Water Man Spouts

Saturday, December 10, 2005

18.5 : Dick Cheney

"This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence -- economic, political, even spiritual -- is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications ....

"In the councils of government we must guard against the acquisition of unwarrented influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastorous rise of misplaced power exists.

"We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together."
-- President Dwight D. Eisenhower; January 17, 1961

{1} Who is Dick Cheney?

In the years since Eisenhower warned the nation about the potential threat that the military-industrial complex poses to the democratic process, Dick Cheney has been a part of every republican administration except one -- that of two-term President Ronald Reagan. Because of his secretive manner, many Americans know little about him. He has been considered the "co-president" in the Bush2 administration, and ranks as perhaps the single most powerful vice president in history, yet his actual role remains largely unknown.

Parts of two reports from earlier this week are significant: first, on MSNBC's "HardBall," host Chris Matthews noted that Cheney has never been considered one of the "brains" of the neoconservative movement he fronts for. Rather, he has been of value because of his business connections and political skills. Second, retired CIA analyst Ray McGovern reported that many of Washington's "insiders" are discussing the possibility that Cheney is preparing to retire in early 2006.

Timing is important in all things political. Why might VP Cheney be considering stepping down? Could it be that his ranking as the most unpopular figure in the administration has resulted in President Bush looking to distance himself from Cheney? Perhaps Cheney's close association with Donald Rumsfeld, also rumored to be "looking forward to spending time with his family,"
both of whom are associated with the failed war in Iraq and the looming torture scandal? Or, might it be that VP Cheney is aware that Lewis Libby's defense on the Plame indictments will expose his role in a criminal cover-up?

It seems possible that Patrick Fitzgerald is taking a close look at Richard Cheney. He is not concerned with the image created for public consumption by those engaged in "perception management" for the neoconservatives. Instead, Fitzgerald has been examing who Dick Cheney really is, and how that plays into Cheney's role in the exposure of Valerie Plame's identity and the cover-up that followed.

Perhaps we should take a closer look at VP Cheney, too.

{2} Cheney's Vietnam Experience

The American participation in the war in Vietnam, which began in the Eisenhower years, would play a central role in the lives of most Americans of Dick Cheney's generation. As we will see, the war was something that even the young Dick Cheney felt strongly about. Unlike many of the people his age, Dick believed that the war was a patriotic effort, and well worth the investment of American lives.

However, Dick believed that other people should fight, kill, and die in the jungles of Vietnam. Now, in the world of politics, most of the men from Cheney's generation have their military experience from that era examined closely. Men like Al Gore and John Kerry had records to be proud of. George W. Bush had been in the National Guard, as a result of family connections; those same connections allowed him to avoid meeting his obligations. In Dick's case, he got a half-dozen deferments that allowed him to avoid serving in the war he supported so fully.

This is of interest to us not so much in the political sense, as far as it applies to considering Dick. He is most likely not running for office again soon. Still, it is worth noting that in the numerous campaigns Cheney was involved in, he would only been asked pointedly about his lack of military service. He responded by saying he had "other priorities" at that time.

Thus we see that Dick Cheney was able to learn enough about a system to manipulate it fully, as his deferments show, to his advantage. And "his advantage" included having others do the high risk fighting that he was too cowardly to do himself. These are the things that someone like Patrick Fitzgerald will consider as among the most important qualities that Dick displayed in this time period.

{3} "Watergate at its core was -- pure and simple -- a power struggle." John Dean; Worse Than Watergate; page 196.

In 1969, Dick Cheney was hired to work in the Nixon administration. His political career would be closely tied to that of the man who hired him: Donald Rumsfeld. Together, they ran the Office of Economic Opportunitites.

Cheney would, more than many of the younger political folks of his generation, see Watergate as less of a problem of criminal behaviors on the administration's part, than as part of a larger struggle between the three branches of the federal government. Cheney believed strongly that the executive office should be the strongest of the three. He was convinced that President Nixon was betrayed by some in the intelligence agencies, who helped the House and Senate damage the administration by leaking state secrets.

Though he felt that Nixon should have fought to maintain power by any means necessary, Dick Cheney would find a job in an investment firm in 1973. Again, Cheney moves away from the struggle he believes in so strongly. Equally significant is that he is developing strong ties to a business world that appreciates the favors that a man with political connections can provide. Dick has learned how to manipulate the system for his own needs. He is a crony capitalist.

