Posts Tagged ‘Cheney’

I never supported the Iraq war. I believe the entire affair was no more than a vendetta instigated by George Bush against Saddam  Hussein. Perhaps it was due to Saddam’s failed assassination attempt against George Bush Senior. Who knows? It certainly wasn’t about weapons of mass destruction. Nor was it about the “War on Terror”. Whatever the reason that Bush/Cheney had for it, they waged a war that caused the loss of many American soldier’s lives. Similarly, the war in Afghanistan is also questionable. After all, nearly all of the Al Qaeda terrorists who commandeered the aircraft on September 11th were from Saudi Arabia. One might think it would have made more sense to retaliate against Saudi Arabia – Osama bin Laden’s homeland. However, in the odd workings of the Bush/Cheney mind – the mind that condoned torture of prisoners, illegal wiretaps on American citizens, and the use of trials by military tribunals for people suspected of supporting terrorists, instead of using the U.S. justice system – America freely attacked two countries without cause. (It doesn’t make sense to say that America attacked Afghanistan because they had trained Osama bin Laden because it was America that had taught the Afghans these same tactics. In essence it was almost as if America had trained Osama bin Laden.

Once the wars began, George Bush/Cheney was anxious to hide the cost of war – American war dead from the American people. Thus the war dead were brought to Dover Air Force base in secret with no news coverage. The American people were not to know the human cost of the war – George Bush had learned that lesson from the Vietnam war. He knew that by managing the news the American people could be kept under control. He didn’t need any demonstrations in the streets.

There was, however, another problem for George Bush/Cheney.  What should be done with unidentified body parts of dead soldiers? For example, suppose a young Army volunteer soldier steps on a land mine and get blown into dozens of pieces? Or what about the soldiers who are flying to a battle and their helicopter crashes and they are burned beyond recognition? Or what should Bush/Cheney do about the soldier who takes a direct hit from a mortar shell and is split into three or four pieces? Should the military hold funerals for these people? It seems that Bush/Cheney decided that wasn’t necessary because by virtue of being dismembered these young men were no longer people – they were “medical waste”. Bush/Cheney apparently decided that the best thing to do with the remaining pieces of the young volunteer soldiers was to just throw them into the dump in Virginia.

So they did. The remains – i.e. arms, legs, fingers – whatever – were simply incinerated and literally dumped into a landfill, along with the garbage. That, apparently, is what hospitals do with “medical waste”, and it seems that is what America’s volunteer soldiers had become – medical waste. A sort of road kill – that’s all. And the government didn’t bother to tell the families of the soldiers what they had done. The complete lack of honor accorded to these soldiers by the U.S. government is horrific. The treating of war dead as garbage is reminiscent of the utter lack of humanity in the Nazi concentration camps. It smacks of the depravity of Pol Pot in Cambodia. It sends a clear message of a government that has lost its soul and humanity – it has simply become a heartless killing machine caring nothing for those on whom it drops its bombs and caring just as little for American soldiers who get shredded into pieces while fighting for…for…I wonder – just what are they fighting for?

So where is the outrage from President Obama? Where are the voices of Congress? Where is the American Legion? It was a news story for a day. OK, everyone. Let’s move on to the next thing. And so it goes in today’s America. No one is accountable. The desecration of the war dead is of little to no interest to the public. Life goes on. I wonder what’s at the movies this weekend…

Bring on the bread and circuses! Ave imperator! Moritori te salutant!

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The stories are everywhere.  Dick Cheney ordered the CIA not to tell Congress what they were doing with respect to a particular assignment they had been given by him. It seems that the Dark Lord felt he couldn’t trust the members of Congress to keep this darkest of secrets.  Maybe Dick felt that the Congressional people weren’t loyal enough Americans – at least not as loyal as he is.  Or maybe he felt that they couldn’t be entrusted with information so essential to the security of the country. After all, they were only the elected representatives of the people of the United States.  The problem is that there is a law that requires the President to disclose to the appropriate Congressional committees just what covert actions are being taken by the CIA or any other government agency.

The law also says that in extraordinary circumstances the reporting can be limited to just a few individuals in Congress, such as the Chairmen of the Intelligence committees, the Speaker of the House, and so forth.  There is no provision in this law for the President to just keep Congress completely in the dark about any covert action.

