Dick Cheney- Corporate Criminal


Vice Axes That 70's Show

by Maureen Dowd
The New York Times
December 28, 2005

WASHINGTON We start the new year with the same old fear: Dick Cheney.

The vice president, who believes in unwarranted, unlimited snooping, is so pathologically secretive that if you use Google Earth's database to see his official residence, the view is scrambled and obscured. You can view satellite photos of the White House, the Pentagon and the Capitol - but not of the Lord of the Underworld's lair.

Vice is literally a shadow president. He's obsessive about privacy - but, unfortunately, only his own.

Google Earth users alerted The Times to this latest bit of Cheney concealment after a front-page story last week about the international fears inspired by free Google software that features detailed displays of things like government and military sites around the world.

"For a brief period," they reported, "photos of the White House and adjacent buildings that the United States Geological Survey provided to Google Earth showed up with certain details obscured." So Google replaced those images with unaltered photographs taken by a private company.

Even though the story did not mention the Cheney residence - and even though it's not near the White House - The Times ran a clarifying correction yesterday that said, "The view of the vice president's residence in Washington remains obscured."

Fitting, since Vice has turned America into a camera obscura, a dark chamber with a lens that turns things upside down.

Guys argue that women tend to stew and hold grudges more, sometimes popping up to blow the whistle on a man's bad behavior years later, like a missile out of the night, as Alan Simpson said of Anita Hill.

Yet look at Cheney and Rummy. Their steroid-infused power grabs stem from their years stewing in the Ford White House, a time when they felt emasculated because they were stripped of prerogatives.

Rummy, a Ford chief of staff who became defense secretary, and his protégé, Cheney, who succeeded him as chief of staff, felt diminished by the post-Watergate laws and reforms that reduced the executive branch's ability to be secretive and unilateral, tilting power back toward Congress.

The 70's were also a heady period for the press, which reached the zenith of its power when it swayed public opinion on Vietnam and exposed Watergate. Reporters got greater access to government secrets with a stronger Freedom of Information Act.

Chenrummy thought the press was running amok, that leaks should be plugged and that Congress was snatching power that rightfully belonged to the White House.

So these two crusty pals spent 30 years dreaming of inflating the deflated presidential muscularity. Cheney christened himself vice president and brought in Rummy for the most ridiculously pumped-up presidency ever. All this was fine with W., whose family motto is: "We know best. Trust us."

The two regents turned back the clock to the Nixon era, bringing back presidential excesses like wiretapping along with presidential power. As attorney general, John Ashcroft clamped down on the Freedom of Information Act. For two years, the Pentagon has been sitting on a request from The Times's Jeff Gerth to cough up a secret 500-page document prepared by Halliburton on what to do with Iraq's oil industry - a plan it wrote several months before the invasion of Iraq, and before it got a no-bid contract to implement the plan (and overbill the U.S.). Very convenient.

Defending warrantless wiretapping last week, the vice president spoke of his distaste for the erosion of presidential authority in the wake of Watergate and Vietnam.

"I do believe that, especially in the day and age we live in, the nature of the threats we face, it was true during the cold war, as well as I think what is true now, the president of the United States needs to have his constitutional powers unimpaired, if you will, in terms of the conduct of national security policy," he intoned. Translation: Back off, Congress and the press.

Checks, balances, warrants, civil liberties - they're all so 20th century. Historians must now regard the light transitional tenure of Gerald Ford as the petri dish of this darkly transformational presidency.

Consider this: when Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, supported by President Ford, pushed a plan to have the government help develop alternative sources of energy and reduce our dependence on oil and Saudi Arabia, guess who helped scotch it?

Dick Cheney. Then and now, the man is a menace.


U.S. stalls on human trafficking
Pentagon has yet to ban contractors from using forced labor

By Cam Simpson
Washington Bureau
Published December 27, 2005

WASHINGTON -- Three years ago, President Bush declared that he had "zero tolerance" for trafficking in humans by the government's overseas contractors, and two years ago Congress mandated a similar policy.