Don Rumsfeld would again hire Dick Cheney to work for him in the Ford administration. He became Rumsfeld's deputy Chief of Staff. They were bitter about what they considered the humiliating defeat in Vietnam, which they believed had greatly weakened the United States on the world stage.

While both Rumsfeld and Cheney were considered to be from the "crony capitalist" branch of the republican party, they would become allied with a branch of radical democrats, who were associated with the military hawk, Senator Henry "Scoop" Jackson. These people represented the beginning of the true neoconservative movement. Like the corporations that valued men who could move easily between government and business, the neoconservatives found both Rumsfeld and Cheney to be of great value.

Thus, the two would influence President Ford to take up an aggressive foreign policy, while moving sharply to the right on domestic issues. In particlar, Cheney was concerned that the old California governor, Ronald Reagan, would attempt to unseat Ford in the 1976 primaries. Though the history of that era has been glossed over by republicans since, at the time Reagan was considered divisive, and was not fully accepted by some of the corporate interests that Cheney represented. He and Rumsfeld believed it was essential that they keep Ford in office.

In order to prepare for the expected primary run against Reagan, the person they believed posed the greatest threat to President Ford, they urged him to get rid of three people in his administration. Thus, Ford dumped Defense Secretary James Schlesinger; national security advisor Henry Kissinger; and VP Nelson Rockefeller. They also urged him to drop efforts for the SALT II Treaty.

Ford survived his primary challenges, of course, but lost to democratic challenger Jimmy Carter. A journalist named Robert Novak wrote, "(deputy) White House Chief of Staff Richard Cheney is blamed by Ford insiders for a succession of campaign blunders..."

{4} "Few U.S. industries sing the praises of free enterprise more loudly than the oil industry. Yet few industries rely so heavily on special government favors. These favors are defended in the name of national security." -- Milton Friedman; Newsweek; June 26, 1967

During the Reagan years, Dick Cheney would use his contacts with U.S. corporations to his best interests. He would become, as a congressman from Wyoming, one of only 21 who opposed the Clean Water Act. He was opposed to extending the historic Civil Rights Act; voted to cut funding to the Veteran's Administration; and attempted to prevent the EPA from forcing industry to pay for the clean-ups of SuperFund sites. Cheney was noted for being one of the "top five" radical conservatives in Congress.

Cheney was of particular value to two "special interests": first, the energy corporations, including several based in Texas, found Representative Cheney a capable advocate; more, the growing neoconservative movement, which was interested in placing "neocons" in both elected and un-elected positions in Washington, saw that Cheney could promote their policies, particularly as they related to the Middle East.

Thus, when President George H. W. Bush took office, Cheney would return to the executive branch. Although Secretary of State James Baker warned Bush1 to keep Cheney "at arm's length," he made Dick Cheney the head of the Defense Department. And, while it struck some as odd that Bush1 would put a draft-dodger in charge of the military, events would soon show that Cheney's service to the energy corporations played the more significant role.

Just as Reagan did not offer Cheney a position in his administration, Bush1 had not offered one to Rumsfeld. This is significant in helping us understand that even in the republican party, there are differences of opinion, factions, and in-fighting. Thus, while the images of Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam as he prepared to sell him deadly weapons stands out, Dick Cheney was more closely tied to other oil interests in the Middle East. By the time that Iraq prepared to invade Kuwait, the Bush1 administration was sending very mixed messages. Cheney, who favored Kuwait, had made some statements indicating the U.S. would not allow Iraq to invade their neighbor. Yet other administration voices countered that there was no American interests involved.

When Iraq invaded, President Bush1 began an effort to organize a large alliance to remove Saddam's forces from Kuwait. He sent Cheney to Saudi Arabia, to convince the royal family to allow the United States to station troops in the Islamic Holy Land. Cheney, along with his top aide, Paul Wolfowitz, convinced the Saudis that Saddam had plans to destabilize their country next, in an effort to control all of the Middle East. They reached an agreement that US troops could be stationed in Saudi Arabia for the brief time needed to kick Iraqi troops out of Kuwait.

In his description of events in "Against All Enemies," Richard Clarke describes his surprise when Cheney became upset that Clarke was able to line up numerous allies. "Stop asking them," Cheney ordered Clarke, who concluded that Cheney seemed intent on having the US troops go beyong an international agreement to "free" Kuwait: Cheney, he believed, wanted the US to invade Iraq. (see pages 57-61)

When the Gulf War ended without an invasion of Iraq, the neocons were furious. Cheney believed that Saddam could thumb his nose at the US, making it almost as much of a failure of our military power as Vietnam. At the time, Cheney made clear what his true concern was: on page 313 of Kevin Phillip's "American Dynasty," Cheney is quoted as saying that Saddam would "seek domination of the entire Middle East," and attempt to "take control of a great portion of the world's energy supply."

