Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Thank you Dick Cheney.

It's a good thing we have Dick Cheney around to remind us that we are at war.  Here are his comments on the arrest of Umar Farouk AbdulMutallab, accused of attempting to set off a bomb in an airplane landing in Detroit on Christmas day:

As I’ve watched the events of the last few days it is clear once again that President Obama is trying to pretend we are not at war. He seems to think if he has a low-key response to an attempt to blow up an airliner and kill hundreds of people, we won’t be at war. He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won’t be at war.
Echoing the comments of other Republican critics who complain that we are coddling the Christmas bomber by refraining from torturing him, and planning to try him in an American court, Dick Cheney reminds us that of course the Bush administration would never have handled such a problem in that way.

Except, wait a minute . . ., what about Richard Reid, the shoe bomber?  Just like this year's underwear bomber, Richard Reid, also known as  Tariq Raja, was arrested in December 2001 for attempting to set off an explosive device on a flight from Paris to Miami.  He was a convert to an extreme sect of Islam, he was not an American citizen, and he also claimed he was affiliated with Al Qaeda.  So how was this terrorist treated by the Bush administration?  He was prosecuted in federal district court, and sentenced to prison after pleading guilty. Richard Reid was given the rights of an American accused of a crime.  He was allowed to lawyer up.  He is serving his sentence in an American prison like a common criminal.  Aside from causing new restrictions on handling shoes and liquids in airport screenings, the incident was handled in a low key way.

Just as with Cheney's inconsistent criticism of the Obama administration's handling of its generals' requests for additional troops in Afghanistan, Cheney's real problem seems not so much about the substance of the Obama administration's policies, but about the rhetoric.  What he appears most upset about is President Obama's refusal to whip up war hysteria, his low key demeanor, his failure to succumb to fear and hate.  What Cheney seems to feel is lacking is the will to keep the country on a war footing to deal with the continuing problem of Islamic extremist terrorists, and to use the excuse of war to reduce the constitutional rights of criminals, and the privacy rights of American citizens.  Instead President Obama has committed the outrageous sins of trusting in the American judicial system, admitting an apparent intelligence failure, and reassuring Americans that they should not be unduly alarmed.  What Dick Cheney does not understand is the strength represented by that kind of response, as opposed to the fear and weakness that he continues to demonstrate.

Here is part of the White House response to Cheney's ridiculous criticisms:
To put it simply: this President is not interested in bellicose rhetoric, he is focused on action. Seven years of bellicose rhetoric failed to reduce the threat from al Qaeda and succeeded in dividing this country. And it seems strangely off-key now, at a time when our country is under attack, for the architect of those policies to be attacking the President.
Off-key is putting it mildly.  But I guess putting it mildly is all that Cheney was complaining about.


  1. On this one we agree. The same process should be followed with this guy as with the last guy. I agree with Cheney in that Obama doesn't seem to be expressing the need to treat terrorism in the same way as the previous administration but that should not make it okay for him to make these kinds of statements about the current situation.

  2. I would like to thank Harrison for pointing this article out to me. I was planning to write something similar about Cheney's comment. While I haven't had too many issues with the comments by the former VP over the past year, his criticism on this issue is wrong and contradictory to what his boss did a few years ago.

  3. That's right, the disgraced Bush administration apparently won't be happy until the United States has given up all of its principles. After 9/11, this was supposed to be about the survival of the United States in the face of violent enemies. But after Bush/Cheney, it's become about the survival of the United States as a nation of principle. They authorized extraordinary rendition, they authorized holding accused criminals for years without charge, and they authorized the torture of accused criminals. What's wrong with this picture? Everything. Are we as a nation more interested in mere survival than in our future as an example of freedom and liberty? Really?

  4. Really? I haven't lost any rights and neither have you. Tell me one right you have directly lost over the past 10 years.

  5. Harrison, if the government tortures a single person, that threatens my rights. If the government intercepts telephone calls without a warrant, that threatens my rights. If the government detains anyone without charges and without access to counsel, that also threatens my rights.

    Remember this poem about the Nazis?

    First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a communist;

    Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—because I was not a trade unionist;

    Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—because I was not a Jew;

    Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak out for me.

    Thanks for your comment, Nate.

  6. Joe, your abstract notion of having your rights threatened is quite charming. I'd rather have a guy dunked in some water and save innocent lives than not. And I don't call "waterboarding" torture anyway. Want to see real torture look at what the people who were waterboarded do.