John Nichols / The Nation – 2009-04-06 22:49:31
WASHINGTON (April 5, 2009) — Dick Cheney is not going to fade away. George Bush may have retreated to Texas to clear brush and ponder how things went so horribly wrong. But Cheney, who failed out of the university from which Bush graduated, has never been so reflective as the former president.
Bush may actually be embarrassed, or scared, about the mess that was made of international affairs, the economy and our system of constitutional governance during his eight years in the White House.
There will be no apologies from the former vice president. And there will be no withdrawal from the political frontlines by the man who spun out of the Nixon White House to become Gerald Ford’s chief of staff, parlayed that role into a seat in Congress where he served as Ronald Reagan’s House floor leader, exploited personal and political ties to position himself as George H.W. Bush’s secretary of defense and then effectively nominated himself to be George W. Bush’s vice president.
Cheney, whose ambition has always exceeded his knowledge and skill, is determined to defend the political misdeeds, policy machinations and power grabs that — thanks to George W. Bush’s ignorance about the most basic workings of the White House — briefly made him the most powerful man in the world.
That was evident last week, when Scooter Libby’s unindicted co-conspirator appeared on CNN.
Asked by John King if he thought President Obama “has made Americans less safe,” Cheney responded with the solemn concern of a man who dodged the draft five times: “I do.”
Griping that Obama had backed off the most brutal excesses of the previous administration’s torturous tenure, Cheney defended detention and interrogation techniques that have been broadly condemned by the international community and civil libertarians of the left and right at home.
Despite extensive evidence to the contrary, the ex-veep described waterboarding and worse as “absolutely essential” to keeping Americans safe, declared rough interrogation “a great success story” and defended as legal and “in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles” actions that top lawyers and constitutional scholars describe as high crimes and misdemeanors.
For good measure, the former vice president who made it the primary purpose of his first two years in office to get the United States bogged down in a war in Iraq, put a “mission accomplished” sticker on the Iraq file.
“We have succeeded in creating in the heart of the Middle East a democratically governed Iraq, and that is a big deal, and it is, in fact, what we set out to do,” said Cheney.
There is not much point to correcting Cheney. He won’t hear it, any more than he did when more responsible members of the former administration challenged his most abusive actions. (The former vice president still is not speaking with Colin Powell, a mild dissenter who served as the Bush administration’s first secretary of state.)
Should we mind that Cheney intends to stay in the fray?
Not at all.
Cheney should be welcomed to the microphones.
Indeed, his determination to remain in the limelight should make it easier to invite him to explain a few things — under oath.
Where to begin?
How about with investigative reporter Seymour Hersh’s allegation that the Bush-Cheney White House operated an “executive assassination ring” that reported directly to Cheney’s office?
Speaking March 10 at the University of Minnesota, the Pulitzer Prize winner writer for The New Yorker explained that: “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving… It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office. … Congress has no oversight of it.”
An elite assassination squad run out of the vice president’s office? That certainly sounds like an interesting point at which to begin an official inquiry.
And since the vice president is so willing to talk about his time in office — as evidenced by his recent media appearances — why not invite him up to Capitol Hill to engage in it?
Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has a suggestion that might get the ball rolling. Kucinich has asked New York Congressman Edolphus Towns, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, to begin an immediate investigation into Hersh’s allegations.
Here’s Kucinich’s letter to Towns:
As you may already be aware, recent media reports indicate that investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, while answering questions before a public audience at the University of Minnesota divulged information about what he calls an “executive assassination ring” operating under the George W. Bush Administration.
If substantiated, the allegation would have far-reaching implications for the United States. Such an assertion from someone of Hersh’s credibility that has a long and proven track record of dependability on these issues merits attention. Mr. Hersh is within a year or more of releasing a book that is said to include evidence of this allegation.
However, we cannot wait a year or more to establish the truth. As such, I request that the Full Committee immediately begin an investigation to determine the facts in this matter.
Mr. Hersh made the allegation before an audience at the University of Minnesota on Tuesday, March 10, 2009. He stated, “Under President Bush’s authority, they’ve been going into countries, not talking to the ambassador or the CIA station chief, and finding people on a list and executing them and leaving.”
Mr. Hersh continued, “It is a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently,” he explained. “They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office… Congress has no oversight of it.”
If true, these operations violate longstanding U.S. policy regarding covert actions and illegally bypass Congressional oversight. Current statute governing covert action (50 U.S.C. 413b) requires a presidential finding and notification to the appropriate congressional committees.
Additionally, Executive Order 12333 clearly states that “no person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in or conspire to engage in assassination.”
I urge the Committee to explore Mr. Hersh’s allegation.
Kucinich is right. The charges against Cheney demand an inquiry. It ought not be delayed.
And it should be presumed that Dick Cheney, who is so very willing to discuss his tenure in the White House, will testify.
John Nichols is The Nation’s Washington correspondent.
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