Dick Cheney Defends Witch Trials

April 25, 2009 · Leave a Comment

In a shocking and unprecedented development a former Vice President speaks out publicly against the administration that replaced him.  Even more shocking to many is that Dick Cheney, uniquely famous for his claims of both executive and legislative privilege and his unprecedented demand for secrecy, is now asking for the release of secret witch trial documents.

His demand is centered around one argument – not that the witch hunts were legal or desirable, but simply that they were effective.

Prior evidence of the man’s paranoid demands for secrecy abound.  Cheney developed his own secrecy stamps with an invented category “Treated as Top Secret/SCI,” in an attempt to supersede traditional secrecy standards.  The man kept a man-sized safe in his office.  He invented a pseudo “fourth branch” of government arguing that he could not be held accountable to the standards of either the Executive or Legislative branches.

Here’s an extended passage from “The Next Hurrah” that adds some context to Cheney’s secrecy:

That the Bush “administration,” and in particular the Office of the Vice President, have been extraordinarily secretive is, ironically, no secret. But in a story first reported by Mark Silva of the Chicago Tribune back in April 2006, details of the extent of the secrecy practices — if they can be called that — emerged to reveal something even darker and more disturbing than previously imagined:

As the Bush administration has dramatically accelerated the classification of information as “top secret” or “confidential,” one office is refusing to report on its annual activity in classifying documents: the office of Vice President Dick Cheney. A standing executive order, strengthened by President Bush in 2003, requires all agencies and “any other entity within the executive branch” to provide an annual accounting of their classification of documents. More than 80 agencies have collectively reported to the National Archives that they made 15.6 million decisions in 2004 to classify information, nearly double the number in 2001, but Cheney insists he is exempt. Explaining why the vice president has withheld even a tally of his office’s secrecy when offices such as the National Security Council routinely report theirs, a spokeswoman said Cheney is “not under any duty” to provide it.That Executive Order is #13292, which:

prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information, including information relating to defense against transnational terrorism.And how is the order to be implemented? Section 5.1(a):

The Director of the Information Security Oversight Office, under the direction of the Archivist and in consultation with the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs, shall issue such directives as are necessary to implement this order. These directives shall be binding upon the agencies.And who are “the agencies?” Section 6.1(b):

“Agency” means any “Executive agency,” as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105; any “Military department” as defined in 5 U.S.C. 102; and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.So what’s the problem? Well, perhaps you recall the story reported by TPM Muckracker a few weeks ago, in which Justin Rood revealed that Cheney purports to have exempted his office from the requirement of disclosing the number of political appointees in the OVP, for a directory of all executive branch positions known as the “Plum Book.” Instead, what appears in place of that required disclosure is a three paragraph statement, beginning thus (PDF):

The Vice Presidency is a unique office that is neither a part of the executive branch nor a part of the legislative branch, but is attached by the Constitution to the latter. The Vice Presidency performs functions in both the legislative branch (see Article I, section 3 of the Constitution) and in the executive branch (see Article II, and amendments XII and XXV, of the Constitution, and section 106 of title 3 of the United States Code).You read that right. The Vice Presidency is now “a unique office,” a fourth branch, if you will. If you will. But you shouldn’t. And in fact, ISOO won’t:

In an extraordinary internal challenge to the unruly Office of the Vice President (OVP), the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) has formally petitioned the Attorney General to direct the OVP to comply with a requirement that executive branch organizations disclose statistics on their classification and declassification activity to ISOO.But what, specifically, moved ISOO to call for this ruling? The OVP’s bizarre conception of itself as somehow exempt? Well, yeah. That, and this:

For the last three years, Vice President Cheney’s office has refused to divulge its classification statistics to ISOO, despite a seemingly explicit requirement that it do so. Prior to 2002, such information had routinely been transmitted and reported in ISOO’s annual reports to the President.

Now, in a stunning turn of events, Dick Cheney is demanding that the White House release documents that support his claim that the witch trials were effective.

