pentagon, in a comprehensive 2008 report. But you’ll search Cheney’s memoir in vain for any mea culpa. Character is destiny, and apologias are not in his character. So why plow through a 565-page stonewall, when the guy can be summed up in a single line, courtesy of the Scottish poet Sir Walter Scott?”Oh what a tangled web we weave, when we first practice to deceive.”——-I talked national politics for an hour this morning on WHYY’s “Radio Times.” You can listen here.——- I’m slated for another Live Chat at 1 p.m. Monday. Link details will be posted that morning. Until then, best of luck with the hurricane.——-Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1

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