Here are a couple of things to consider: 1. What is the role of the Vice President regarding the CIA, according to the Constitution of the United States? That’s pretty simple – he has no role. The Vice-President, under the Constitution has virtually no authority to do anything.  He is the President-in-waiting in case something happens to the real President.  That doesn’t mean he can’t do things on behalf of the President – like carry messages and so forth. But the important thing is that when doing so, he is speaking on behalf of the President.  The Vice-President is not empowered to do anything – except be President of the Senate and vote when there is a tie.  He has no other legal authority.  So, did Dick Cheney authorize or order the CIA not to talk to Congress? He couldn’t authorize such a thing.  If he ordered it, he was ordering it on behalf of President Bush – he was just the messenger.

2. Does the President have the authority to tell the CIA not to divulge covert activities to Congress?  No, he doesn’t. The law is clear. If he thinks the situation warrants it, he can limit the number of people who are informed; however, he has to tell some stipulated members of Congress, otherwise he is in violation of the law.

3. What was the CIA doing that was such a dark secret that only the Dark Lord could know about it? Did they have a super secret plan to assassinate the leaders of Al Qaeda? Was that the darkest of dark secrets that no one could ever know about – especially Congress?  I don’t think so. Wasn’t it fairly obvious when we started carpet bombing Afghanistan with B-52 bombers after 9/11 that we wanted to kill someone? After all these years of taking potshots at suspected Al Qaeda types with Predator drones wouldn’t the Al Qaeda guys have figured out that we were out to kill them?  If we had made a public announcement that besides the U.S. Army, Navy, Marines, and Air Force who were gunning for Al Qaeda that we were also unleashing a couple of guys from the CIA, would that have made any difference to Al Qaeda?  Would they have then suddenly figured out that we were trying to kill them by any means possible?  I don’t buy it.

It does seem that the Dark Lord ordered the CIA not to talk to Congress about something they were doing.  It also seems to me that he had no right to do so, and that he violated the law – once again (I’m referring to the torture thing here, of course).  Of course, a lot of this would never have happened if Congress had any backbone and stood up to Bush and Cheney long ago, instead of just looking the other way. Perhaps now it is finally time for Congress to stand up and do its job.  It’s time for a real and thorough Congressional investigation into what the Dark Lord was doing all those years.  If our elected representatives can’t get up the gumption to do that then we would be forced to admit a terrible truth – we have a pretty sorry excuse for a government.

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Dick Cheney is at it again.  Like an undead vampire he has returned, being interviewed on CNN and once again espousing the virtues of torturing prisoners.  It is in a way surreal.  How can it be that a former U.S. Vice President can advocate a policy that completely disregards human rights?  Under Cheney’s direction the U.S. engaged in a systematic program of capture and torture of people who had suspected Al Qaeda connections.  He claims that through techniques, such as waterboarding (were there also other methods, even more diabolical that we don’t know about?) the U.S. obtained key information that allowed us to preempt terrorist attacks. Unfortunately, all the details of the information and the preemptive strikes are so secret the American people can’t be trusted to know the details of these episodes – even though they are episodes that happened in the past.  Cheney is convinced that it was only through these extraordinary measures that America has been kept safe.  So how come Cheney never used his wonderful torture techniques to find out where Osama bin Laden was hanging out?

It might be instructive to take a brief look at the career of another person who seems to have shared Cheney’s admiration for the use of torture. This person is known today as Vlad the Impaler. Vlad became ruler of a part of Romania, called Wallachia, upon the death of his father. He was confronted by a host of enemies and within a short span of time he had lost and regained his crown three times.  During his main reign, from 1456 to 1462, Vlad attained his reputation for torturing his prisoners. Torture was used for various purposes, but one of the primary purposes was to instill fear in his enemies. Vlad would impale his prisoners on posts and set them outside Wallachia as a warning to attacking armies.  When Sultan Mehmed II attacked Wallachia in 1462 he was faced with the sight of 20,000 impaled Turkish prisoners between him and Vlad’s town.  Mehmed was undeterred and simply drove his army forward and quickly conquered Wallachia.  It seems that Vlad’s practice of extreme torture was ineffective as a deterrent.  It is also likely that any information he obtained by torture was equally useless because it is well known that people under torture will say anything just to make the torture stop.  Confessions given under torture are never admissible as evidence in a court of law.  Today, not many people are familiar with the career of Vlad the Impaler. Most people have never heard his name.  However, almost everyone in the world knows him today by his other name: Vlad Dracula or simply Dracula.  Even for Dracula, torture just never worked as well as he hoped it would.

