Those who watched Dick Cheney’s speech Thursday, May 21 had a glimpse of the ‘real Cheney’ stripped of his usual condescending corporate-CEO cold-bloodedness and country-club sham machismo — for the first part of his remarks he was a shaken, sick old man of 68 desperately trying to make a case for brazenly violating the laws of civilization and the US Constitution, apparently clinging to the notion that if he can summon up enough public support for his torture policies he can avoid the temporary judgment of a jury, and the more lasting condemnation of history.
For, in fact, Cheney’s fervid protestations that ‘we didn’t torture’ and his subsequent bizarre assertions that ‘everything we did was legal’ fail on both counts, yet another prime example of the perpetually wrongheaded Cheney approach on display since he assumed the vice presidency by way of an illicit Supreme Court decision in 2000.
The waterboarding that Cheney has blithely admitted to in several different public forums has been defined as torture since the autos-da-f纯a> of the Spanish Inquisition 500 years ago, and various international tribunals and American courts in the Twentieth Century have reaffirmed that definition. Cheney’s justification that the torture he authorized was ‘legal’ because a couple of DOJ lawyers told him so holds no more water than if they had advised him it was legal for him to own slaves. The Constitution Cheney took an oath to uphold states clearly that ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ is banned, as do several treaties the US has signed which are by dint of Congressional approval the law of the land, as well as the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment signed by Republican President Ronald Reagan in 1988 which specifically prohibits the sort of cruel and degrading treatment of detainees Cheney authorized.
There’s nothing more reliable than anonymously-sourced comments, as readers of the NY Times well know
Item 1. “Here’s the way it worked in the GOP when Bush Junior was in office: If some Republican senator or representative threatened to vote against the White House on an important issue, they’d get ‘The Call,’ which went something like: ‘Okay, you vote any way you want but, when you’re up for re-election, don’t count on any help from the RNC, and we’re gonna call the big money donors to the party and tell them to take you off the list. Oh, and we’re also gonna run a heavyweight Republican against you in the primary, so you may not even get to run for re-election. So, you go on and cast your vote however you want.’ You could count the number of Republicans who crossed the line on one hand. I don’t understand why the Democrats can’t do this with the Conserva-Dems.”
Item 2. “These big biotech companies like Monsanto have labs down in Mexico that experiment on all kinds of weird sci-fi stuff they couldn’t get away with in the States. This new Swine Flu virus H1N1 — is some kind of mutant combo of bird flu, swine flu and a human flu. How did those three get together naturally? If one of these weirdo genetic combos got loose outside the lab and started making people sick, you really believe in your wildest dreams that Monsanto or whoever is going to fess up and say ‘Whoops our bad! We goofed and this genetically-altered mutant virus we created got loose!’ Sure — the billions in lawsuits and bad PR would bury them.”
Item 3. “Arlen Specter’s dreaming if he thinks he’s going to win the Pennsylvania Democratic primary. Off-year primaries are where the real party faithful vote and some of these folks still remember when Specter jumped from the Democrats to the Republicans in 1965, and they’re still pissed about it. Any credible Democrat could beat him. Hell, Chris Matthews could beat him. Specter could maybe save his bacon if he became a real progressive Democrat, but he’s already shown he’s not going there. Obama and [PA Gov. Ed] Rendell will say a few good words about him, but that’s not going to save him. That old man’s living in a fairyland. His ass is astroturf in 2010, in my opinion.”
“The most troubling example pertains to Abu Zubaydah’s mental state before he was tortured. John Yoo (writing under Jay Bybee’s name) goes to some lengths to establish Abu Zubaydah’s sanity. After five paragraphs that basically make Abu Zubaydah out to be a self-confident stud, here’s what Yoo says about AZ’s psychological health.
“‘According to your reports [from CIA Acting Counsel John Rizzo], Zubaydah does not have any pre-existing mental conditions or problems that would make him likely to suffer prolonged mental harm from your proposed interrogation methods. Through reading his diaries and interviewing him, you have found no history of ‘mood disturbance or other psychiatric pathology [,]’ ‘thought disorder [,] … enduring mood or mental health problems.’ He is in fact ‘remarkably resilient and confident that he can overcome adversity.’ When he encounters stress or low mood, this appears to last only for a short time. He deals with stress by assessing its source, evaluating the coping resources available to him, and then taking action. Your assessment notes that he is ‘generally self-sufficient and relies on his understanding and application of religious and psychological principles, intelligence and discipline to avoid and overcome problems.’ During detention, Zubaydah has managed his mood, remaining at most points ‘circumspect, calm, controlled., and deliberate.’ He has maintained [this] demeanor during aggressive interrogations and reductions in sleep. You describe that in an initial confrontational incident, Zubaydah showed signs of sympathetic nervous system arousal, which you think was possibly fear. Although this incident led him to disclose intelligence information, he was able to quickly regain his composure, his air of confidence, and his ‘strong resolve’ not to reveal any information.'”
— Excerpt from one of the John Yoo/Jay Bybee torture memos, as quoted by Emptywheel at Firedoglake.
“Meanwhile, this is what Dan Coleman–an FBI guy with deep knowledge of al Qaeda–had to say about AZ in Ron Suskind’s One Percent Doctrine:
‘Dan Coleman and other knowledgeable members of the tribe of al Qaeda hunters at CIA were reading Zubaydah’s top secret diary and shaking their heads.
”This guy is insane, certifiable, split personality,’ Coleman told a top official at FBI after a few days reviewing the Zubaydah haul.’
“Two different people reading the same diary. One cherry-picks from it to claim AZ exhibited no evidence of ‘mood disturbance,’ whereas another reads the same diary and concludes the guy is nuts.”
— From “The OLC Memos, ‘Erroneous and Inflammatory Assumptions,’ and John Rizzo’s Lies,” by Emptywheel at Firedoglake, April 16, 2009.
“Although the waterboard constitutes a threat of imminent death, prolonged mental harm must nonetheless result to violate the statutory prohibition on infliction of severe mental pain or suffering … In the absence of prolonged mental harm, no severe mental pain or suffering would have been inflicted, and the use of these procedures would not constitute torture.”
— Liliana Segura, quoting from the Jay Bybee memo of August 1, 2002, in “New Bush Torture Bombshell Memos: 10 Horrifying Discoveries,” AlterNet, April 17, 2009.
Read all of the declassified Bush Administration torture memos here.
March 6, 2041: John’s eternal sentence is to sit chained to a desk in a grubby cubicle that smells like the inside of Cheney’s colostomy bag, endlessly preparing legal memos in longhand justifying his mistreatment in Hell, while demonic children chant silly jokes involving his last name — “Hey, yoo-hoo-de-boo-boo!” — and perform “Yoo’s On First” comedy routines unto eternity, with the occasional surprise torture session that doesn’t result in organ failure or permanent disfigurement tossed in to keep him on his toes.