But notwithstanding the president's statement and the congressional edict, the Defense Department has yet to adopt a policy to bar human trafficking.

A proposal prohibiting defense contractor involvement in human trafficking for forced prostitution and labor was drafted by the Pentagon last summer, but five defense lobbying groups oppose key provisions and a final policy still appears to be months away, according to those involved and Defense Department records.

The lobbying groups opposing the plan say they're in favor of the idea in principle, but said they believe that implementing key portions of it overseas is unrealistic. They represent thousands of firms, including some of the industry's biggest names, such as DynCorp International and Halliburton subsidiary KBR, both of which have been linked to trafficking-related concerns.

Lining up on the opposite side of the defense industry are some human-trafficking experts who say significant aspects of the Pentagon's proposed policy might actually do more harm than good unless they're changed. These experts have told the Pentagon that the policy would merely formalize practices that have allowed contractors working overseas to escape punishment for involvement in trafficking, the records show.

The long-awaited debate inside the Pentagon on how to implement presidential and congressional directives on human trafficking is unfolding just as countertrafficking advocates in Congress are running into resistance. A bill reauthorizing the nation's efforts against trafficking for the next two years was overwhelmingly passed by the House this month, but only after a provision creating a trafficking watchdog at the Pentagon was stripped from the measure at the insistence of defense-friendly lawmakers, according to congressional records and officials. The Senate passed the bill last week.

Delay seen as weakness

The Pentagon's delay in tackling the issue, the perceived weakness of its proposed policy and the recent setbacks in Congress have some criticizing the Pentagon for not taking the issue seriously enough.

"Ultimately, what we really hope to see is resources and leadership on this issue from the Pentagon," said Sarah Mendelson, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a national security think tank in Washington. She also had called for creation of an internal Pentagon watchdog after investigating the military's links to sex trafficking in the Balkans.

Rep. Christopher Smith (R-N.J.), author of the original legislation targeting human trafficking, said there seems to be an institutional lethargy on the issue at the Pentagon below the most senior levels. He said he was concerned that the Pentagon's overseas-contractor proposal might not be tough enough and that the delays in developing it could mean more people "were being exploited while they were sharpening their pencils."

But he pledged to maintain aggressive oversight of the plan.

`We're addressing the issue'

Glenn Flood, a Pentagon spokesman, said he did not know why it has taken so long to develop a proposal but said, "From our point of view, we're addressing the issue."

An official more directly involved with the effort to draft a formal policy barring contractors from involvement in trafficking said it might not be ready until April, at least in part because of concerns raised by the defense contractors.

Bush declared zero tolerance for involvement in human trafficking by federal employees and contractors in a National Security Presidential Directive he signed in December 2002 after media reports detailing the alleged involvement of DynCorp employees in buying women and girls as sex slaves in Bosnia during the U.S. military's deployment there in the late 1990s.

Ultimately, the company fired eight employees for their alleged involvement in sex trafficking and illegal arms deals.

In 2003, Smith followed Bush's decree with legislation ordering federal agencies to include anti-trafficking provisions in all contracts. The bill covered trafficking for forced prostitution and forced labor and applied to overseas contractors and their subcontractors.

But it wasn't until last summer that the Pentagon issued a proposed policy to enforce the 2003 law and Bush's December 2002 directive.

The proposal drew a strong response from five defense-contractor-lobbying groups within the umbrella Council of Defense and Space Industries Associations: the Contract Services Association, the Professional Services Council, the National Defense Industrial Association, the American Shipbuilding Association and the Electronic Industries Alliance.

The response's first target was a provision requiring contractors to police their overseas subcontractors for human trafficking.

In a two-part series published in October, the Tribune detailed how Middle Eastern firms working under American subcontracts in Iraq, and a chain of human brokers beneath them, engaged in the kind of abuses condemned elsewhere by the U.S. government as human trafficking. KBR, the Halliburton subsidiary, relies on more than 200 subcontractors to carry out a multibillion-dollar U.S. Army contract for privatization of military support operations in the war zone.