In an effort to advocate for the neoconsevatives, Cheney had Wolfowitz and Lewis Libby write a "classified blueprint to set US policy direction for the next century," as Patrick Buchanan details in "Where The Right Went Wrong." (page 42) The plan called for the US to set up large and permanent military bases on 6 continents, to deter any "potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role." Their stated goal was to establish a "new world order."

Democratic senators, including Biden and Kennedy, noted that the neocon plan would increase the budget of the military-industrial complex to levels far above that of the Cold War. As Defense secretary, Cheney began turning huge portions of this government investment in military support operations over to PMCs, or "private military corporations."

Also, as noted on page 72 of "A Pretext for War," by James Bamford, Cheney was assigned by the president to work upon a plan outlined by Ollie North for a "shadow government" that would take control of the United States in times of national emergency. The plan would have no imput from either branch congress, or from the judiciary, because it would suspend the constitution. Cheney worked with Donald Rumsfeld, at the time the CEO of GD Searle & Co., and James Woolsey, then a private attorney, on the plan.

It is worth noting that it was during this time that Dick Cheney established ties with a shadowy figure from the Middle East, named Ahmad Chalabi. Cheney and the neocons were hoping that Chalabi, the head of a "shadow government" in waiting, the Iraqi National Congress, would replace Saddam Hussein.

{5} Texas Radio and the Big Beat

During the Clinton presidency, Dick Cheney became the head of Halliburton. It was at a time when he was able to overlap his positions and linkages with interests including Texas oil, Ken Lay and Enron, and Chalabi. Dick Cheney represented a combination of crony capitalism and neoconservative politics.

In 1995, New York Senator Alfonse D'Amato introduced a bill to ban trade with Iran. Cheney strongly opposed it. Though the US would restrict commerce with Iran, the conservative senator would lose backing among the radical branches of the party, and would lose in his attempt to be re-elected. The neocons were sending a message.

Cheney and his friend Donald Rumsfeld were among those who pressured President Clinton to fund Chalabi and his INC. Dick was active in attempting to advance corporate interests in the Middle East, despite any concerns that these moves were not in the best interests of the US. In the 2000 campaign, Cheney would claim that as the Halliburton CEO, he "had a firm policy that we wouldn't do anything in Iraq." ("The Lies of George Bush"; David Corn; page 189) However, the Washington Post would find that two Halliburton subsidaries had $73 million contracts for equipment sales as part of the UN oil-for-food program in Iraq.

From these actions, we get a picture of a man who believes in advancing the interests of his corporate world, in a coordinated effort with shadowy, corrupt figures such as Chalabi, despite the fact that it goes against the national interests. More, it shows Dick Cheney is willing to violate the law, though he favors having subordinates do it, and then to lie about it.

{6} "Principle is okay up to a certain point, but principle doesn't do any good if you lose." -- Dick Cheney, advice to aides in 1976.

Former President Bush1 suggested that Dick Cheney serve as his son's running mate in the 2000 election. It was widely recognized that his son lacked foreign policy experience, and having the older man as a "co-president" would serve to lessen conservative republican's concerns. In many ways, it was almost the opposite of Bush1 chosing Dan Quayle for the VP spot.

It was assumed Cheney would focus on national security issues. When Dick Clarke briefed him in January of 2001 on the threat from al Qaeda, Cheney appeared interested. He told Clarke that he would be going to CIA headquarters to learn more. Clarke felt this was good, because he knew CIA Director Tenet shared his concerns with al Qaeda. However, it soon became apparent that Cheney was more interested in Iraq and Saddam.

Cheney was also focused on the US energy policy. He had secret meetings with energy executives, including Ken Lay (at least 6 times), who had been the #1 funding source for Bush2's campaigns. VP Cheney refused to allow either the congress or the public to know the agenda of those meetings. From early on, it was clear that Cheney viewed executive politics as the "power play" contest of strength from the Watergate days. (Readers are encouraged to read Corn's book, particularly chapter 6 on "high-octane lies.")

From both Clarke and Paul O'Neill, we know that the administration had decided early on to remove Saddam from power in Iraq. Buchanan has noted that the Cheney memo from 1992 had become the official policy of the Bush administration in 2001.

