On Meet the Press yesterday, Dick Cheney began his gig by saying “It’s good to be back.” I’m sure it was. Meet the Press has long been good to Cheney. Time after time, he has fouled the air with his lies, yet, inexplicably, the show’s bookers keep bringing him back for more. “Liberal” media indeed.
His mission yesterday, of course, was to defend torture – and to denounce the Senate report for its public documentation of torture. No surprise there. Cheney being Cheney, you expect him to stand tall for brutality. Somebody has to defend the Bush administration’s tattered legacy, and since W. won’t do it, the dirty job falls to his ostensible number two.
Actually, what bugged me most was Cheney’s tired recycling of his most fundamental lie. We’ll get to that soon, a few paragraphs south. But, first, about the torture report:
Cheney said he didn’t care a whit that dozens of innocents were tortured (“I have no problem as long as we achieve out objective”); he refused to say whether he believed that handcuffing someone’s wrists to an overheard bar for 22 hours a day, and forcing that person to soil a diaper, was acceptable (“I can’t tell from that specific whether it was or not”); he played Orwellian word games when asked whether shoving pureed food up someone’s rectum was acceptable (“It wasn’t torture in terms of it wasn’t part of the program”).
Cheney refused to say what interrogation techniques he deems to be unacceptable. He said that his definition of torture is what terrorists did on 9/11 (“it’s what 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters did to 3000 Americans”). As unspeakably horrid as that day was – and we all join Cheney in mourning that day – this means that Cheney is fine with any torture technique short of flying a plane into a building. That gives him a whole lot of flex. No wonder rectal feeding seems like chump change.
He also insisted that the torture has yielded valuable intel about terrorist plots (“it absolutely worked”) – even though current CIA director John Brennan, who was also a top agency official in the Bush administration, says otherwise. Brennan, last Thursday: “We have not concluded that it was the use of EITs (enhanced interrogation techniques) within the program that allowed us to obtain useful information from detainees subjected to them.” As to whether the torture worked, Brennan said it’s “unknowable.”
But the thing is, Dick Cheney always Knows. His brand is blind certitude – “There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” “We will in fact be greeted as liberators,” and the rest of his greatest hits – yet Meet the Press continues to indulge him. Which brings me to yesterday’s most groan-worthy moment.
At one point, host Chuck Todd asked Cheney whether he has any regrets about toppling Saddam Hussein. Cheney naturally said no, because Hussein “had previously had twice nuclear programs going. He produced and used weapons of mass destruction. And he had a ten-year relationship with Al Qaeda.” (Italics are mine.)
For more than a decade on Meet the Press, Cheney has been peddling variations of that lie – the lie that Hussein plotted 9/11 with Al Qaeda – in order to justify the ruinous invasion of Iraq. And he’s still doing it. And his hosts are still letting him get away with it.
Most notoriously, in December 2001 and in September 2002, Cheney said on the show that it was “pretty well confirmed” that 9/11 ringleader Mohamed Atta had met in Prague with a Saddam secret agent “several months before the attack.” Actually, it had not been confirmed. As the bipartisan 9/11 Commission reported in 2004, the Atta-Hussein connection had been nothing more than a rumor.
The 9/11 Commission said that Al Qaeda and the Hussein regime had occasionally communicated over the years, but “we have seen no evidence that these contacts ever developed into a collaborative operational relationship. Nor have we seen any evidence indicating that Iraq cooperated with Al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States.”
Three years later, in 2007, a report by the Pentagon’s Joint Forces Command reached the same conclusion. There was ” no ‘smoking gun’ between Saddam’s Iraq and Al Qaeda,” the defense analysts wrote, because Saddam and Al Qaeda didn’t trust each other. “To the fundamentalist leadership of Al Qaeda, Saddam represented the worst kind of ‘apostate’ regime. A secular police state well practiced in suppressing internal challenges.”
If a “liberal” media outpost like Meet the Press persists in putting Cheney on the air, the least it should do is fact-check him by quoting the 9/11 Commission and the Pentagon report. Giving him free rein to lie yet again – in support of a long-discredited war rationale – is arguably far worse than giving him the mic to make the case for torture.
By the way, on the topic of torture, here’s a U.S. president urging Senate approval of a U.N. treaty known as the Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment and Punishment: “The United States participated actively and effectively in the negotiation….It marks a significant step in the development during this century of international measures against torture and other inhuman treatment or punishment. Ratification will clearly express United States opposition to torture, an abhorrent practice unfortunately still prevalent in the world today.”
So said one of Cheney’s heroes: Ronald Reagan.
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