Case of 12 Nepali men

The Tribune retraced the journey of 12 Nepali men recruited from poor villages in one of the most remote and impoverished corners of the world and documented a trail of deceit, fraud and negligence stretching into Iraq. The men were kidnapped from an unprotected caravan and executed en route to jobs at an American military base in 2004.

At the time, Halliburton said it was not responsible for the recruitment or hiring practices of its subcontractors, and the U.S. Army, which oversees the privatization contract, said questions about alleged misconduct "by subcontractor firms should be addressed to those firms, as these are not Army issues."

Once implemented, the new policy could dramatically change responsibilities for KBR and the Army.

Alan Chvotkin, senior vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council who drafted the contractors' eight-page critique of the Pentagon proposal, said it was not realistic to expect foreign companies operating overseas to accept or act on U.S. foreign policy objectives.

"This is a clash between mission execution [of the contract] and policy execution," Chvotkin said. "So we're looking for a little flexibility."

He said that rather than a "requirement that says you have to flow this through to everybody," the group wants the policy to simply require firms to notify the Pentagon when their subcontractors refuse to accept contract clauses barring support for human trafficking.

Still, Chvotkin said, "We don't want to do anything that conveys the idea that we are sanctioning or tolerating trafficking."

In a joint memo of their own, Mendelson and another Washington-based expert, Martina Vandenberg, a lawyer who investigated sex trafficking for Human Rights Watch, told the Pentagon its draft policy "institutionalizes ineffective procedures currently used by the Department of Defense contractor community in handling allegations of human trafficking."

Without tough provisions requiring referrals to prosecutors, they said, contractors could still get their employees on planes back to the U.S. before investigations commenced, as they allege happened in several documented cases in the Balkans. They said some local contract managers even had "special arrangements" with police in the Balkans that allowed them to quickly get employees returned to the U.S. if they were found to be engaged in illegal activities.


Hagel unloads on Cheney and Bush

by kos
Thu Dec 22, 2005 at 11:31:18 AM PDT

It's a thing of beauty:

"Every president, that we know of, has complied with the law (FISA)," Hagel said. "No president is above the law. We are a nation of laws and no president, majority leader, or chief justice of the Supreme Court can unilaterally or arbitrarily avoid a law or dismiss a law. If the vice president holds a different point of view, then he holds a different point of view."

Based on the facts that are out there concerning whether domestic spying abuses were taking place, Hagel said, there was a "breakdown."

"I take an oath of office to the Constitution," he said. "I don't take an oath of office to the vice president, a president or a political party. My obligation and responsibility are to the people I represent and the country I serve. I do what I think is right for the people I represent and the country I serve." [...]

Hagel, referring to President Ronald Reagan, said people trusted him because he was not a "vitriolic person or one to impugn the motives of people who disagreed with him."

"Never did he do that," Hagel said. "There is no place for that in politics because it debases our system and our process. You can agree or disagree with your leaders and say whatever you like about your elected leaders and throw them out, but I do draw the line on the vilification and impugning of motives because someone disagrees with you."

He said the American people are "sick and fed up" with that type of politics.

"Cheney's poll numbers are very, very low," Hagel said. "This should be about elevating the debate and enhancing America and finding the solutions that we need to move forward. It doesn't help when you characterize people who disagree with you or threaten them or characterize them as unpatriotic or not caring about our people or our security. The American people see through that and it is beneath the dignity of this country."

The administration and its sycophants have placed their party above the Stars and Stripes the entire five years they've held power. What's shocking is how few Republicans like Hagel have spoken out about it.


U.S. Spying Plan Lacked Congress' Scrutiny, Leading Democrat Says

Sen. Rockefeller accuses the Bush administration of misleading the public in saying that lawmakers were kept informed on the wiretap program.

