No Comment — September 1, 2011, 2:56 pm

Putting the Question to Dick Cheney

Former Vice President Dick Cheney has just released his memoir of the Bush years, entitled In My Time. The volume is exactly what you might expect: a full-throated defense of the Cheney shogunate. But while it leaves little doubt about who was behind many of the key national security decisions in the Bush years, it is remarkably quiet about a number of matters Cheney would perhaps rather not recollect.

I recently spoke with Dan Froomkin, senior Washington correspondent for the Huffington Post, for a column of his in which he proposed choice questions for reporters to ask Cheney about his book. Here are seven I’d suggest, some of which appear in Froomkin’s article:

(1) Someone appears to have gone to great lengths to falsify documents creating the impression that Niger was selling yellowcake uranium to Iraq. The documents were peddled by Italian intelligence to their American counterparts. La Repubblica‘s Carlo Bonini and Giuseppe d’Avanzo traced these forgeries, which played a significant role in the bogus case for the war with Iraq, and found that Michael Ledeen, a neoconservative strategist with links to you, had been dealing with Italian intelligence at the time these papers were floated. Did you discuss the yellowcake papers with Ledeen? What did you know about the yellowcake papers? Why were you so personally alarmed when the fraud surrounding them was exposed?

(2) When the CIA’s envoy to Niger, Joe Wilson, blew the lid off the yellowcake scam in a New York Times op-ed, you scribbled a note on your copy of the Times to the effect that he was sent on a “junket.” The note suggests that you knew Wilson’s wife was CIA agent Valerie Plame, and that you viewed Wilson and Plame as hostile to the administration. Did you direct your chief of staff, Scooter Libby, to blow Plame’s cover as a covert CIA agent?

(3) As CEO of Halliburton, you installed Jack Stanley as head of the KBR unit and set him off to secure a massive liquefied natural gas (LNG) contract in Nigeria. Criminal probes later showed that Halliburton paid $182 million in bribes to Nigerian officials to secure a $6 billion LNG project. How could $182 million in corrupt payments have been made without your knowledge as CEO of the company?

(4) In the final days before the arrival of the Obama team, the Bush Justice Department rushed to finalize a settlement with Halliburton under which the company paid a fine but you were not singled out for mention or punishment. What communications did you or your staff have with the DOJ figures handling the matter?

(5) You admit to having had “a beer with lunch” before you shot Harry Whittington in the face on a Saturday afternoon in 2006. Was that all the alcohol you consumed before that accident?

(6) During the tense days leading up to the Russian-Georgian War of August 2008, you were in communication with the government of Georgia. Did you suggest that the U.S. military would be available to stop any Russian invasion of Georgia if a war were to break out?

(7) In November 2001, as the city of Kunduz in Afghanistan was encircled, did you tell the Pakistanis that they were free to send in military transports to Kunduz to remove their personnel? Did you do this against the advice of CIA and DOD intelligence?

A few other essential reads regarding the Cheney memoir:

In an interview with Amy Goodman, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, Colin Powell’s former chief of staff, states that the book was “written out of fear, fear that one day someone will ‘Pinochet’ Dick Cheney.” This, it strikes me, is indeed the very heart of the matter. Cheney wants to rally his political base to his own defense.

Writing at Slate, Dahlia Lithwick explains why Cheney really does need to be prosecuted for his role in orchestrating the Bush era’s torture programs:

[T]he real lesson of In My Time is not that Cheney “got away with it,” though I suppose he did. It’s an admonishment to rest of us that the law really matters. The reason Cheney keeps saying that torture is “legal” is because he has a clutch of worthless legal memoranda saying so. Cheney gets away with saying torture is “legal” even though it isn’t because if it were truly illegal, he and those who devised the torture regime would have faced legal consequences — somewhere, somehow. That’s the meaning of the “rule of law.” That, rather than whether America should torture people, is what we should glean from the Cheney book.

And Bart Gellman, the nation’s number one Cheney watcher, bores down deep into the book at Time magazine’s website, examining what happened on the evening Alberto Gonzales and Andrew Card went to visit a seriously ailing and sedated John Ashcroft in his hospital room, only to find FBI director Robert Mueller and Acting Attorney General James Comey there to confront them. Gellman finds that Cheney was clearly wrong on some points and dubious on others. Behind the paywall in Time‘s September 12 issue, Gellman offers a still deeper fact check of the book. Most Washington politicians polish their accounts to put themselves in the best possible light. But Cheney’s work is of a different nature. It’s fundamentally an exercise in historical revisionism.

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

Conversation March 30, 2016, 3:44 pm

Burn Pits

Joseph Hickman discusses his new book, The Burn Pits, which tells the story of thousands of U.S. soldiers who, after returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, have developed rare cancers and respiratory diseases.

Context, No Comment August 28, 2015, 12:16 pm

Beltway Secrecy

In five easy lessons

From the April 2015 issue

Company Men

Torture, treachery, and the CIA

Get access to 165 years of
Harper’s for only $45.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

August 2016

The Origins of Speech

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Verse

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

A Sigh and a Salute

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Four in Prose

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Don the Realtor

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Atlas Aggregated

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
Martin Amis on the rise of Trump, Tom Wolfe on the origins of speech, Art Spiegelman on Si Lewen, fiction by Diane Williams, and more

In Havana, the past year has been marked by a parade of bold-faced names from the north — John Kerry reopening the United States Embassy; Andrew Cuomo bringing a delegation of American business leaders; celebrities ranging from Joe Torre, traveling on behalf of Major League Baseball to oversee an exhibition game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national team, to Jimmy Buffett, said to be considering opening one of his Margaritaville restaurants there. All this culminated with a three-day trip in March by Barack Obama, the first American president to visit Cuba since Calvin Coolidge in 1928. But to those who know the city well, perhaps nothing said as much about the transformation of political relations between the United States and Cuba that began in December 2014 as a concert in the Tribuna Antiimperialista.

Illustration by Darrel Rees
Article
Don the Realtor·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"If you have ever wondered what it’s like, being a young and avaricious teetotal German-American philistine on the make in Manhattan, then your curiosity will be quenched by The Art of the Deal."
Photograph (detail) © Polly Borland/Exclusive by Getty Images
Article
The Origins of Speech·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"To Chomsky...every child’s language organ could use the 'deep structure,' 'universal grammar,' and 'language acquisition device' he was born with to express what he had to say, no matter whether it came out of his mouth in English or Urdu or Nagamese."
Illustration (detail) by Darrel Rees. Source photograph © Miroslav Dakov/Alamy Live News
Article
A Sigh and a Salute·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Si told me that various paintings had spoken to him, but he wished they had been hung closer together 'so they could talk to each other.' This observation planted a seed that would come to fruition years later in his mature work."
Artwork (detail) by Si Lewen
Article
El Bloqueo·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Amid the festivities and the flood of celebrities, it would be easy for Americans to miss that the central plank of the long-standing cold war against Cuba — the economic embargo — remains very much alive and well."
Photograph (detail) by Rose Marie Cromwell

Estimated portion of registered voters in Zimbabwe who are dead:

1/4

Honeybees can recognize individual human faces.

Pope Francis announced that nuns could use social media, and a priest flew a hot-air balloon around the world.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

Mississippi Drift

By

Matt was happy enough to sustain himself on the detritus of a world he saw as careening toward self-destruction, and equally happy to scam a government he despised. 'I’m glad everyone’s so wasteful,' he told me. 'It supports my lifestyle.'

Subscribe Today