Wednesday, May 13, 2009
Why Cheney Speaks!
There’s lot’s of discussion and speculation lately over the fact that after spending eight years of secretly running the government from an impenetrable bunker, Dick Cheney is now all over the television defending his torture program.
Many people are scratching their heads and wondering why the most unpopular member of the previous administration wouldn’t just fade off into the sunset and hope to be forgotten as the country looks “forward and not backward” with it’s charismatic new President.
If I had to venture a guess as to why Cheney keeps talking, it’s this:
The only thing standing between Dick Cheney and criminal prosecution is the facade that torture was a policy decision, and that prosecution represents the “criminalization of politics.” In order to maintain that facade, there must be a continuous debate over whether or not it was “good policy” - that is, whether or not it helped to “keep Americans safe.”
To Cheney, it doesn’t matter whether or not people think that argument has merit. What matters is that both sides are continuously being aired, because in his mind, this means that the Obama Administration and the Democratic Congress have to prioritize it among all of the other policy debates; and with the wide range of stated goals put forward by the Obama administration, investigating and prosecuting torture will never move to the top of the “to do” list.
On the other hand, if public opinion is allowed to crystallize around the idea that the Cheney/Bush torture policies were illegal and immoral, as might happen without Cheney’s constant bleating about how proud he is of those very policies, then it becomes much more feasible to investigate and prosecute without getting in the way of other priorities.
And it becomes more likely that the conversation shifts from the debate about policy, to a discussion and eventual public understanding of what really happened, which increasingly seems to have been something like this:
At the time when Cheney/Bush were in charge and had plenty of warning about an impending terrorist attack, they did not “keep Americans safe.” Instead, they were too preoccupied with the politics of trying to create “a permanent Republican majority!”
After the 9/11 attacks, instead of going after the terrorists who were actually threatening the safety of Americans, they immediately began to line up all the ways they could use fear of terrorists to rationalize and gain acceptance for policies that were criminal! Torture, the war in Iraq, warrantless wiretapping, rushed no-bid contracts to political cronies, were all rolled out immediately, using the pretext of being the only policies the President thought would “keep Americans safe.”
And they did it all with the expectation that they could always avoid prosecution by forcing the debate into being about policy, if ever the debate started to turn toward being about criminality!
So that’s why Cheney feels he has to keep yapping about how torture was good policy. He knows he’s not convincing anybody, but he’s keeping the fire burning on the appearance of a political debate, because that’s the only thing keeping him from being frog marched to prison!