Getting back to Cheney, our former Vice President is now making the rounds of the news media, asserting that President Obama is making us less safe because he is stopping the torture and extraordinary rendition programs that Cheney the Torturer so loved.  What he fails to mention is that it was during his watch, as Vice President, that this country was attacked.  What he fails to mention is that his beloved torture program failed to lead to the capture of Osama bin Laden.  What he fails to mention is that his torturing of prisoners from Abu Ghraib to Guantanamo to the dark and secret recesses of former Soviet prisons somewhere in Eastern Europe has failed to prevent terrorist attacks in Spain or England.  More importantly, his torturing of prisoners has not stopped thousands and thousands of undocumented people flooding across our border with Mexico throughout his term as Vice President. I wonder if an Al Qaeda terrorist could do that too? So how does Cheney’s program of torture prevent that?

Cheney claims that the U.S. is vulnerable to attack, and he should know.  He methods of torture have been ineffective, his Department of Homeland Security is incompetent, and his war in Iraq irrelevant.  The Pashtun tribes who occupy the border regions between Afganistan and Pakistan are rumored to be helping Osama bin Laden and his buddies, but who can be sure? If we were sure we would capture them, wouldn’t we? The simple fact is that Dick Cheney has looked for Al Qaeda everywhere except where we think Al Qaeda really is. We have sent our armed forces into Iraq and Afghanistan, but no where near the Al Qaeda hideouts.  Cheney and Bush tortured people for seven years and their torture produced no effective result.

These days, Cheney the Torturer is still advocating and justifing torture. So did Vlad the Impaler throughout his life.  The puzzling thing is this: it really didn’t work very well for Vlad, and it clearly didn’t work very well for Cheney either.

Maybe they both liked torture for some other reason.

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In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, the Bush administration determined that if we only had a federal agency charged exclusively with protecting our homeland we could have prevented the terror attacks. As a result they promptly eliminated the rent-a-cops that used to provide security at our airports and replaced them with a uniformed corps of Americans who would be taught to search our luggage far more thoroughly than your average rent-a-cop could ever be trained to do.  However, the new Department of Homeland Security had a mandate to go far beyond simply searching our luggage; they were to be the giant eyes and ears of the government, an all pervading presence that would detect a terrorist the moment his toe crossed our border, and then, a moment later, swoop down sweep the hapless terrorist away to a remote detention facility for “questioning”.

Before 9/11, I had always thought that this role of protecting our homeland had already been sort of given to the Air Force, Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, National Guard, FBI, NSA, CIA, State Police, local police, U.S. Border Patrol, Secret Service, U.S. Marshals, rent-a-cops, and no doubt others that I can’t think of at the moment. However, I was wrong.  Apparently none of the foregoing organizations have the duty of protecting our homeland.  OK.  I understand.  I had it wrong. So, anyway, we created Homeland Security to keep us safe from being infiltrated by enemy terrorists (I won’t mention the other roles they were assigned, like disaster response, for which I am sure they must be equally effective.)

Just to keep us on our toes about the terrorist threat, our recent ex-Vice President, Dick Cheney declared that we face a “high probability” of a nuclear attack or a biological attack in the near future. Whoa!!!  Dick….Dick, wait a minute.  What about Homeland Security? Aren’t they going to prevent that?  I know they can’t stop nuclear-tipped missiles, but those aren’t launched by terrorists. We’re talking about terrorists smuggling in a nuclear device or a biological weapon here, right?  And we don’t really have to be concerned because Homeland Security has that covered, don’t they?  I mean, that’s what they do, isn’t it?

That’s what I thought, but something has started to bother me. It was a recent story about the arrest of a Mexican drug ring in the U.S.  About a week ago 775 people were arrested throughout the U.S. for smuggling cocaine from Mexico.  They were all part of the Sinaloa gang. It seems that this was the culmination of a 21 month surveillance effort by the Mexican authorities, as well as the U.S. and Canada.  Twenty-one months.  I wonder if they caught all the smugglers?  I wonder what else they were smuggling besides drugs?  I wonder if Homeland Security knew about this and if so, why didn’t they just catch and search the smugglers for nuclear weapons and biological weapons as soon as they set foot across the border?  Did they figure they were just ordinary cocaine smugglers and therefore it didn’t concern them? Did Homeland Security even know this was going on?

I wonder how many smugglers cross the U.S. border and are never caught?  I wonder if Cheney is right. Maybe the terrorists have already smuggled a weapon into the country. Or maybe Dick is thinking that the terrorists will sneak something through under the noses of Homeland Security in the next few weeks or months, or maybe next year.  What did Dick really mean, anyway? Is he saying that Homeland Security is not up to the job? It sounds like it, doesn’t it? If you look at all these Mexican drug traffickers importing tons of cocaine into the U.S. without being intercepted by Homeland Security, I think maybe Dick is telling us something here.  Sort of a hidden message, maybe. I think he’s saying that we would be just as well off with the old rent-a-cops.  They were a lot cheaper and they couldn’t find smugglers either.

