There are a number of significant Dick Cheney articles on the web now, and I want to link them before they get stale. So, in no particular order and without further ado …
Frank Rich, New York Times, “Dishonest, Reprehensible, Corrupt …”:
If Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney believe they were truthful in the run-up to the war, itâ€™s easy for them to make their case. Instead of falsely claiming that theyâ€™ve been exonerated by two commissions that looked into prewar intelligence â€“ neither of which addressed possible White House misuse and mischaracterization of that intelligence â€“ they should just release the rest of the Presidentâ€™s Daily Briefs and other prewar documents that are now trickling out. Instead, incriminatingly enough, they are fighting the release of any such information, including unclassified documents found in post-invasion Iraq requested from the Pentagon by the pro-war, neocon Weekly Standard. As Scott Shane reported in The New York Times last month, Vietnam documents are now off limits, too: the National Security Agency wonâ€™t make public a 2001 historical report on how American officials distorted intelligence in 1964 about the Gulf of Tonkin incident for fear it might â€œprompt uncomfortable comparisonsâ€ between the games White Houses played then and now to gin up wars.
SOONER or later â€“ probably sooner, given the accelerating pace of recent revelations â€“ this embarrassing information will leak out anyway. But the administrationâ€™s deliberate efforts to suppress or ignore intelligence that contradicted its Iraq crusade are only part of the prewar story. There were other shadowy stations on the disinformation assembly line. Among them were the Policy Counterterrorism Evaluation Group, a two-man Pentagon operation specifically created to cherry-pick intelligence for Mr. Cheneyâ€™s apocalyptic Iraqi scenarios, and the White House Iraq Group (WHIG), in which Karl Rove, Karen Hughes and the Cheney hands Lewis Libby and Mary Matalin, among others, plotted to mainline this propaganda into the veins of the press and public. These murky aspects of the narrative â€“ like the role played by a private P.R. contractor, the Rendon Group, examined by James Bamford in the current Rolling Stone â€“ have yet to be recounted in full.
No debate about the past, of course, can undo the mess that the administration made in Iraq. But the past remains important because it is a road map to both the present and the future. Leaders who dissembled then are still doing so. Indeed, they do so even in the same speeches in which they vehemently deny having misled us then â€“ witness Mr. Bushâ€™s false claims about what prewar intelligence was seen by Congress and Mr. Cheneyâ€™s effort last Monday to again conflate the terrorists of 9/11 with those â€œmaking a stand in Iraq.â€ (Maj. Gen. Douglas Lute, director of operations for Centcom, says the Iraqi insurgency is 90 percent homegrown.) These days Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney routinely exaggerate the readiness of Iraqi troops, much as they once inflated Saddamâ€™s W.M.D.â€™s.
It says a lot, I think, that most of these posts talk more about the vice president than about the president. For all his bluster and strutting, IMO Bush is essentially a passive president who allows others to make decisions for him and does only what he assumes he is expected to do.
The hallmark of the Dick Cheney administration is its illegitimacy. Its essential method is bypassing established lines of authority; its goal is the concentration of unaccountable presidential power. When it matters, the regular operations of the CIA, Defense Department and State Department have been sidelined.
Richard Nixon is the model, but with modifications. In the Nixon administration, the president was the prime mover, present at the creation of his own options, attentive to detail, and conscious of their consequences. In the Cheney administration, the president is volatile but passive, firm but malleable, presiding but absent. Once his complicity has been arranged, a closely held “cabal” — as Lawrence Wilkerson, once chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, calls it — wields control.
We are now very close to that point of general agreement in the Iraq war. Do you believe that if Bush, Cheney, and company could turn back the clock, they would do this again? And now, thanks to Rep. John Murtha, it is permissible to say, or at least to ask, “Why not just get out now? Or at least soon, on a fixed schedule?” There are arguments against thisâ€”some good, some badâ€”but the worst is the one delivered by Cheney and others with their most withering scorn. It is the argument that it is wrong to tell American soldiers risking their lives in a foreign desert that they are fighting for a mistake.
NEWSWEEK has learned that only Cheneyâ€™s office rejected language clarifying the rules for military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay. Those regulations were hashed out last week by Sen. Lindsey Graham, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and White House Counsel Harriet Miers, with crucial support from arch-conservative Sen. Jon Kyl of Arizona and Democrat Carl Levin of Michigan. â€œGonzales wanted to fix it, the White House was friendly to the idea, the Defense Department was on the fence and the vice president’s office was off in a ditch,â€ said a Republican official on Capitol Hill who was involved in the negotiations.
Here’s what we do know already, without a congressional inquiry: Members of the Bush Administration were dishonest with the public and with Congress about prewar intelligence. We’ve known this for some timeâ€”see, for example, the comprehensive and damning story Barton Gellman and Walter Pincus wrote in the Washington Post in August 2003 (“Depiction of Threat Outgrew Supporting Evidence“). Over the past two years, several incidents of executive-branch dishonesty in the run-up to the war have turned into subscandals of their own: the aluminum tubes that Iraq used for missiles and not gas centrifuges, the yellowcake uranium that Saddam didn’t try to buy from Niger, the mobile biological warfare laboratories that turned out to be hydrogen generators for balloons, the al-Qaida chemical warfare training that was based on a false confession, the meeting with Mohamed Atta that didn’t happen in Prague.
If you examine these and other pillars of the administration’s case for invading Iraq, a clear pattern emerges. Bush officials first put clear pressure on the intelligence community to support their assumptions that Saddam was developing WMD and cooperating with al-Qaida. Nonetheless, significant contrary evidence emerged. Bush hawks then overlooked, suppressed, or willfully ignored whatever cut against their views. In public, they depicted unsettled questions as dead certainties. Then, when they were caught out and proven wrong, they resisted the obvious and refused to correct the record. Finally, when their positions became utterly untenable, they claimed that they were misinformed or not told. Call this behavior what you will, but you can’t describe it as either “honest” or “truthful.”
In another example of Cheney’s tough posture, Wilkerson said Cheney and Rumsfeld encouraged Bush to wield unbridled power in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
“The vice president, the secretary of defense and others … made this tremendous pitch for new world: `Mr. President, in this new world you are all-powerful. There is no power of the Congress that can stop you. You are commander in chief of the armed forces. You have the perfect right in this new world, where we are seeking security against this new and unprecedented threat, to make any rules or regulations you want.'”