Thanks, David. We couldn't remember the greatest song in the world.

-D. Brown
That may be, Doug, but THIS is greatest song in the world!


10 Questions for Dick Cheney

John Nichols, author of Dick: The Man Who Is President, has "10 Questions for Dick Cheney. Since Cheney is probably too busy at the moment to read The Nation, I thought I'd do him a solid and make some attempt at answering them.

1.) When you appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" on the eve of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, you announced that, "We will be greeted as liberators." In light of the fact that more than 1,000 young Americans have been killed, while more than 20,000 have been wounded, in the fighting in Iraq, do you think you might have been a bit too optimistic?
We were in many places greeted as liberators. Ask the Kurds. Ask Iraqi interim Prime Minister Allawi. Cheney was never so naive as to expect that we would be greeted universally as liberators. Terrorists (e.g. Abu Abbas) and committed Ba'athists who knew what the consequences of American success would be both for them, for Iraq, and for the region were never expected to greet us with anything but hostility and violence. That's why we went in with Marines instead of UN peacekeepers.

2.) Why were maps of Iraqi oil fields and pipelines included in the documents reviewed by the administration's energy task force, the National Energy Policy Development Group, which you headed during the first months of 2001? Did discussions about regime change in Iraq figure in the deliberations of the energy task force?
I'm going to have to leave this one for Cheney. I never followed this story closely. One should note that in this story about those maps it's also noted that "Maps of oil fields and pipelines in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and a list of energy development projects in those two countries are also included." I'm sure that Nichols doesn't think that's the Iraq maps were there for the same reasons. But I'll also bet that he wouldn't be happy if the answer were that Cheney brought in the pictures to give scale to the discussion of the oil reserves in ANWR.

3.) When the administration was asking in 2002 for Congressional approval of a resolution authorizing the use of force against Iraq, you told the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars that Saddam Hussein had "resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons." You then claimed that, "Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop 10 percent of the world's oil reserves, Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of the world's energy supplies, directly threaten American friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail." Several months later, when you appeared on "Meet the Press" just prior to the invasion of Iraq, you said of Saddam Hussein, "We know he has reconstituted these (chemical weapons) programs. We know he's out trying once again to produce nuclear weapons, and we know that he has a long-standing relationship with various terrorist groups, including the al-Qaeda organization." As it turned out, you were wrong on virtually every count. How did you misread the signs so completely? And why was it that so many other world leaders, who looked at the same intelligence you had access to, were able to assess the situation so much more accurately?
There's evidence that each of these illegal programs was ongoing under Saddam's rule. It's not the dramatic evidence of stockpiled ordnance, but there is documentary evidence that Saddam either had or was developing programs for chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons. Furthermore, there is a strong case to be made that he did in fact have such weapons. There is persuasive evidence that Saddam's illegal weapons are now in Syrian hands - read here, here, here, and here.

4.) Considering the fact that your predictions about the ease of the Iraq invasion and occupation turned out to be so dramatically off the mark, and the fact that you were in charge of the White House task force on terrorism that failed, despite repeated and explicit warnings, to anticipate the terrorist threats on the World Trade Center, what is it about your analytical skills that should lead Americans to believe your claims that America will be more vulnerable to attack if John Kerry and John Edwards are elected?
This seems to be an accusation of negligence on the part of the Bush administration - a failure to repond to clear, "actionable" evidence of an imminent terrorist attack on 9/11. Hard to build a case for it. Ask Michael Moore. Nichols here seems to be referring to Cheney's remark that "If we make the wrong choice, then the danger is we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that'll be devastating from the standpoint of the United States, and we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mind-set that these terrorist attacks are criminal attacks and we're not really at war." The plain sense of this is that "the danger is [that] . . . we'll fall back into the pre-9/11 mindset." The "we'll get/be hit" clauses establish a possible timeline. But the danger Cheney here anticipates in a Kerry administration is not that of an attack. We live today with that danger. On the other hand, the probable Kerry policy of not pursuing a pre-emptive policy in the war on terror would clearly result in an easier operational environment for terror groups, and would inevitably increase the risk of another attack on the territorial US. On either interpretation of this sentence, Cheney is correct.

5.) Speaking of intelligence, were you or any members of your staff involved in any way in revealing the identity of Valerie Plame, a CIA operative who was working on weapons of mass destruction issues, after her husband, Ambassador Joe Wilson, angered the administration by revealing that the president made claims about Iraqi WMD programs that he and his aides had been told were unreliable?
Again, only Cheney can answer this one. But the answer is probably no. And speaking of Joe Wilson, has anybody told Nichols that the man is a proven liar?

