NEWSFLASH: Dick Cheney is a liar! We know, don’t fall out of your chairs. Still, it probably matters for the sake of posterity that we record his latest lying spree regarding the torture he approved — if only so we can say “Uhh…we’re not with that guy.” So, here goes:
Cheney stirred up a good bit of controversy after last week’s interview with Bret Baier, and then the longer one with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press. In part because in the latter, he led off with “At least it’s not as evil as 9/11.” But beyond matters of good taste, Cheney violated the laws of truth with several of his statements. Over the last week, Politifact, its sister ship PunditFact and the Washington Post collected some of the biggest doozies.
First, Politifact fact-checked this statement by Cheney during the Baier interview on Fox “News,” that terrorists weren’t covered by the Geneva convention:
“Terrorist detainees “were not covered by the Geneva Convention. They were unlawful combatants. And under those circumstances, they were not entitled to the normal kinds of courtesies and treatment.”
Catch that? The Geneva Conventions are now “courtesies.” Just a little something nice we do sometimes, for good boys and girls. Politifact rated that “Mostly False,” which is one step above its lowest “Pants on Fire” rating:
Cheney has a point that unlawful combatants are not afforded as high a level of protection as prisoners of war or civilians. However, his comment glosses over the fact that unlawful combatants are still accorded a minimum degree of protection, including a ban on “violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture,” and “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment,” both of which have been validated by the Supreme Court.
PunditFact then went Mythbusters on Cheney on this one:
“[Saddam Hussein] had a 10-year relationship with al-Qaida.”
After rating the statement “False,” PunditFact ruled:
“Cheney said Hussein had a 10-year relationship with al-Qaida. Two comprehensive, high-level government reports largely refute that statement. That includes one Pentagon study that relied on a trove of secret Iraqi government documents that fell into American hands after the invasion.”
While there’s some evidence that from time to time “the two interests overlapped,” the reality of a “working relationship” couldn’t have been further from the truth. In fact, Al Qaeda had every reason to hate and distrust Hussein, both politically and ideologically:
“In the mid 1990s, the Iraqi government cracked down and arrested religious extremists who it saw as a threat to Hussein’s power.
From the Pentagon report: “To the fundamentalist leadership of al-Qaida, Saddam represented the worst kind of ‘apostate’ regime: A secular police state well practiced in suppressing internal challenges.”
So, religious militant group Al Qaeda didn’t like Hussein because Hussein was very good at…suppressing religious militant groups like Al Qaeda. A fact of which the Pentagon was well aware when we invaded Iraq.
Washington Post columnist Glenn Kessler got in on the act as well, referencing Cheney’s having brushed off Chuck Todd’s question on Japanese waterboarding during WWII. Cheney said that we didn’t prosecute Japanese soldiers for waterboarding. The original exchange:
Chuck Todd: “When you say waterboarding is not torture, then why did we prosecute Japanese soldiers [for waterboarding]?”
Dick Cheney: “Not for waterboarding. They did an awful lot of other stuff. To draw some kind of moral equivalent between waterboarding judged by our Justice Department not to be torture and what the Japanese did with the Bataan Death March, with slaughter of thousands of Americans, with the rape of Nanking and all of the other crimes they committed, that’s an outrage. It’s a really cheap shot, Chuck, to even try to draw a parallel between the Japanese who were prosecuted for war crimes after World War II and what we did with waterboarding three individuals — all of whom are guilty and participated in the 9/11 attacks.”
Kessler called this “an excellent example of political misdirection.” He points out that yes, many “Class A” war criminals were tried for worse crimes, including most notoriously The Rape of Nanking. But “water torture” loomed very large in the proceedings, and at least one interrogator (“interpreter” Yukio Asano) was tried and convicted to 15 years hard labor almost exclusively for waterboarding. Another received 25 years hard labor, based on nothing but testimony about his waterboarding.
Kessler also makes the point that a different variety of waterboarding was “common practice” by US soldiers in Vietnam — and at least one soldier was court martialed for doing it. He summarizes:
“Cheney dismissed too cavalierly Todd’s question about the prosecution of Japanese soldiers for waterboarding. One could quibble about whether these practices were exactly like the techniques practiced by CIA interrogators. But Todd raised a legitimate question and, contrary to Cheney’s assertion, waterboarding was an important charge in a number of the lesser-profile cases. Moreover, waterboarding also resulted in at least one court martial during the Vietnam War.”
Cheney rebuts that it wasn’t a war crime when he had his people do it, because three judges he and Bush appointed said it wasn’t a war crime while they were doing it. So, now it’s time for us to summarize:
- Cheney and Bush knew Al Qaeda had nothing to do with Iraq when we invaded.
- The people he had tortured were covered by the Geneva Convention.
- Waterboarding was and is defined by the Geneva convention as torture, and has been for 80 years.
- It isn’t torture anymore, to the U.S., because three judges appointed by a war criminal said so.
Is it too late to do that 2000 Florida recount now?