Commentary: What’s up with Dick Cheney?

Former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Former Vice President Dick Cheney. Luis M. Alvarez / AP

If former vice president Darth Cheney had been arrested for any of his multiple felonies, he might remember the most important of the Miranda rights that the arresting officer would have read to him: You have the right to remain silent.

These days, you can't turn on your television without finding Cheney’s doughboy face on the screen, alternately repeating old lies, mouthing new lies or defiantly confessing to yet another criminal act.

It's enough to make me yearn for the old Dick Cheney, the one who ventured out of his "undisclosed location" behind a locked door in the vice presidential residence on Washington's Observatory Circle only to make a speech at some buttoned-down military base.

Most of his unindicted co-conspirators - George W. Bush, Donald H. Rumsfeld, Douglas Feith, Paul Wolfowitz and their assorted consiglieri and mouthpieces, Jay Bybee, David Addington, Alberto Gonzales, John Yoo, William Haynes II - have mostly had the good sense to keep their mouths shut.

So what's up with Cheney?

The things he's been saying are easily checked against his previous public utterances and a growing encyclopedia of investigations and shown to be bald-faced lies. Check out the story by two of my colleagues at McClatchy, Jonathan Landay and Warren Strobel.

It almost begs the question: How can you tell Dick Cheney is lying? His lips are moving.

Then, this past week, he went and broke new ground by telling the truth for once. After seven years of insisting otherwise, the voice from the Dark Side finally admitted what most of us knew all along: There was no meaningful link between Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein and al Qaida's attack on 9/11.

Back when Cheney was insisting otherwise, telling that whopper over and over, he was working overtime to drag America into an unnecessary war in the wrong place, at the wrong time, against the wrong people.

Now he confesses that he was lying about that one little thing in his eagerness to take our country into a war of choice that so far has cost the lives more than 4,200 American troops and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who were caught in the middle when Cheney and his friends loosed the dogs of war on them, and has already cost American taxpayers a trillion or so dollars and another billion dollars a month.

Obviously, then, this is a man who needs all the national airtime he can get to continue defending the indefensible, attempting to rewrite the sorry history of an administration that's already been consigned to richly deserved oblivion, and confessing to international war crimes and serial violations of our law, international law and God's law.

Cheney already has confessed that he approved of and helped formulate the White House-run operation that collected and promoted bogus intelligence from Iraqi exiles and unleashed illegal torture and abuse on suspected terrorists. He also said he still believes that detaining innocent people without trial and waterboarding terrorists produced good information, and that the end justifies the means.

It's fairly obvious that if he or many of the others named above ever set foot outside the United States, they're likely to end up like Chile's Augusto Pinochet or worse.

That begs the question of why men such as Cheney and his friends are still able to thumb their noses at the law, public opinion and our Constitution with impunity here at home, in the land of the free and home of the brave?

That question comes to my mind every time I see President Barack Obama sharing the airwaves with Cheney; every time I see congressional leaders who have the power to investigate the criminal behavior of these men; every time I hear Dick Cheney on the Sunday news shows or the evening news.

I hear testimony that one of the al Qaida high-value targets who was subjected to waterboarding more than 80 times in less than a month was tortured after he'd already given up everything he knew under normal, legal interrogation.

I also hear testimony that the highest-ranking terrorist we ever got our hands on was subjected to waterboarding eight times a day for a grand total of 183 sessions of near drowning, near-death.

While Cheney proclaims that such actions helped keep us safe from terrorist attacks, there are others, who were either present in the room or read the transcripts, who say we got nothing of actionable value. Nothing worth a pitcher of warm spit.

If Dick Cheney has so much that he wants to confess, then why doesn't somebody on Capitol Hill subpoena him to testify under oath before an investigating committee or a truth commission. Or maybe we need a special prosecutor who can put him in a chair in front of a grand jury.

Enough already.