Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dick Cheney, FUDdy duddy

In a recent interview with Politico, former Vice President Dick Cheney expressed his deep concerns about his perception of the new administration's plans on how to handle the so-called "war on terror."  In the interview, Cheney demonstrates his natural -- and gifted -- ability to lead through fear, uncertainty and doubt (FUD).  Through this interview, he exudes such a two-dimensional view of national security that he makes George W. Bush seem downright nuanced. 

In traditional black-and-white, good-vs-evil, myway-vs.-wrongway thinking, Cheney preemptively indicts the Obama administration as reckless, careless and a danger to American lives:

When we get people who are more concerned about reading the rights to an Al Qaeda terrorist than they are with protecting the United States against people who are absolutely committed to do anything they can to kill Americans, then I worry.

Here, Cheney outlines a cartoonish portrayal of the Obama administration's policy to comply with the rule of law and international treaties, and to act in accordance with our Western (and religious-inspired) cultural values of human rights and freedom.   Does anyone take note that the most powerful Vice President in America's history sees the closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison camp as equivalent to reading Miranda rights?  

If closing down the Guantanamo Bay prison, adhering to the writ of habeas corpus (as mandated by a Supreme Court ruling), and ending all torturing of human beings constitutes a concern to Cheney, maybe he should be worried.  Worried, that is, about being indicted by the International Court of Justice for conspiring to indefinitely imprison and torture people without due process. 

If you lift away Cheney's nationality and his job history, his view of national security sounds more like that of tyrannical dictator of a third world nation than a former vice president of a super power.  Even so, that doesn't mean his approach hasn't helped keep America safer over the past seven years.  And Cheney is correct in thinking that we Americans tend to take our safety and security for granted.  It's even likely that there were real threats that were stymied as a result of Bush/Cheney's overprotective heavy-handedness.  But what he, the media, and most casual observers are not fully considering is that he's never fully justified his philosophy or clearly articulated his goals. 

Cheney seems to claim that everything he does and cares about is protecting Americans from threats to their security.   Allow me to re-frame his passion through a different lens:  How many Americans died from terrorism in 2001?  2,998.  And how many people died in drunk driving accidents on American soil in 2001?  17,448. 

If the goal of his policies is to protect Americans from harm, then Cheney's passions are misdirected. Cheney should have been railing to re-instate Prohibition instead of warring against terror.   If his goal was not to protect American lives, then what was it?  To protect our freedom?  The only freedoms we've lost due to terrorism are the freedoms that the Bush administration took from us.  Was goal was to protect our nation from another catastrophe?  I'm sure that's a big part of it, but our nation's security is arguably much more at risk from nuclear weapons being sold on the black market out of Pakistan than from any box-cutter-armed thugs from Afghanistan.  If these were not his goals, then what were they?  And, if someone does know what his goals were, why doesn't anyone measure his success against his goals as VP? And, why do we allow ourselves to be swayed by these arguments when they do not stand up to basic challenges such as these? 

He then goes on to take credit for only having one attack under his watch:

Those policies we put in place, in my opinion, were absolutely crucial to getting us through the last seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on the U.S.

Well, at least he couched it as merely in his opinion.  The irony here is that President Clinton's apparent lack of any cohesive anti-terror response to the first WTC attack in 1993 also led to seven-plus years without a major-casualty attack on U.S. soil.  So, Cheney's strategy and rationale for disregarding American values and the rule of law (not to mention American casulties) had essentially the same effect as Clinton's supposed foreign policy apathy. 

And, in a baffling contradiction with Cheney's stern warnings about the Obama administration releasing Gitmo detainees, Cheney himself admits that at least 61 inmates were released from Guantanamo during the Bush administration, and that they have "gone back into the business of being terrorists."  

Shouldn't he be concerned about his own legacy, then, if one or more of these 61 reconstitute to attack America?   How and why Cheney is not asked questions like this by the media is dumbfounding. 

Ultimately, Cheney will continue to get to say what he wants to say, effortlessly instilling fear with an air of confidence that -- if we're not thinking critically -- makes us feel good that someone as tough and single-minded as him is looking after us and our safety.  That's the power and talent of Dick Cheney -- a charismatic FUD-monger who believes what he says and says what he believes, yet is rarely called out on his tragic lack of savvy, judgment and flagrant disregard for America's values, moral leadership and societal well-being.