Despite the warnings from Clarke and others, and even briefs with such subtle titles as "Bin Laden Seeks to Strike Within US," those in the administration who should have been aware of al Qaeda were instead focused on Saddam and Iraqi oil. The attacks of 9-11 occured on the Bush-Cheney watch.

It was later revealed that on that afternoon, the "shadow government" was put into place. This is detailed in John Dean's book, "Worse Than Watergate," James Bamford's "A Pretext for War," and Senator Robert Byrd's "Losing America." In theory -- or at least in Dick Cheney's mind -- this meant the suspension of congressional oversight, or judicial imposition of constitutional law. The man who viewed Watergate as a power struggle had made the ultimate grab at power, one that overshadowed anything Al Haig could have hoped for.

When shades of reality returned to Washington, DC, Cheney was among those most strongly opposed to any congressional investigation of 9-11. He told democrats that they risked doing serious damage to the war on terrorism. Not surprisingly, Cheney and his old friend Don Rumsfeld were among those advocating that the US respond to what had been identified as an al Qaeda attack on the nation by invading Iraq.

Most readers are familiar with the campaign to frighten America into supporting the Bush plan to invade Iraq: both the president and vice president would repeatedly speak of 9-11 and Saddam in the same breath; they skillfully used the media to imply that Iraq had been the state-sponsor of 9-11.

More, they began a campaign to convince the public that Saddam Hussein had WMDs which posed a serious threat to the United States. In August 2002, Cheney told Americans, "Simply stated, there's no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

Also, "Many of us are convinced that Saddam Hussein will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon."

More, you say? How about, "What we know now, from various sources is that he .... continues to pursue a nuclear weapon." (August 7, 2002)

On August 26, he noted that could use a nuclear weapon to threaten "anyone he choses, in his region or beyond." And on September 8, "We do know, with absolute certainty..." Saddam was working on a nuclear weapon.

Cheney, Libby, and Newt Gingrich were making repeated trips to the CIA to pressure analysts to confirm their conclusions about Iraq and WMD. Although the administration has attempted to deny this, there were at least three complaints filed with the CIA ombudsman about the pressure being put on them.

Although the IAEA had reported in 1997 that Iraq had previously stopped attempts to buy nuclear weapons components, when Cheney saw a later report that indicated Italian intelligence had evidence that Iraq had sought to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger, he became very interested. He was told that previous investigations had discredited the report. However, he requested that the CIA re-evaluate the possibility.

People close to the administration and intelligence agencies have noted that it was in this period, that VP Cheney and his neocon friends became highly secretive, and began to rely more upon their own "intelligence operations." Thus, although the CIA sent at least two notes in October, reporting that their recent investigation (by Joe Wilson) had discredited the Niger report, the most rabid of neocons refused to accept the finding. Though the Niger information was removed from President Bush's speech that month in Ohio, it would be put into his State of the Union address three months later. More, although the White House has denied it, a CIA officer had informed an NSC official that the Niger report was false in January ..... but the neocons refused to believe it. ("The Lies of George W. Bush"; David Corn; page 294)

In March, the IAEA reported that after examing the Niger documents, they had concluded that they were crude forgeries. An administration official told CNN, "We fell for it." Shortly thereafter, Joseph Wilson told CNN that the administration had "more information" on this.

It was then that a group from the administration's "White House Iraqi Group" began to hold a series of meetings in VP Cheney's office, to do a "work up" on Wilson. It is known that Libby and Gingrich ran these meetings. It is unclear if Cheney attended them. The meetings were geared towards determining options for dealing with Wilson if he challenged the administration on the WMD claims.

In "Chain of Command," on page 239, Seymour Hersch reports that one of the more common theories is that some people believed a group of retired CIA operatives produced the crude Niger forgeries, in an effort to discredit the administration. That theory holds these people believed Cheney & friends would announce they had "proof" of WMD production, be humiliated when the documents were identified as forgeries, and that this would slow the march to invade Iraq, perhaps allowing UN inspectors enough time to conclude there were no WMD in Saddam's world.

Apparently, at least some of the Cheney forces believed this, and were intent upon punishing those in the CIA they believed were responsible. More, many people believe that the VP's office were concerned that the front group Wilson's wife worked for was coming dangerously close to uncovering something else they needed to hide.

For whatever the reason, VP Dick Cheney told Lewis Libby that Wilson's wife worked for the CIA. And now, Patrick Fitzgerald is intent upon finding out what conversations went on between Cheney and Libby in regard to Valerie Plame.


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