10/29/2006 09:19 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

A Little Silly

If folks in Congress, of both parties, as well as the news media can spend two
consecutive weeks talking of little else besides salacious instant messages sent by
Rep. Mark Foley to a teenage page, they can figure out a way to squeeze in news of
the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, dubious interrogation techniques,
secret terror cells, as well as this vice president's insolent dismissal of
allegations that he finds waterboarding, a method of torture that dates back to the
Inquisition, acceptable. Why not put extraordinary rendition back on the front page
instead of all this gratuitous tripe about the Virginia Senate race?

Do we care more about obscenity of thought, word, and image than obscenity in
action? Maybe, instead of an election, a week from Tuesday, we should have a slumber
party because most Americans seem to care more about Lynne Cheney's lesbian novel of
20 years ago than her husband's implied heads-up for a practice that has been
universally condemned as torture for more than a generation. You'll recall, back in
1901, the method some have referred to as the "water cure" earned Major Edwin Glenn
10 years of hard labor after he was convicted of having given an Insurgent, in the
Philippines, a "dunk in the water." How Mr. Cheney can consider as a "no brainer" an
interrogation technique, waterboarding, for which U.S. military commissions
prosecuted, and convicted, several Japanese as war criminals in World War II is, in
a word, incredible. Clearly, history was not this vice president's major.

In his much-quoted interview with conservative talk show host Scott Hennen of WDAY
in Fargo, N.D., the vice president agreed that "a dunk in the water is a no-brainer
if it can save lives." (Washington Post) Yet, not too long ago, a president was
impeached for fine tuning the definition of sex when he lied to a grand jury about
his affair with a White House intern. Oh, so it's okay to tweak the definition of
torture, but not of sex. Or, maybe the issue is lying to a grand jury; lying to the
press, the American people, and Congress doesn't count. It seems Mr. Cheney has
worked with this president for so long that everything has now become "a no brainer"
to him.

President Clinton, you'll recall, said he didn't consider "oral sex" sex in much the
same way this vice president thinks that "a slam dunk" has nothing to do with
waterboarding. We can only hope that the vice president will be given the chance to
testify about this before a grand jury, after the election, when the Democrats take
Congress. As the kind of skewered logic that condones torture by linguistic sleight
of hand is impeachable, in the best sense of the word. And when the White House
press secretary contends that a "dunk in the water" was not meant as anything more
than that, clearly the same form of sophistry is applied; only this kind of
sophistry is far more pernicious than anything that any previous president
intended.This administration is making the same argument when it comes to torture,
as evidenced by Mr. Cheney's remarks, aboard Air Force Two, last night when he
insisted that he "didn't say anything about waterboarding," and "didn't even use
that word."

To add insult to injury, the vice president also agreed with WDAY talk show host
that discussions about interrogation techniques are, in his words, "a little silly"
while, simultaneously, praising information obtained from detainees as a result of
these techniques. (WaPo). Has the vice president paid a visit to Guantanamo Bay, Abu
Ghraid, or other bordellos of butchery in Iraq, and Afghanistan lately? Indeed, this
"end justifies the means" logic is fit for Mephistopheles, but not those who fancy
themselves leaders of the free world.

Just think, for a minute, about where western civilization would be now if those who
met in Geneva, more than 50 years ago, to pen the Geneva Conventions agreed that it
is "a little silly" to talk about interrogation techniques. Or, maybe the vice
president thinks that the travesties of bin Laden, and Al Qaeda surpass those of
other monsters of history, and exceed the horrors of that other world war half a
century ago? What's more, to consider national, and international dialogue about
methods used to obtain information from prisoners of war "silly," and irrelevant is
to insult those who met in Geneva, the integrity of international law, the spirit of
global cooperation, as well as the intelligence of the American people.

A week or so ago, general, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace, suggested that
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld takes his orders from "a higher source." For
this, one can rest assured, future generations may remember the good general as
Peter Pan. That said, in his recent memoirs, former German German Chancellor,
Gerhard Schroder, writes of his meetings with the president that "Again and again in
our private talks it became clear how God-fearing this President was and how he
ruled by what he saw as a Higher Power...The problem begins when political
discussions seem to result from a conversation with God." (Times of London)

It would appear, when Bush and Rumsfeld are on a conference call with that "Higher
Power," Mr. Cheney must be in the woods working on his target practice. To his
credit, the vice president isn't among those, in his administration, suggesting his
actions are divinely inspired, and claiming they have the New Testament stamp of
approval. One can think of little that is more "silly" than a wartime president's
claim to be divinely inspired to torture, maim, rape, occupy, and plunder a
sovereign nation with impunity, and without oversight; only "silly" isn't the right
word, "criminal" is more like it.