Ten Years After 9/11, America Deserves Better than Dick Cheney’s Self-Serving Autobiography

10.9.11

On August 30, when In My Time, former Vice President Dick Cheney’s self-serving autobiography was published, the timing was pernicious. Cheney knows by now that every time he opens his mouth to endorse torture or to defend Guantánamo, the networks welcome him, and newspapers lavish column inches on his opinions, even though astute editors and programmers must realize that, far from being an innocuous elder statesman defending the “war on terror” as a robust response to the 9/11 attacks, Cheney has an ulterior motive: to keep at bay those who are aware that he and other Bush administration officials were responsible for authorizing the use of torture by US forces, and that torture is a crime in the United States.

As a result, Cheney knew that, on the tenth anniversary of the terrorist attacks that launched the “war on terror” that he is still so concerned to defend, his voice would be echoing in the ears of millions of his countrymen and women, helping to disguise a bitter truth: that, following the 9/11 attacks, Cheney was largely responsible for the abomination that is Guantánamo, and for the torture to which prisoners were subjected from Abu Ghraib to Bagram to Guantánamo and the “black sites” that littered the world.

Alarmingly, while Cheney has been largely successful in claiming that the use of torture was helpful, despite a lack of evidence that this was the case, what strikes me as even more alarming is that many Americans are still unaware of the extent to which the torture for which Cheney was such a cheerleader did not keep them safe from terrorist attacks, but actually provided a lie that was used to justify the invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

As a long time believer in unfettered executive power, Cheney’s fingerprints are all over the Bush administration’s response to the 9/11 attacks, along with those of his legal counsel, David Addington. The two men had met while defending Ronald Reagan during the Iran-Contra scandal, on the basis that the President should be beyond criticism, and it was Cheney and Addington who were behind a military order issued by George W. Bush on November 13, 2001, which established the President’s right to hold those he regarded as terrorists as a new type of prisoner (who later became the infamous “enemy combatants”), and, if he wished, to prosecute them in trials by military commission, which were designed to secure easy convictions and to use evidence derived through the use of torture.

It was Addington, no doubt after consultation with Cheney, who wrote the memo to President Bush on January 25, 2002, signed by White House Counsel Alberto Gonzales, which claimed that the Geneva Conventions contained “quaint” provisions, and that the circumstances in which the “war on terror” was being waged rendered “obsolete” the Conventions’ “strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners.” The memo advised the President to discard the Geneva Conventions for the prisoners at Guantánamo, which had opened two weeks earlier.

The purpose was to allow coercive interrogations, and even the use of torture, and this became official policy on August 1, 2002, when another of Cheney’s colleagues, John Yoo, a lawyer in the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, which is supposed to provide the executive branch with impartial legal advice, wrote two memos known as the “torture memos,” which attempted to redefine torture — including the use of waterboarding, a form of controlled drowning — so that it could be used by the CIA.

With the help of another of Cheney’s circle of close colleagues — Jim Haynes, the Pentagon’s General Counsel — the torture techniques chosen were reverse-engineered from those taught in US military schools to help US military personnel resist interrogation if captured by a hostile enemy. Haynes had made the first approach to the organization responsible for the program, known as SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape), and he also played a role in the spread of torture techniques to Guantánamo, as approved by defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld in November 2002, which then spread to Iraq, leading to the horrors that were revealed around the world when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in April 2004.

Even so, Cheney’s biggest crime, to my mind, remains the way in which, while pretending to use torture to protect the American people from further terrorist attacks, he actually used it to attempt to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq in March 2003. This bleak story involves Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, who ran a training camp in Afghanistan — Khalden — that was shut down by the Taliban in 2000 after he refused to allow Osama bin Laden to take it over.  Al-Libi was initially interrogated by the FBI, but they were brushed aside by the CIA, who flew al-Libi to Egypt, where the torturers of Hosni Mubarak’s savage regime secured a patently false confession that Saddam Hussein had met with two al-Qaeda operatives to discuss the use of chemical and biological weapons.