It seems to me that the ease with which smugglers can enter the U.S. proves that Homeland Security is  a failure (I won’t mention Katrina here).  When you step back and consider our fleet of aircraft carriers, nuclear submarines, B-2 stealth bombers, spy satellites, warrentless phone monitoring, soldiers, sailors, airmen, spies, policemen…the list could go on and on. And now the Department of Homeland Security. You would think that someone could get the job done. Right? But according to Dick Cheney, and according to the clear evidence of all those drug arrests, after almost two years of investigation, the job isn’t getting done – by any organization acting either singularly or as part of a group! Smuggling stuff into the U.S. seems to be pretty easy.

This is an abject failure of Homeland Security, and it should make us wonder if we need this organization at all.

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The Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp stands as a monument to the hypocrisy of the George Bush/Dick Cheney administration. So-called “captured enemy combatants” have been secretly transported to Guantanamo from various locations around the world, while the Bush administration denied that these people were entitled to any rights under the Geneva conventions, which governs the treatment of prisoners of war.  Only the convoluted minds of Bush, Cheney, and their gang could say with a straight face that people who were captured during the “War on Terror” are not prisoners of war.  It is the twisted minds of this gang of “patriots” who chose to deny these prisoners the basic human rights that the U.S. has sworn to uphold under the Geneva accords.  It is these people who even sanctioned the use of torture on these prisoners in order to try to gain information.  Far from being inspired by Thomas Jefferson, this President and Vice-President more legitimately owe their vision of the appropriate treatment of war prisoners to Edgar Allen Poe’s story, The Pit and the Pendulum.

Now, President Obama seems to be wrestling with George Bush’s dilemma: should we close Guantanamo and bring the prisoners to the U.S. for trial? For Bush the answer was a firm “NO”. This is because he felt that if the prisoners were brought to U.S. soil then they would be entitled to the rights of a U.S. citizen – like the right to a fair trial.  A fair trial? Yes, something that George Bush was determined that they would not have.  Wait a minute.  Just wait a minute. A fair trial is not some sort of lofty “Americans only” right. It is a human right – it is a right that every person on earth has.  It is one of those self-evident rights that everyone is born with –  it is one of those rights that Jefferson spoke so eloquently about.  The Bush/Cheney denial of a fair trial to these prisoners was not a denial of American rights; it is a denial of human rights.

None of us should be afraid of giving any captive a fair trial.  Why should we be afraid?  They are either guilty or they are not. We either have evidence of their guilt or we don’t.  And if we don’t have any evidence of their guilt then why in the world are we holding them captive?  Keeping people prisoner when you have no valid reason to believe they are guilty of a crime is lunacy – which probably begins to explain why Bush/Cheney locked these people up and threw away the key.  Oh, I know the story about classified information – you know, the evidence that condemns these people is so secret we can’t tell anyone about it.  I don’t believe it.  There are plenty of people – thousands, I’m sure – who have all sorts of security clearances who could be on a jury for these cases.  That argument doesn’t make any sense – it’s just Bush/Cheney lunacy again.

So what can Obama do? First, get these people out of Cuba and bring them to the U.S. for trial.  Now, a lot of people say they are afraid of having these “terrorists” in their local prison, and I suppose they might have a point.  Just in case these people are as dangerous as Bush/Cheney have claimed, they need to be locked up in an ultra-secure facility that is in nobody’s backyard.  What could be better than Alcatraz?  I know it is no longer an active prison – but it could be reactivated for this particular task.  There is no record of anyone ever successfully escaping from Alcatraz. So, the first step is to do a quick rehab of a section of Alcatraz, in order to make it habitable again. With enough priority, I expect this could be done in six months.  The work could be even be paid for with the economic stimulus package.  Think how many construction jobs it would create!

Then the trials would begin in the Federal courts.  Let the government make its case against each prisoner and let the courts decide innocence or guilt.  Those who are convicted of serious acts of terrorism could be sent right back to Alcatraz for a life sentence.  Those who are found “not guilty” would be returned immediately to those countries of which they are citizens.  It seems pretty straightforward to me.  People are either guilty or they are not.  This Bush/Cheney imprisonment-and-torture-forever-on-suspicion-of-guilt is as unAmerican a process as anything ever dreamt up by the leaders of the Spanish Inquisition.  It is more than unAmerican, it is a disgrace to humanity, and it is a blot on each of us until we bring it to an end.

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