By Greg Miller and Maura Reynolds, Times Staff Writers

WASHINGTON — The leading Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee accused the Bush administration Monday of undercutting congressional scrutiny of a secret effort to eavesdrop on Americans, and of misleading the public regarding what it told Congress about the program.

Sen. John D. "Jay" Rockefeller IV (D-W.Va.) said that, contrary to White House claims in recent days, "the administration never afforded members briefed on the program an opportunity to either approve or disapprove" of the eavesdropping program, conducted by the National Security Agency.

Rockefeller also released a July 2003 handwritten letter to Vice President Dick Cheney in which he expressed serious misgivings about the domestic spying operation, as well as the restrictive conditions under which only a handful of lawmakers were told of it.

The exposure of the eavesdropping program has fueled debate not only over domestic spying limits, but also whether the Bush administration kept Congress adequately informed, as is required by law.

It was not clear how many members of Congress were briefed on the program since its inception in 2002, but it appeared to have been limited to the majority and minority leaders of both chambers and the chairman and ranking Democrat on each chamber's intelligence committee.

A spokesman for Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.), the Senate minority leader, confirmed that he had been informed in the last six months — well after he had assumed a leadership position.

"I personally received a single, very short briefing on this program earlier this year prior to its public disclosure," Reid said. "That briefing occurred more than three years after the president said this program began."

He added that "based on what I have heard publicly since, key details about the program apparently were not provided to me."

Several lawmakers and congressional aides said Cheney often oversaw the briefings of lawmakers on intelligence activities, and that members were routinely barred from bringing senior aides from the intelligence committees or even consulting them later.

In many cases, staffers have been kept in the dark, even though they have the high-level security clearances required to receive such information. One senior aide on the Senate Intelligence Committee said staff members on the panel were unaware of the eavesdropping operation until it was reported last week.

In his 2003 letter, Rockefeller said the administration's restrictions prevented him from being able to judge the legality or potentially intrusive technical aspects of the eavesdropping program.

"As you know, I am neither a technician nor an attorney," Rockefeller wrote. "Given the security restrictions associated with this information, and my inability to consult staff or counsel on my own, I feel unable to fully evaluate, much less endorse, these activities."

Rockefeller's letter is dated July 17, 2003, which he said in a written statement Monday was the day he was briefed on the program. He pointed out in the 2003 letter that he intended to place a copy in a "sealed envelope in the secure spaces" of the Senate Intelligence Committee's offices to record his objections.

President Bush scoffed at the notion that Congress was not adequately informed of the operation.

"There is oversight," he said in a news conference Monday. "We're talking to Congress all the time…. We have briefed the United States Congress on this program a dozen times."

At a briefing for reporters on the legal aspects for the NSA program, Atty. Gen. Alberto R. Gonzales acknowledged that a decision was made to limit the number of Congress members who would be told about the policy.

Federal law requires the executive branch to "keep the congressional intelligence committees fully and currently informed of all intelligence activities," although it allows for limits in cases when there is concern for "unauthorized disclosure." In most cases, the law requires intelligence activities to be reported to the committees in writing.

Lawmakers who have attended the briefings conducted by Cheney and senior intelligence officials at the White House have not been provided written notification or allowed to share what they learned with other committee members.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), who did not yet hold her leadership post but was the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee when the eavesdropping program was launched, has acknowledged that she was among four members from the intelligence panels who attended a briefing on the topic in the vice president's office.

She said that she, like Rockefeller, raised objections to the program.

"When I was advised of President Bush's decision to authorize these activities, I expressed my strong concerns verbally and in a classified letter to the administration," Pelosi said in a statement. "The Bush administration, however, made clear that it did not believe that congressional notification was required and it also did not believe that congressional approval was required to conduct these activities."

Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee and one of the Republicans who has raised concerns about the program, agreed that notifying a few members of Congress "does not constitute a check and balance."

"You can't have the administration and a select number of members alter the law," Specter said. "It can't be done."


Every Day Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are in Office, Our Lives and the Lives of Our Loved Ones are Increasingly at Risk


It is, let us remember again and again, the Bush Administration who puts us at greatest risk for terrorism.

