Gaylord Guenin: Letters from Woody Creek
July 3, 2009
What a marvelous treat it was to have Dick Cheney front and center once again as he participated in a media blitz during May and early June.
You remember Cheney, don’t you? He was the “invisible” vice president under George W., our compassionate-warrior ex-president. In the name of national security, Cheney spent his eight years in office hunkered down in some undisclosed location, pretty much out of view of the media and the American public. The London Sunday Times claimed he was in his bunker “secretly pulling the Bush administration’s puppet strings.” A lot of Americans believed the same.
We do know that Cheney (and the Bush administration) embraced secrecy as if it were the only way to govern. One only has to recall the early days of the administration when environmentalists and conservationists complained about the arcane meetings Cheney was holding as our nation’s energy policy was being patched together. It was claimed that the only input was coming from industry and its lobbyists while those concerned with the planet’s future were being locked out of the discussions. In the end, it appeared the environmentalists and their friends were correct.
But it was not just a penchant for secrecy that sent Cheney to his “bunker”; 9/ll was a major factor. No one knew what al-Qaida might do next but an attempt to assassinate the president or vice president was not out of the question, so it was considered prudent to keep them separate as much as possible, thus Cheney spent much of his time in “undisclosed locations.”
No, Cheney didn’t suddenly burst back on the scene to discuss his living accommodations during the George W. years, he was suddenly everywhere attempting to defend his party’s use of “enhanced interrogation” (a rather weak euphemism for torture) of suspected terrorists.
Cheney not only argued that torture (he never used that word) helped to keep the terrorists at bay, he went so far as to maintain that President Obama has “made this country more vulnerable” by banning such “enhanced interrogation” methods as waterboarding. What Cheney, Bush and others gleefully ignore is the fact that the White House might have avoided 9/11 had it not ignored warnings about a potential terrorist attack. And there were warnings.
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But the Republicans got their butts kicked in the last election and certain individuals among their numbers will say anything to discredit, or at least attempt to discredit, Obama. There is an insidious touch of evil in Cheney’s logic, which seems to presume that any future act of terrorism in the United States can be blamed on Obama’s failure to torture other human beings.
While watching and listening to Cheney, it was difficult not to think of the Inquisition established by the Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, a miserably dark time when thousands of citizens were tortured and many were killed. The Catholic Church was trying to cleanse Europe of Protestants, who were seen as heretics and a threat to its power and riches.
Into that thought appears Cheney, sitting as a grand inquisitor behind a huge elevated desk, dressed in robes and wearing one of those goofy pointed hats so favored by the hierarchy of the Church. Cheney is displaying that monstrously evil sneer that comes so naturally to him and it is aimed at Galileo (you do remember that famous astronomer, I hope) who sits before him, charged with heretical teachings.
In 1632 Galileo published “Dialogue on the Great World Systems” and the following year he was before the inquisition. Galileo defended the Copernican theory that the sun was the center of our universe and not our earth, as the Church proclaimed. Considering the Bush administration’s disdain of science, it is only appropriate that Cheney should be the inquisitor in the case against Galileo.
The question is, would Cheney have been willing to subject Galileo to waterboarding? Listening to his defense of “enhanced interrogation” during his recent media blitz, the answer must be “yes.” Because Galileo proposed an idea that conflicted with the teachings of the Church, it is easy to believe that Cheney would have viewed Galileo as a full-blown terrorist and would have dealt with him accordingly.
It is not too difficult to envision Cheney, sitting there in his pointy hat, sending Galileo to his death. The Catholic Church finally sentenced Galileo to house arrest for the remainder of his life after he recanted his views but it is questionable if Cheney would have been so compassionate.
This is all just a product of my imagination, but I don’t think it is such an incredible stretch of imagination. Cheney and Bush, or Bush and Cheney (if you believe Bush actually was in command), adopted an “anything goes” ethic, one that allowed the use of torture against al-Qaida and other terrorists. The frightening aspect of that approach is that it could be used against citizens such as you or me if affairs in this nation really got out of hand.
In Cheney’s eyes, a hard-core liberal most likely is seen as a terrorist. Who knows, maybe that is what we are?