Monday, June 15, 2009

Cheney's May 21st American Enterprise Institute speech examined

In May ex-Vice President Cheney went on a publicity offensive against the Obama Administration. Within a few weeks he seemed to give more press interviews and speeches than during his entire tenure in the White House. Thanks to the wonder of the internet & YouTube one can listen to his crowning AEI speech, and I have, a few times over. Being on the internet I was also able to fact check some of Mr. Cheney’s telling along with my own memory of events.

The speech was given May 21, 2009 at the American Enterprise Institute and what I found was that Cheney defended his entire case like a great novelist. Building and weaving his story and its substance to fit his chosen solution to his plot’s dilemma. Though that works great for writers of fiction who are welcome to use artistic license to move their story along, it’s not how to run a government, build a sustainable future, or trumpet a policy.

During his speech Mr. Cheney radiated incredible conviction and even stronger ego, but, he also showed himself incapable of admitting to any short coming or mistakes. That begs the question: what good is his judgment if he is incapable of honest introspection?

Reflecting this is a remarkable anecdote regarding the ex-Vice President. Cheney was describing the Bush Administration’s doctrine on dealing with terrorism. He is quoted saying, “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.”

Cheney’s speech reaffirmed his unwavering commitment to that mindset. It makes me wonder: How can this man remain oblivious to the astounding negative consequences his actions have had for our United States of America? (Ron Suskind’s book “The One Percent Doctrine,” documents how this world view effected Bush Administration actions.)

The trouble is, the world’s full of potential disasters and conceivable threats lurk in every direction. If one is going to put all their energy into every imaginable potential threat that comes to mind they’ll drive themselves insane... while missing actual incoming threats. There needs to be some intelligent evaluation, prioritizing and careful planning. Otherwise you’re just falling prey to one’s own paranoia and unrestrained pipe dreaming.

For instance, Cheney claims “You can look at the facts and conclude that (our) comprehensive strategy has worked, and therefore needs to be continued.” What has worked? Where is America any better off? Where are things being resolved constructively?

If there’s any comprehensive strategy to be teased from events, its a strategy of pursuing war for war’s sake. Only then do Bush Administration neocon actions fall into place and make sense. Their own New American Century documents support such an interpretation. Projecting power and exercising military options is an end in itself for ex-Vice President Cheney. But, is that what America needs? Didn’t Washington and Eisenhower expressly warn against such folly?

Cheney claims success because al-Qaeda hasn’t struck our homeland since 9/11. That conceit is filled with too many flimsy assumptions. Did al-Qaeda actually try again? Did they have to? After all American’s were ,... are, doing a pretty good job of tearing itself down - from damaging our own economy, to vandalizing our world position, to damaging our own military, to how Americans are being encouraged to distrust and even despise one another. This seems Cheney’s true legacy.

When we get to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal Cheney is quick to throw military personnel off the cliff. Where’s the man’s honor or sense of loyalty as he lectures us? Furthermore, his words are directly contradicted by reams of official documentation and the tenor of his own words back then. Cheney championed going to extremes but now condemns the soldiers who were carrying out his orders. It’s Cheney-speak at its ugliest.

Cheney says, “(Obama) can project values, and that’s fine, but we need to project strength and that has to rule in certain situations.” True enough. But, only when it makes sense! What’s the sense behind projecting strength in the form of vengeance-lust inspiring shock and awe, while leaving the heart of the real perpetrators to enjoy the successes of their terror?

So far as on the ground happenings - we have invaded & demolished a nation that was not a strategic threat to our nation. While the Administration’s half hearted attempts to track the true perpetrators of 9/11 have only served to train and harden al Qaida and bring in a huge fresh young generation fired-up by the atrocities they experienced at the hands of Cheney’s “projection of strength.” Yet, Cheney still doesn’t recognize that might & military strength must be handled with wisdom - and acts of wisdom require an ability to admit to mistakes and to learn from them.

I do agree with Cheney that documents relating to intercepted plots should be released. (But, here again, he lies in that it is the CIA not Obama who’s holding back those documents.) Cheney believers constantly refer to their facts, facts that upon closer examination too often turn out to be smoke, mirrors and ideologically motivated deceptions - therefore, it would be valuable to see those documents. Then Americans can decide for themselves how well they can believe Cheney’s boast of thousands, even hundred’s of thousands of lives saved.

Another dishonest aspect of Cheney claiming facts support him is that he steadfastly ignores the huge body of documented contrary facts as reported on sites like or and others.

Solutions won’t be found in ratcheting up the paranoia and encouraging yet more faith-based hostility. Seems to me, the tenor of the myopic absolutism Cheney preached in his recent fear mongering tour displays an approach that in the cold glare of reality once again acts more as al-Qaeda’s booster than America’s protector.

One of the tragic hallmarks of faith-based reasoning is that only the facts fitting ones ideology are acknowledged, and a blind eye to all else is considered a virtue. Sadly, such thinking will only further damage our children’s future.

Shouldn’t we, as a nation, do better?

Sincerely, Peter Miesler
Durango, Colorado

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