Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The Mystery of Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney has become the focus for discontent with the Bush administration. The Washington Post is running a four-part series on Cheney as the sinister mastermind behind the legitimation of torture, the advocacy of war on Iran, the subversion of the science of global warming and the destruction of America's moral authority.  Meanwhile, he has started a complex constitutional row about the exact status of the vice-president. Plans are now being laid - by both Democrats and Republicans to get rid of Cheney. For many, perhaps most, people, both in America and the world, he has become the supreme  symbol of the cynical and destructive abuse of power, a man apparently dedicated to the cause of engaging the US in a perpetual war on multiple global and domestic fronts. I don't know whether any of this is fair, though I do find myself mystified by Cheney - rather as I was by Donald Rumsfeld and John Bolton. There is about all these men a kind of vacuous defiance that seems to derive energy from strategic and political mayhem. Rumsfeld was incompetent and Bolton is a clown. What, then, is Cheney? He is not likely to be proved right about anything in his own lifetime, nor, probably, in anybody else's. The default justification at the moment seems to be that America has not been attacked since 9/11, but that, of course, leaves out the steady killing of US troops in Iraq. Cheney, I think, can only be vindicated by an Israelification of the American imagination. By persuading Americans that they are destined, perhaps for many generations, to fight this diffuse and costly war without any realistic hope of victory, he could create an Israel-like sense of national destiny. But even this project seems to have gone into reverse and, anyway, it is plainly impossible. Perhaps the grim reality is that Cheney is right, but, even if he is, he seems to be doing a desperately bad job of convincing anybody. So what is the grand plan behind all this? Is he right? I really want to know.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Do you really want to know, Bryan? The plan was quite straightforward on certain levels. As said in the PNAC, what was desired was "a catastrophic and catalyzing event like a new Pearl Harbour", ie 911, which would legitimise the planned military actions abroad and the reversing of civil liberties at home. And of course the black comedy of an unwinnable war against an enemy that the CIA had itself created a couple of decades earlier. What an achievement that was...get people to be convinced that this body of men they had personally trained & funded spun itself into a global organisation which amounted to a great undying threat to civilization thus justifying all manner of shredding of civilian rights & military edcapades.
    I also think Ockham's Razor, though not in itself an infallible doctrine, should be taken more seriously. If someone continuously commits bad or evil actions it is naive and bizarre of us to interpret this that they have good intentions beneath the evil, stupid actions. This is needlessly rendering complex the much more straightforward explanation which is that the evil actions are the result of people with evil intentions.

  3. The Israelification of US culture is also interesting. In NCSI, shown here twice a week on C5, attractive Mossad agent (played by Cote de Pablo) is loaned to NCIS, chiefly because she is an assassin and torturer who can always be relied upon to go that bit further than the regular guy home players.

    One hates to be pedantic but the CIA did not fund the 'Arab Afghans' around Abdullah Azzam's Bureau of Services and then bin Laden. Nor did official Saudi sources, because bin Laden's main target until 1996/97 was the Saudi ruling dynasty. Their funding came from private Gulf sources and from Pakistan's sinister intelligence services. Nor did it train them. By the mid-1990s the CIA had a bin Laden unit called 'Alex'. Its field operatives were keen on kidnapping or killing him. Plans frustrated by White House lawyers, Pentagon generals and the CIA hierarchy. Bill Clinton did, however, authorise a few 'renditions' of Al Qaeda figures and a few ineffectual Cruise missile strikes. See, among others, Steve Coll's excellent Ghost Wars.

