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Monday, September 25, 2006

CIA Deal Reveals Shirker and Cipher - by Les Payne

The White House compromise over legislation for the treatment of terror suspects was hardly worth the ink that scribbled the deal on Thursday. More ironic still was the venue for this military pact: the vice president's office in the Senate Office Building.

Dick Cheney has certified every jot and tittle of the U.S. invasion of Iraq - and been proved tragically wrong to the tune of $1 trillion and more than 2,600 American lives. The war policies of this most powerful of all vice presidents have been as inaccurate as his shotgun aim. Cheney said Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Wrong. The United States would cakewalk over Baghdad. Wrong. The Iranians would greet GIs as liberators. Ditto. The war is winding down. Ditto, double damned.

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Undiplomatic as Hugo Chávez's UN attack on a sitting U.S. president might have been, it is unfortunate that the Venezuelan leader did not include Cheney in his remarks. Not even Rep. Charles Rangel, who rushed to defend his president against Chávez, could have denied the sulfuric fumes to be whiffed in the wake of the former Halliburton chairman.

While viewing President George W. Bush as an amiable cipher, Rangel has publicly denounced Cheney as a troubled force. In an interview with NY 1 last year, the Harlem Democrat said, "Sometimes I don't think Cheney is awake enough to know what's going on. He's a sick man. He's got heart disease, but the disease is not restricted to that part of his body. He grunts a lot, so you never know what he's thinking." In a follow-up interview, he said: "I would like to believe he's sick rather than just mean and evil."

Former military men such as Rangel, or Sen. John McCain for that matter, seem to be roiled by the notion that Cheney is the helmsman of U.S. military policy. When able-bodied men were subject to the military draft, Dick Cheney maneuvered himself five deferments to avoid meeting this obligation. If not a flat-out coward, he possibly is a mere shirker and, at 64, a chicken hawk void of military sense or caution.

The vice president's office was the site of the high-powered, super-intense confrontation to decide how the Bush administration will proceed with the trial of the 14 suspected terrorists being held at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The compromise was necessitated by the U.S. government's push to avoid further scandal on the eve of the trial. Military and intelligence interrogators petitioned the White House and Congress for clear instructions to protect against charges of unauthorized torture and possible war crimes. Already, the Supreme Court had ruled that methods in play violated existing laws.

No stranger to tough talk, the Bush White House planned to try the suspects without allowing them to hear secret evidence allegedly gathered against them. Some might even have been executed without ever knowing the full extent of what brought them to the gallows. Additionally, Bush took the CIA's bait for clear interrogation directives and pressed for rewriting Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which deals with humane treatment of prisoners of war.

So reckless was the president's move to redraft the Geneva accords that even former Secretary of State Colin Powell rose in opposition. He was joined by McCain, who persuaded two other GOP senators to sustain Article 3 as protection, as well as reassurance, for U.S. soldiers who may be captured and held as prisoners of war. Having been held by the North Vietnamese as a POW for about five years, McCain knows about torture.

As a casual-duty goldbrick in the Texas Air National Guard, Bush knows nothing of war, honor or duty. Like so much of his balderdash and war swagger, Bush's toughness on torture seems more a son's determined attempt to escape the shadow of his father's executive reputation as a "wimp." It is most unfortunate that America's honor and resources are being drained away at the expense of this sick play staged by a member of one of the elite ruling-class families on his last legs.

Somehow, the republic must rise up and save itself from this spoiled cipher.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
CIA Deal Reveals Shirker and Cipher


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