Al-Libi recanted the false confession obtained through torture — which apparently included waterboarding — in 2004, although the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had concluded at the time of the confession, in February 2002, that al-Libi had misled his torturers. However, no one told Colin Powell, who used it in the presentation he made to the UN Security Council in February 2003, a month before the invasion. This is alarming enough, but as it is clear that Dick Cheney knew about the DIA’s analysis that al-Libi had lied, the only conclusion that can be drawn is that, while pretending to protect the American people, Cheney was actually responsible for using a lie obtained through torture to justify an illegal war that would lead to the deaths of thousands of US military personnel, and of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

Torture is a crime, for which Dick Cheney should pay, on the 10th anniversary of the 9//11 attacks, rather than being feted as some sort of entertainingly opinionated elder statesman. Above all, however, the al-Libi episode reveals the former Vice President not only as a torturer, but also as some sort of a traitor, making his continued ability to walk free, and to continue spreading his self-serving lies, a damning state of affairs for America as a whole, and one that should make decent Americans recoil in shame and horror from what they and their country have become.

Note: For more on the bleak story of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, see Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi Has Died In A Libyan Prison and WORLD EXCLUSIVE: New Revelations About The Torture Of Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi. For more on the malignant influence of Dick Cheney, see Dick Cheney: invisible tyrantDick Cheney: more horrors from the ‘Vice-President for Torture’The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part One)The Ten Lies of Dick Cheney (Part Two)Prosecuting the Bush Administration’s Torturers and Even In Cheney’s Bleak World, The Al-Qaeda-Iraq Torture Story Is A New Low.

Andy Worthington is the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to my RSS feed (and I can also be found on Facebook, Twitter, Digg and YouTube). Also see my definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, updated in June 2011, details about the new documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (co-directed by Polly Nash and Andy Worthington, on tour in the UK throughout 2011, and available on DVD here — or here for the US), my definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all my articles, and, if you appreciate my work, feel free to make a donation.

As published exclusively on the website of the Future of Freedom Foundation.

30 Responses

  1. Andy Worthington says...

    On Facebook, Mui JS wrote:

    Just the cover screams nutwing welfare. I can’t wait till it ends up face down in bargain bins.

  2. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s brilliant, Mui. Thanks. I had a good chuckle at that.

  3. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron Henry wrote:

    This is more like it:
    http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/whidbey/swr/opinion/129258538.html

  4. Andy Worthington says...

    Excellent, Aaron. Thanks for that. If only …

  5. arcticredriver says...

    Thanks Andy.

    I’ve read that the only thing Cheney apologizes for in the book is shooting his buddy, the lobbyist, in the face. I can’t understand why Republican are treated with kid gloves in America. What was he doing allowing himself to be entertained by lobbyists anyhow? The Secret Service held off the local law enforcement authorities overnight — long enough for Cheney to sober up — what’s up with that? The old lobbyist Cheney shot publicly apologized to him at the time — not vice versa. Finally, the “hunting” employs bird raised in captivity — totally unfamiliar with living in the wild, avoiding predators.

  6. Andy Worthington says...

    Hi, arcticredriver. Yes, I think that whole incident tells us everything we need to know!

  7. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron Henry wrote:

    No, THANK YOU, Mr. Worthington. Thank you for bearing the torch and lighting the way. You are in my prayers and thoughts.

  8. Andy Worthington says...

    That’s very kind, Aaron. Thank you very much.

  9. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    the World deserves better.

  10. Andy Worthington says...

    Yes, Allison. For me Dick Cheney remains the epitome of modern, uber-capitalist, paranoid, vengeful America, and his continued ability to evade arrest is alarming.

  11. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron Henry wrote:

    Andy, I believe that if Dick Cheney lives as long as Dick Cheney would like, then the arrest of Dick Cheney would be inevitable.

  12. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    Gail is hard at work again in BC, but the chances of her efforts bearing fruit on it during a majority(!) “Harper Government” is bloody unlikely. you should interview her:
    http://www.straight.com/article-450786/vancouver/lawyer-seeks-cheney-arrest
    let me know if you wish contact details

  13. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison, is it not possible for Cheney to be hit with a torture indictment, like the one that stopped George W. Bush traveling to Switzerland in February? I’l look into it. In the meantime, please do send contact details for Gail. I think I lost them when my old computer died on me a year ago.

