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Obama’s New Strategy: Pit Cheney Against Powell
Posted By On May 18, 2009 @ 12:15 pm In News | Comments Disabled
In a Newsweek interview  released over the weekend, President Barack Obama made an interesting statement regarding former Vice President Dick Cheney’s policies that, to our knowledge, has gone without much remark:
You know, Dick Cheney had a strong perspective about national security. It was tested in the early years of the Bush administration, and I think it resulted in a series of very bad decisions. I think what’s interesting is that, in some ways, Dick Cheney actually lost these arguments inside the Bush administration.
And so he may have won early with Colin Powell and Condi Rice, but over the last two or three years of the Bush administration, I think there was a recognition among Republicans and Bush administration officials that these enhanced interrogation techniques that were being applied—that they had applied early on—were potentially counterproductive; that a posture of never talking to our enemies, of unilateral action, of framing national security only in terms of the application of force, often unilateral—that that wasn’t producing.
And so it’s interesting to me to see the vice president spending so much time trying to vindicate himself and relitigate the last eight years when, as I said, I think, actually, a lot of these arguments were settled even before we took over the White House.
While the President has shown he wants to minimize his involvement in the debate over prosecution of former Bush officials, he’s clearly trying to influence the messaging. Cheney, of course, had mammoth bureaucratic battles with Powell, who left the administration after Bush’s first term and endorsed Obama for president shortly before the 2008 elections. Powell argues the GOP won’t be back in power until it moves closer to the center of public opinion. Cheney recently took a public shot at Powell , remarking: “I didn’t know he was still a Republican.”
Obama’s Newsweek interview comes on the heels of recent revelations  made by Col. Lawrence Wilkerson. The former chief of staff to Powell at the State Department referred to Cheney as the “Sith Lord” on Steven Clemons’ blog  and notes:
Third–and here comes the blistering fact–when Cheney claims that if President Obama stops “the Cheney method of interrogation and torture”, the nation will be in danger, he is perverting the facts once again. But in a very ironic way.
My investigations have revealed to me–vividly and clearly–that once the Abu Ghraib photographs were made public in the Spring of 2004, the CIA, its contractors, and everyone else involved in administering “the Cheney methods of interrogation”, simply shut down. Nada. Nothing. No torture or harsh techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator. Period. People were too frightened by what might happen to them if they continued.
What I am saying is that no torture or harsh interrogation techniques were employed by any U.S. interrogator for the entire second term of Cheney-Bush, 2005-2009. So, if we are to believe the protestations of Dick Cheney, that Obama’s having shut down the “Cheney interrogation methods” will endanger the nation, what are we to say to Dick Cheney for having endangered the nation for the last four years of his vice presidency?
Likewise, what I have learned is that as the administration authorized harsh interrogation in April and May of 2002–well before the Justice Department had rendered any legal opinion–its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at pre-empting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al-Qa’ida.
So furious was this effort that on one particular detainee, even when the interrogation team had reported to Cheney’s office that their detainee “was compliant” (meaning the team recommended no more torture), the VP’s office ordered them to continue the enhanced methods. The detainee had not revealed any al-Qa’ida-Baghdad contacts yet. This ceased only after Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, under waterboarding in Egypt, “revealed” such contacts. Of course later we learned that al-Libi revealed these contacts only to get the torture to stop.
There in fact were no such contacts. (Incidentally, al-Libi just “committed suicide” in Libya. Interestingly, several U.S. lawyers working with tortured detainees were attempting to get the Libyan government to allow them to interview al-Libi….)
As the question surrounding prosecutions shifts to Cheney pushing for torture to vindicate his decision to invade Iraq, expect more dialogue about disagreements between Cheney and the rest of the Bush administration.
And just for kicks, on Saturday Night Live, Will Ferrell wishes Cheney would be more like Vice President Joe Biden, reveals Cheney’s most embarrassing secret, and why Cheney should get off Powell’s case:
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