Evidence Fact Number One: Bush and Rice were warned in August of 2001 that Al-Qaeda was planning imminent hijackings in the United States -- in fact that was the title of the "eyes only" presidential briefing paper given to Rice and Bush -- but they did nothing -- we repeat, nothing -- to prevent hijackings in our nation.

Could they have prevented 9/11 by taking aggressive action to prevent hijackings? Yes, they very well could have. But, Bush went on a vacation for a month and Rice boned up on her survival skills in living in a parallel universe. Then 9/11 happened and Bush reacted by reading a book about a pet goat.

Evidence Fact Number Two: The hijackers of the four airplanes on 9/11 used sharp edged tools to kill people and take over the planes. What is Bush's first major "reform" of airline screening since 9/11? Why, to allow passengers to bring sharp edged tools on planes again!

Is he setting us up for another 9/11? What do you think?

Evidence Fact Number Three: Bush is making enemies faster than he can kill them. He told us so many lies for invading Iraq, but his primary lie -- repeated ad nauseum by Dick Cheney -- was that Saddam posed an immediate terrorist and nuclear threat to the United States.

Well, Saddam has been removed from power and no weapons of mass destruction have been found. But the Busheviks have turned Iraq into a terrorist swamp for, according to the New York Times, more than 100 insurgent groups, including terrorists: some fighting in the name of nationalism, some fighting in the name of jihad, some fighting in the name of anti-invader zeal, some fighting a civil war for their religious sects.

Bush is the one responsible for this war after a war. He is creating a new generation of terrorists in the Middle East to threaten us and our national security. They are learning a new set of modern terrorist warfare skills. And we are paying for their training with our tax dollars, the lives of our soldiers, and the lives of innocent Iraqis.

This current national security threat to the U.S. in Iraq -- such as it maybe -- did not result from Saddam. He is out of power. It resulted from Bush.

Evidence Fact Number Four: The leaders behind acts of terrorism against the U.S. are still at large: Osama bin Laden, Zarqawi, the Anthrax domestic terrorist and Mullah Omar, among others.

This is an extraordinary record of failure alone on Bush's part.

Bush said that he would get Osama dead or alive, and Osama is free and alive laughing no doubt at how Bush is dismantling democracy in America without Osama having to lift a finger. Bush said "bring 'em on" and more than 2000 dead American soldiers later, they are still coming on.

Bush's only "mission accomplished" is to muscle Congress into continuing to betray the national security of the United States by supporting a man who wouldn't be appointed a platoon leader he is so bungling and inept. (With one hopeful exception occurring on Friday: the filibustering of the [Un]Patriot Act.)

We could go on with more facts evidencing how the Busheviks betray the national security of America, but this is just a short news analysis -- and not a place to write a multi-volume book.

Just remember that the first major terrorist attack on American soil was due to Bush's negligence -- and the second will be do to his incompetence.

Every day Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld are in office, our lives and the lives of our loved ones are increasingly at risk.



Bush calls DeLay innocent, stands by Cheney and Rove

- Jim VandeHei, Washington Post
Thursday, December 15, 2005

Washington -- President Bush said Wednesday that he is confident that former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay is innocent of money-laundering charges, and he offered strong support for several top Republicans who have been battered by investigations or by rumors of fading clout inside the White House.

In an interview with Fox News, Bush said he hopes DeLay, a fellow Texas Republican, will be cleared of charges that he illegally steered corporate money into campaigns for the Texas Legislature and will reclaim his powerful leadership position in Congress.

"I hope that he will, 'cause I like him, and plus, when he's over there, we get our votes through the House," Bush told Fox News' Brit Hume.

DeLay was forced to step down as majority leader after he was indicted in the fundraising case, and he is seeking a quick trial in hopes of returning to power early next year.