    And Aaron, perhaps he has an artificial heart by now, and is technically immortal. Even so, I’d like to see his smug defense of torture demolished sooner rather than later …

  14. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron Henry wrote:

    a quick read of Allisons link said, I think, Canada is bound but would be unlikely under the current admin.

  15. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron and Allison, re: “Canada is bound but would be unlikely under the current admin,” that shouldn’t put lawyers off. Gail should liaise with the Center for Constitutional Rights on an indictment.

  16. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron Henry wrote:

    That’s not a direct quote from the article, Andy, just my interpretation from a quick read.

    Here’s a passage from the article:

    “According to Davidson, the government is obliged under local and international laws—such as the United Nations’ Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment—to deny safe haven and prosecute persons accused of crimes like torture. Davidson is writing Prime Minister Stephen Harper and key cabinet ministers to outline evidence against the Bush administration and its senior officials.”

    It further mentions an invite from the mayor of Surrey, a suburb of Vancouver, BC Canada.

  17. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron, thanks for the direct quote. I’d skim-read it as well, but your precis was right essentially — it SHOULD happen but the Canadian government won’t want it to — which is where I think CCR and the existing indictment against Bush are so useful.

  18. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    well, I think Ireland had it right, “history is written by the victors”. I can’t see a lot of motivation by a serving official to indite former officials, as they know what goes around… I strongly suspect its a gentleman’s agreement, held by the mandarins who don’t necessarily leave during each electoral turnover. Bill Hicks had a grim joke about how on the day after inauguration, somebody sits down the incoming Prez & VP & shows them a longer & exceptionally more detailed filmreel from a vantagepoint much clearer than the Zapruder segment
    [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zapruder_film]

  19. Andy Worthington says...

    Aaron Henry wrote:

    Allison Lee-Clay, you just creeped me out.
    I mean, not you, but your story of the film reel.

  20. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    Bill was good at that, it made him sad & frenetic that he couldnt do more of it
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hAnjWHP7KAc

  21. Andy Worthington says...

    In the UK, the elected leaders get a briefing from the heads of the intelligence services, who tell them, in no uncertain terms, how many threats are out there and why it’s important to listen to them, and to keep paying to support whatever it is they do. In the US, I fear, it went beyond the briefing, and a huge pressure was exerted on the Obama administration not to rock any boats or even think about accountability. Where’s Bill Hicks when we need him?

  22. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    its Mark Thomas, Andy

  23. Andy Worthington says...

    You may well be right, Allison, although it’s a sign of the times that Mark Thomas is no longer on TV; that no one, in fact, is on TV anymore who has a business card that says “Thorn in the Side,” or “Tells Truth to Power.”

  24. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    neither was Bill?

    man, I’d love to see what kind of project you & Mark could get up to!

  25. Andy Worthington says...

    Our paths haven’t crossed, sadly. One of these days, hopefully, Allison …

  26. Andy Worthington says...

    Allison Lee-Clay wrote:

    send him a copy of your work with your business card?

  27. Andy Worthington says...

    That would be sensible, Allison, but I can’t see myself getting round to it. I need an assistant …

  28. Rights Groups Call For Arrest Of George W. Bush For Torture As He Arrives In Canada - OpEd says...

    [...] the hundreds of protestors who turned up to campaign against a visit by former US Vice President Dick Cheney in Vancouver last month, where the “Vice President for Torture” was addressing diners who had [...]

  29. Rights Groups Call for the Arrest of George W. Bush for Torture as He Arrives in Canada | War On You: Breaking Alternative News says...

    [...] the hundreds of protestors who turned up to campaign against a visit by former US Vice President Dick Cheney in Vancouver last month, where the “Vice President for Torture” was addressing diners [...]

  30. The 4th Media » Torture: Bush Administration on Trial says...

    [...] joins an elite club of war criminals — including George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld — who, instead of being prosecuted for using torture, or authorizing its [...]

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