How Cheney planned his move for decades
I wrote about Dick Cheney's ignominious legacy in Salon today:
As many of us wade through the horror of the Senate torture report, it’s hard not to think back to a time when the man who ran the country explained to us in plain language what he was doing. I’m talking about Vice President Dick Cheney, of course, the official who smoothly seized the reins of power after 9/11 and guided national security policy throughout his eight years in office. He was one of the most adept bureaucratic players American politics has ever produced and it’s his doctrine, not the Bush Doctrine, that spurred government actions from the very beginning. It was called the One Percent Doctrine and according to author Ron Suskind it went like this:
If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response. It’s not about our analysis … It’s about our response.
Or put another way: “It’s time to take the gloves off.”
read on ...
This went all the way back to the 70s when Cheney was working in the Nixon and Ford White Houses and thought that the USA was becoming soft and the presidency was losing its juice. He was ready to fix that when he got the chance and he has no regrets. He does not care one bit that he's considered by millions of people to be a war criminal and a sadist. He got what he wanted.
9/11 opened a new door for Cheney as well. The One Percent Doctrine not only presented him with a perfect chance to restore presidential authority to its full power, he could enlist members of the opposing party, the press and a large number of the American people in his goal to exempt the U.S. military empire from all obligations to international law and norms. It was not considered a problem if America had to go it alone. In fact, in many ways it was preferable. (It’s the logic of Winner Take All Politics, writ large.) It was American Exceptionalism to the 10th power: No matter how infinitesimal the threat we may act, and act with brutal force. We’ve got your new world order for you, right here. By capitalizing on the fear and anger among Americans after 9/11, and even more important, leveraging the political cowardice of his opponents, Dick Cheney deftly manipulated an atmosphere of chaos to his desired ends: an imperial presidency, a permanent war footing and an even more powerful national security apparatus that operates with impunity.
There are Godwinesque restrictions on certain things we can say about Dick Cheney in public. But I don't think it's too much to point out that having him on television saying what he said yesterday is the very definition of the banality of evil. Yesterday morning Dick Cheney, torturer, unrepentant war criminal was presented as just another government bureaucrat doing his job. He will be welcomed into the homes of the political elite like any other former VP, as will the man he went to great lengths to say approved it all: George W. Bush. In fact, Jeb Bush is widely hailed as the best man to carry on the "Bush tradition" and cognoscenti of all political stripes are cheering on his candidacy.
As we all wring our hands and rend our garments over an official report that reveals what we already knew, the system he put in place remains intact and operating at full steam. The president washes his hands of the past, the Congress declares its innocence and then averts its eyes, the CIA says it was only following orders, and the press clutches its collective pearls unable to even use the word “torture” when questioning the head of the agency about horrors it perpetrated.
Think about that: the political establishment believes that the brother of the president who ordered torture and invaded a country on false pretenses --- and who has never shown the slightest daylight between his brother's policies and decision and his own beliefs --- is an excellent candidate for the presidency. It's not even a question as far as I can tell.