    The neo-cons (and I am not sure Cheney is among their number) are mainly former Trots- some Jews, some not- who favour thinking outside the box for its own sake, to the point of inhabiting a counter-factual universe i which the facts (including intelligence) are adapted to their ideal reality. If slow Middle Eastern diplomacy doesn't work, why not throw the chess board up in the air, and see where the pieces fall? Let's do liberty, forgetting that it was the Jacobins who were the first to spread liberty by the bayonet. Enter Tony Blair with the creed of liberal interventionism to make the gum taste less of nicotine. 9/11 broadly legitimated a strategy of taking the fight out to the 'enemy', a policy which was 'neatly' fused with the desire to off Saddam Hussein, a menace to Israel and the Gulf Arabs. Technological hubris replaced careful planning for the aftermath, with the notable exception of Guantanamo Bay. I remember having dinner with a US colonel, we'll call him 'HR' for short, who is now the main tactical mastermind behind Petraeus's counter insurgency campaign, a week before the invasion. He was talking shock and awe rather than sewers and policemen. Partly due to the expensively paid human rights lobby (see Peter Burnet's excellent post on that a few days ago) this has become another inflammatory Islamist cause celebre, like Bosnia, Chechnya, the Intifada and so on. Great! Meanwhile, the chronic grinding down of US forces in Iraq means that no military options are realistic for the much graver problem of Iran, since 1979 the world's major state sponsor of terrorism, now through Hamas as well as Hizbollah. Rather stupidly, the US persisted in cold-shouldering them, despite areas of agreement (i.e Afghanistan where the Taliban shot dead 11 Iranian dilplomats and massacred Shia in Herat, while Al Qaeda blew up a major Shia shrine in Iran killing 19). Now Iran is the major regional power broker, and will soon have a nuclear bomb. Great!

    The quicker Republicans get Fred Thompson in charge the better, a nice Reagan style true conservative. It will take decades to put right the mess Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bolton, Blair et al have made, decades which will also involve fighting the long war declared by Al Qaeda and its associates. Watch the Hamas take over of Gaza, and you'll see that these guys never give up. Sorry this is so long.

  4. As ever, Captain, an honour to have you aboard. Evil intentions, Andrew, are seldom evil to the intender.

  5. River of DeceitJune 27, 2007 12:09 pm

    If the Neo-cons still have that trotskyite irrationality then i wouldn't rule out a full scale attack on Iran ,or even, though unimaginable, an invasion.

  6. True, Bryan, but they can be evil in broad moral terms, just as the Nazis were idealists engaged in what they viewed as desirable ends, but if we allow ouselves a universe of moral truths, then their aintentions & actions were evil.
    I'd have to broadly disagree with Captain vis a vis CIA responsibility for the growth of the mujahedin movement in Afghanistan, which of course is where it all began for Bin Laden.
    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the US National Security Advisor in the 1970s has come out openly admitting the effective creation of the Afghani mujahedin, the Taliban & al-Qaida, disclosing Pres Carter's secret directive to bankroll the mujahedin & America's colloaboration 'with the Saudis, the Egyptians, the British...(to start) providing weapons to the mujahedin. In interview in 1998, Brzezinski said:
    "According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the mujahedin began during 1980, that's to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan. But the reality, kept secret until now, is completely different: on 3 July 1979 President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul. And on the same day, I wrote a note to the president in which I explained that in my opinion this aid would lead to a Soviet military intervention."
    Asked whether he in any way regretted these actions, Brzezinski replied: "Regret what? The secret operation was an excellent idea. It drew the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? On the day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter, saying, in essence: 'We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War.'"

    Nouvel Observateur: "And neither do you regret having supported Islamic fundamentalism, which has given arms and advice to future terrorists?"

    Brzezinski: "What is more important in world history? The Taliban or the collapse of the Soviet empire? Some agitated Muslims or the liberation of Central Europe and the end of the Cold War?"
    The details of how people like Bin Laden were trained in camps, primarily in Pakistan, are pretty exhaustive which we could go into if desired. Anyway, one final bit: According to Michael Springmann, former head of the US Visa Bureau in Jeddaj, it was policy 'to bring recruits, rounded up by Osama Bin Laden, to the US for terrorist training by the CIA.'

  7. So what is the grand plan behind all this?

    Originally, unfettered American miltary and economic supremacy throughout the world was the goal, I think. As we have seen, the planning left much to be desired.

    I tend to agree that the plan now is what you refer to at the end. They've done as miserable job explaining that as they have every other initiative taken, but have convinced an amazing number of people to believe it all the same.

    Is he right?

    I doubt it, and earnestly hope not, but we shall have to wait and see, unfortunately.

    I really want to know.

    So do I.

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