Monday, November 07, 2005

Dick Cheney and the virtue of torture

Your CaliBlogger wonders if Dick Cheney's intransigence earns him grudging respect in some quarters. Certainly he demonstrates an unwavering single-mindedness that clearly gives the lie to his boss's notorious (though illusory) implacability.

Sure W talks a good game, "bring 'em on" and all that, but if you can be sent home weeping to mommy by the likes of George Will, just how tough can you be?

Nope, Cheney is the real deal. No matter how much he's opposed by reason, by facts, by members of his own party, of his own administration, no matter that he is opposed by the consensus of all men and women of good will the world over, by all that is right and holy, no matter what, if Cheney sinks his teeth into an idea, he will never, ever let go.

The war in Iraq may be the centerpiece of Cheney's pitbull remorselessness, no-one within the administration, it's becoming more and more evident, beat the drums of war more loudly than did Vice and his bullyboys. Yep Cheney and Rummy and their Feith-based intelligence operation managed to terrorize us into a fight with the one arab nation that almost certainly had nothing to do with 9/11.

But still not satisfied that his legacy is complete, Darth Cheney has hold of an issue that he, and perhaps only he could love: torture.

He's in favor of course.

Over the past year, Vice President Cheney has waged an intense and largely unpublicized campaign to stop Congress, the Pentagon and the State Department from imposing more restrictive rules on the handling of terrorist suspects, according to defense, state, intelligence and congressional officials.

Last winter, when Sen. John D. Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, began pushing to have the full committee briefed on the CIA's interrogation practices, Cheney called him to the White House to urge that he drop the matter, said three U.S. officials.

In recent months, Cheney has been the force against adding safeguards to the Defense Department's rules on treatment of military prisoners, putting him at odds with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon R. England. On a trip to Canada last month, Rice interrupted a packed itinerary to hold a secure video-teleconference with Cheney on detainee policy to make sure no decisions were made without her input.

Just last week, Cheney showed up at a Republican senatorial luncheon to lobby lawmakers for a CIA exemption to an amendment by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that would ban torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners. The exemption would cover the CIA's covert "black sites" in several Eastern European democracies and other countries where key al Qaeda captives are being kept.

Sure torture is against both US and international law, as well as being simply offensive to the eyes of God and humankind. And sure any US back-sliding on stern opposition to torture damages our reputation, credilility and effectiveness worldwide. And sure it puts those on our frontlines everywhere at greater risk. And sure the leaders of his own party (lameduck W doesn't even get a vote anymore) don't want to touch this with a ten foot pole.

No matter, not to dead-eye Dick.

I can almost hear the voice of Barry Goldwater's ghost rattling around in Vice's skull: Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice. And moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.

One thing is clear, Cheney clearly suffers from no superabundance of moderation. And more and more clearly it seems extremism is his only virtue.

Perhaps Cheney is Bush's anti-impeachment insurance: Sure Bush is incompetent and corrupt, but just get a glimpse at what, I mean who, is waiting in the wings.

And I see the point, it's almost enough to make an avowed agnostic kneel in prayer for W's continued good health.

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