Cheney said “Ah, well, we know that the trials had their intended effect because reported evidence of vivisection and nighttime flying went down.  Now tell me, do you think that’s a coincidence?  Of course not.  The trials not only removed dangerous witches from our midst, but served as a deterrent to witches not caught in the dragnets or turned in by their neighbors to go into hiding and cease their witchery.  I say to you now, we prevented another witch on a broomstick from flying a suicide mission into your house.  And you should thank me for that.”

When asked if innocent people might have been caught up in the mass hysteria, he said, “The world is not perfect.  Why don’t the loony lefties just admit that the world is a harsh nasty place, and it needs harsh, nasty people to protect everyone from that nastiness by being just as harsh and nasty or even harsher and nastier than the world already is.  Sure some innocent people were drowned or burned at the stake.  But that’s a small price to pay for your and my freedoms.  Sometimes we have to violate our principles and hurt innocent people in order to uphold our principles and way of life.  That’s just the way it is.”

When asked if witch hunts were consistent with American ideals, Cheney pointed to their historical precedence.  “Just like marriage has always been between a man and a woman since antiquity, so have witch hunts occurred.  Anything with that long a history has to be right, and has to be protected.  You probably don’t know this, but our witch trials have a long and sacred tradition.  Punishments for witchcraft date back to the first recorded laws in the Code of Hammurabi in the 18th Century BC.  They’re in the Twelve Tables of Roman Law, and of course in the Old Testament.  And then of course there were what I like to call the “tapas years” of the Spanish Inquisition.  You’ve got to hand it to them, they really perfected things with thumb screws and flaying.  So don’t try saying this was a one-time Salem kind of thing.”

He went on to say, “Why even that lovely thing Sarah Palin had to have her church pray over her so that she didn’t get infected with witchery.  And they brought in an African to do it, because if anyone knows about witches, it’s those Africans.  My god, I’d even say that Obama has cast a spell over most of America – but not REAL America, thank god.”

When asked what he said to people who said that under Cheney the nation had abandoned its principles, broken domestic and international law, lost international moral standing, and sunken to uncivilized levels unlike any before since the nation’s founding, he said those people could “go fuck themselves.”

The persecution of witches, torture.  When we act in collective hysteria we do not act as our better selves.  No, Dick Cheney, the ends do not justify the means.  And it’s unclear if the ends are any better because of the use of torture.  For certain the abandonment of our ideals has left us poorer as a people.

The arguments now being made to defend the use of torture by the United States in Guantanamo and Black Sites are so patently ridiculous that I can’t imagine that any thinking person of any decent morality who spends time understanding the situation would  attempt to make them.

It appears that most of the torture was conducted under the supervision of the CIA under specific direction of Dick Cheney and Condoleeza Rice, with now discredited legal opinions issued or overseen by the likes of John Yoo, David Addington and Alberto Gonzales.  The FBI had the good sense to realize the atrocities that were occuring and refuse to participate.  And the use of torture to extract actionable reliable intelligence, according to those closest to the subject, is NOT effective.  But even if it were, if it violates our principles and our laws and costs us our soul, puts our own service people in danger of similar treatment, and sacrifices our moral authority in the world.  It must be repudiated with full force.  Let the investigations and the recriminations and the prosecutions begin.   NO ONE IS ABOVE THE LAW.

And as for the argument about not going after the people on the ground who did the actual torture, we need only look to the Nuremberg trials.  “Just Following Orders” ( “Befehl ist Befehl”, literally “order is order”)   is no defense or excuse for the commitment of atrocities.  We put people to death after World War II for “just following orders.”  We also put Japanese soldiers to death for waterboarding our POW’s.  Why did the Japanese waterboard our men?  Because they were afraid of an imminent attack using WMD’s (which, of course, did come).  How eerily similar to our own circumstance.

Obama’s desire to “move forward” is understandable but wrong.  All crimes occur in the past.  Do we just forget them and “move forward?”  How ridiculous.  Full accounting is required by the law, by justice, and by basic human decency.  Let blowhards like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Glenn Beck bluster, let Dick Cheney fulminate.  And then let’s determine who knew what when, who did what and how, and what their punishments will be.

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