Chris Wallace asked Dick Cheney what his “highest moment” in the last eight years was, and he answered “9/11.”
You know, it’s become easy to just dismiss Cheney as a bizarre Darth Vader figure, but people should pay more attention to this answer. All the Bush years are succinctly contained in it. These ghouls, these spooks who somehow gained a grip on power in the United States, were overjoyed at the events of September 11, 2001. They saw it as a great opportunity to be exploited. I’ve said this before, and for those of us who are sane it still might sound extreme, but really, it’s right there in the record. These men exploited this horrific atrocity for their own benefit—and a majority of the American people let them. Like sheep, the majority went along with using a single disaster as an excuse for overturning two hundred years of democratic tradition. They bought into Cheney’s lie about “extraordinary” and “dangerous times” that required the exercise of unfettered executive power. And after five plus years of death in Afghanistan and Iraq, and corruption and criminal incompetence at home, it still took an economic collapse for the voters to turn against the monsters that usurped their country.
I won’t take the time to analyze Cheney’s interview further—he reiterated his dishonest arguments for torture and dictatorship. Dahlia Lithwick lays it out nicely for you at Slate (not exactly a radical left-wing site), and her main point is a most dispiriting one, i.e. Cheney’s views on everything have long been thoroughly discredited, yet there he remains, giving interviews and repeating the Orwellian lies that have surrounded us like a fog.
Let’s be absolutely clear. Richard Cheney should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity, and for treason. As detestable a human being as he is, revenge is really not the point. Justice requires that when an individual holding high office in this land violates his oath of office, causes the deaths of untold thousands, and threatens the very foundation of constitutional government, there should be an accounting. Not for his sake—he’s incapable of remorse or apparently even of the recognition of ethical values—but for our sake and the sake of the country. If there’s no accountability for criminal behavior on the part of the most powerful people in the nation, then the law itself becomes hypocritical when applied to lesser crimes. Silence equals approval. If Cheney walks away with no consequences, then it’s essentially a win for fascism because it opens the door to future abuse.
I do not propose submitting Cheney to beatings, sleep deprivation, water torture, sexual mutilation, or any of the other methods he so enthusiastically promoted to be inflicted on others. I do not propose that he be imprisoned indefinitely without trial, kept in isolation until he goes insane, and then tried in a military court where he is denied the basic rights and elements of Anglo-Saxon jurisprudence. I would not propose that for anyone, because I believe in the Constitution of the United States, even for those who try to destroy it. No, I would like to see Dick Cheney tried in a regular court of law, with full right to counsel, and all other rights that are supposed to be guaranteed to someone accused of a crime. That’s not too much to ask. The victims of 9/11, who have been so disgracefully used by this man and his accomplices, deserve that much. So do the victims in Iraq. We all deserve some closure. I don’t want to hear any nonsense about “putting the past behind us.” The past never gets behind us unless there is some resolution.
The political establishment is afraid of bringing the Bush-Cheney crimes to account because they fear “instability.” The two parties are more interested in prestige than justice, so they maintain the false respectability of the status quo rather than bringing criminals in high places to justice. There is probably also a fear of being caught in the net—many members of Congress have been complicit in one way or another in the blood and corruption. So the consensus seems to be that nothing will be done. There will be no trials for Cheney, or Stephen Hadley, or Doug Feith, or Donald Rumsfeld. There may even be pardons—pardons before anyone has even been charged, which is a travesty.
So much the worse for us. But even given this probability, we need all the facts to come out. We need to know exactly what these men said and did. The secrecy must stop, or else it will continue to poison our society. We can’t just put our trust in some new “good” guy like Obama and leave it at that. Even if Obama turns out to be a good president, accountability and justice are structural needs that can’t be met with rhetoric or personalities. In politics, as in life, as in recovery—you don’t grow unless you first clean house.