6.) During your tenure as Secretary of Defense, you and your staff asked a subsidiary of Halliburton, Brown & Root Services, to study whether private firms could take over logistical support programs for U.S. military operations around the world. They came to the conclusion that this was a good idea, and you began what would turn into a massive privatization initiative that would eventually direct billions of U.S. tax dollars to Halliburton and its subsidiary. Barely two years after you finished your service as Secretary of Defense, you became the CEO of Halliburton. Yet, when you were asked about the money you received from Halliburton -- $44 million for five year's work -- you said, "I tell you that the government had absolutely nothing to do with it." How do you define the words "absolutely nothing"?
Likely answer: in the normal way. When Cheney was appointed as Secretary of Defense, the mandate was for restructuring and cost-cutting in the aftermath of the cold war. Privatization of services is one means of doing so. Nichols needs to do two things: 1) Ask a better question, and 2) find something better to ask a question about.

7.) No corporation has been more closely associated with the invasion of Iraq than Halliburton. The company, which you served as CEO before joining the administration, moved from No.19 on the U.S. Army's list of top contractors before the Iraq war began to No. 1 in 2003. Last year, alone, the company pocketed $4.2 billion in U.S. taxpayer dollars. You said when asked about Halliburton during a September 2003 appearance on "Meet the Press" that you had "severed all my ties with the company, gotten rid of all my financial interest." Yet, you continue to hold unexercised options for 233,000 shares of Halliburton stock, and since becoming vice president you have on an annual basis collected deferred compensation payments ranging from $162,392 to $205,298 from Halliburton. A recent review by the Congressional Research Service describes deferred salary and stock options of the sort that you hold as "among those benefits described by the Office of Government Ethics as 'retained ties' or 'linkages' to one's former employer." In the interest of ending the debate about whether Halliburton has received special treatment from the administration, would you be willing to immediately surrender any claims to those stock options and to future deferred compensation in order to make real your claim that you have "severed all my ties with the company."
This is about all there is to be said on the subject. Nichols seems to be coming a bit unhinged a propos of Halliburton.

8.) You have been particularly aggressive in attacking the qualifications of John Kerry, a decorated Vietnam veteran, to serve as commander-in-chief. Yet, you received five draft deferments during the 1960s, which allowed you to avoid serving in Vietnam. In 1989, when you were nominated to serve as Secretary of Defense, you were asked why you did not serve in Vietnam and you told the Senate that you "would have obviously been happy to serve had I been called." Yet, in an interview that same year, you told the Washington Post that, "I had other priorities in the sixties than military service." Which was it -- "proud to serve" or "other priorities"?
This question starts its tour of logical fallacies with a non sequitir and brings it home with a glaring false dilemma. The first sentence should be thrown out as irrelevant to the remainder. It would seem, by virtue of the fact that Cheney was given draft deferments five times, that the military agreed with Cheney's valuation of his "other priorities." Should there have been disagreement, the military would have denied him a deferment. In this case, we may assume until Nichols produces evidence to the contrary that Cheney would have been "proud to serve." Such evidence might take the form of borrowing someone else's medals (ribbons) to throw over the White House fence. Someone who did that could fairly be viewed as "ashamed to have served."

9.) Nelson Mandela says he worries about you serving in the vice presidency because, "He opposed the decision to release me from prison." As a member of Congress you did vote against a resolution expressing the sense of the House that then President Ronald Reagan should demand that South Africa's apartheid government grant the immediate and unconditional release of Mandela and other political prisoners. You have said you voted the way you did in the late 1980s because "the ANC was then viewed as a terrorist organization." Do you still believe that Mandela and others who fought for an end to apartheid were terrorists? If so, are you proud to have cast votes that helped to prolong Mandela's imprisonment and the apartheid system of racial segregation and discrimination?
Perhaps it was considered a terrorist organization because "The African National Congress (ANC), as documented by the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, carried out a number of crimes in its fight against apartheid that would accurately be described as terrorist. For example, while the currently ruling ANC targeted government installations, its MK guerrillas also planted bombs in bars, restaurants, and other public places to intimidate or punish supporters of the white government." (Read the rest here. And more here.)
10.) Mandela has said that, to his view, you are "the real president of the United States." Former Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill said of the first years of the Bush presidency that, "Cheney and a handful of others had become 'a Praetorian guard' that encircled the President." O'Neill has also argued that the White House operates the way it does "because this is the way that Dick likes it." Why do you think that so many people, including veterans of this administration, seem to think that it is you, rather than George W. Bush, who is running the country?
Now the wheels are off the cart. Completely. Mandela (reminder), O'Neill (signature achievement), and Nichols (axe to grind) rise to the standard of "so many people?" It's not the most subtle analysis of the situation, but it's certain that Cheney, rightly, is influential in the White House. But no matter who or how many agree with Nichols et al., it doesn't ultimately matter whether Cheney runs the White House from the passenger's seat. Only whether the American people want him in that seat for the next four years.

-D. Brown


Other Halves

David, Disintegration is the best album ever!

-D. Brown

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