Thursday, 11 December 2014

Cheney, the torture report – one of them is full of it

“The report's full of crap. Excuse me. I said ‘hooey’ yesterday. Let me use the real word.”

That’s how the man who was Dubya’s Vice President, Dick Cheney, dismissed the US Senate’s report on torture by the CIA, in the measured terms to which he owes his reputation for eloquence and moderation.

Dick Cheney: Aaron Sorkin's Colon Jessup
with the charm surgically excised
He reminds me of no one so much as Colonel Nathan Jessup, from A few good men who, at the end of the film, explains behaviour which – and I’ll pick my words more carefully than Cheney – was reprehensible if not criminal. The end, he suggests, “absolutely” justifies the means. “I’d do it again in a minute.”

No, no. Sorry. That wasn’t Jessup. That was Cheney. Jessup said “I did my job. I'd do it again.”

Jessup explained “I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it.”

According to Cheney, “what happened here was that we asked the agency to go take steps and put in place programs that were designed to catch the bastards who killed 3,000 of us on 9/11 and make sure it never happened again, and that's exactly what they did.”

Jessup also made clear the rationale behind a strict chain of command: “We follow orders, son. We follow orders or people die. It's that simple. Are we clear?”

Jack Nicholson as Colonel Nathan
the marginally more appealing version of Dick Cheney
Cheney made it clear that the same approach operated in his boss’s administration. To the suggestion that the CIA were out of control and didn’t keep the President informed, he replied “He was in fact an integral part of the program. He had to approve it before we moved forward with it.”

With wisdom as clear-sighted as we all associate with the august figure of Dubya, who can doubt that the torture service was being directed with a sure hand and enlightened judgement? And if Dubya was napping or on holiday, there was always his friend Dick to make sure that guidance was maintained.

“You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: that Santiago's death, while tragic, probably saved lives,” Jessup declares, talking of the victim of the crime central to the film, Willy Santiago, “and my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.”

Talking of the arrest of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is believed to have been behind the 9/11 attack, Cheney asked, “what are we supposed to do, kiss him on both cheeks and say, ‘Please, please tell us what you know?’ Of course not. We did exactly what needed to be done.” And it does need to be done, because otherwise people die: “what are you prepared to do to get the truth against future attacks against the United States?”

Fortunately, this kind of tale often has a happy ending. What a way to dismiss a vicious bully with no respect for the rule of law than to tell him “you're under arrest you sonofabitch.”

Sadly, though, such a happy ending tends to be limited to the world of fiction. Jessup is the target of the words, not Cheney.

But we can always dream….

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