All the hullaballoo over the United States government's' use of torture as an officially-sanctioned intelligence gathering process was bad enough. It brought back memories of a shameful period in American history. But when Dick Cheney reappeared to defend the practice of torture, it was the worst specter of Christmas past. He managed to rekindle one of my few regrets in nine years working on the Hill. Damn Ebenezer Cheney!
My great remorse from that period is that a Democratic House majority passed on an opportunity for a little justice. In late 2008, after the election of Barack Obama but before his inauguration, a group of Democratic staffers quietly drafted a policy memo trying to convince our bosses to introduce a Motion of Censure against President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and assorted others in the Bush Administration for their decision to invade Iraq. That decision cost the lives of 4,500 Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and more than $1.5 trillion dollars. It threw the Middle East into what may be perpetual chaos. And, all of it was predicated on lies.
We tried to sell the idea of a Resolution of Censure -- far short of impeachment and requiring only a majority vote in the House, but it never picked up any steam. Everyone, we were told, had pretty much turned the corner. Congress was occupied with getting ready for a new president and a new session. America was just plain "Bushed" by the events of the last Administration and simply wanted them all gone. Nothing happened.
So, as our memo predicted, "People who campaigned on accountability and said, 'judge us by our performance,' walked away from the most corrupt, inept, secretive and ideologically-driven White House in American history without ever once being held accountable."
And only much later did it occur to me that we should have left President Bush out of it and pushed for the censure of the Cardinal Richelieu of the administration, Richard B. Cheney. No-one on earth could have had a problem with that. Cheney was so mean, even his friends didn't like him.
The disappointment had faded a bit over time, but then the Dark Eminence of Iraq re-emerged, completely unrepentant, to defend the use of torture -- even deny that waterboarding, starvation and anal feeding were torture, although the rest of the world is pretty clear about such practices. And, even though the United States prosecuted Japanese army officers for using identical tactics on U.S. military prisoners in the Philippines during World War II.
Cheney continues to insist that the U.S. gained valuable information from the use of torture, even though genuine intelligence professionals have revealed that any usable intel came before the waterboarding began. He continues to claim that waterboarding isn't actually torture because the White House had a memo from its Attorney General's Office attesting that whatever they wanted to do was pretty much okay. That memo, of course, was totally repudiated long ago.
But a stubborn refusal to admit any mistakes in judgment isn't exactly new for Dick Cheney. He still insists that Saddam Hussein's was in the process of developing WMD, including nuclear weapons, though the accusation has been thoroughly and authoritatively debunked. He still claims some sort of alliance existed between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda without the slightest indication or evidence, and despite the fact that a pact between a Sunni Muslim dictator and a stateless Wahhabi jihadist organization would have defied all logic.
The saving grace is history. When the history of the Bush Administration is finally written, Cheney won't be allowed to just sit and growl at anyone who questions anything he did or said. History will not be intimidated. History may tell us whether George W. Bush was complicit in some of the most tragic, ill-advised and downright shameful decisions of his administration, or simply oblivious. But it will be very clear about the role of Dick Cheney.
Merry Christmas, Dick.