Bush has refused to speak about the CIA leak investigation or the impending trial of Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former vice presidential chief of staff who was indicted in the case. But he said he believes that DeLay is not guilty -- weeks before his trial is expected to begin. It is highly unusual for a president to express an opinion about a pending legal case.

In the wide-ranging interview, Bush defended the Republican Party against charges of pervasive unethical behavior after the resignation of Rep. Randy Cunningham, R-Del Mar (San Diego County), for taking bribes, and the unfolding money-for-favors scandal centered on former GOP lobbyist Jack Abramoff.

"Well, first of all, I feel Duke Cunningham was wrong and should be punished for what he did," Bush said. "And I think that anybody who does what he did should be punished, Republican or Democrat. Secondly, the Abramoff -- I'm not, frankly, all that familiar with a lot that's going on over at Capitol Hill, but it seems like to me that he was an equal money dispenser, that he was giving money to people in both political parties."

According to campaign finance reports, Abramoff and his clients contributed substantially more money to Republicans than to Democrats.

Bush also defended three of the most powerful men in the White House, all of whom have been the subject of speculation that they are losing clout with the president: Vice President Dick Cheney, senior adviser Karl Rove and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.

Bush said his relationship with Cheney is better than ever, despite Libby's recent indictment and criticism of the Iraq and terrorism policies that were championed by the vice president.

"The truth of the matter is that our relationship hasn't changed hardly at all," Bush said. "I'd say the relationship -- it's only gotten better. We didn't know each other that well when we first came to Washington, D.C., and my respect for him has grown immensely."

The same goes for Rove, Bush said. Rove remains under investigation in the CIA leak case, and some aides have complained that he lied to the president and White House spokesman Scott McClellan about his role.

"We're still as close as we've ever been," Bush said. "You know, when we look back at the presidency and my time in politics, no question that Karl had a lot to do with me getting here, and I value his friendship. We're very close."

Bush dismissed rumors that Rumsfeld will leave his post early next year. Asked if Rumsfeld will stay through the second term, Bush said: "Well, end of my term is a long time, but I tell you, he's done a heck of a good job, and I have no intention of changing him."


Cheney led cheerleaders of Iraq invasion; is back on stump

09 Dec 2005
Carl Hiaasen
Miami Herald HeraldEd@aol.com

The loudest cheerleader for invading Iraq is on the stump once again, defending the bloody, bogged-down occupation and lambasting its critics.

Getting a war lecture from Dick Cheney is like getting dating advice from Michael Jackson.

The last time the United States went to battle, Cheney stayed far out of harm’s way. His only wounds from Vietnam were the paper cuts he got from opening his five — count them, five — draft deferment notices.

“I had other priorities in the ’60s other than military service,” he explained to a reporter in 1989.

Thousands of other young men applied for student deferments in the Vietnam era, or received draft lottery numbers that were never called (mine was 44). However, none grew up to be vice president of the nation, peddling a contrived war that somebody else’s kids would have to fight.

Nobody pushed harder than Cheney for a military strike against Saddam Hussein. Nobody was more cocksure about the presence of weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear components. Nobody was more emphatic about a secret alliance between al Qaeda and Baghdad.

And nobody was more consistently wrong.

Cheney stuck to his dour WMD speech long after it was embarrassingly clear that no such weapons were in Iraq, and long after others in the administration had abandoned the argument.

The 9/11 Commission, the CIA and intelligence panels found no credible evidence of an Iraqi connection to al Qaeda, yet that never stopped Cheney from repeatedly suggesting otherwise.

One thing about the vice president: He doesn’t let the facts steer him “off message.” Only five months ago, he surprised even fellow hawks like Donald Rumsfeld by matter-of-factly stating that the Iraqi insurgency was in “its final throes.”

Wrong again, Dicky boy. Iraq remains a bloodbath, with insurgents killing more than 160 people in a recent two-week period.

Polls show that an increasing majority of Americans say the war was a mistake, for reasons transcending the $5-billion-per-month tab. As of recently, the U.S. military death toll stood at 2,100, with no end in sight.

The Shiites and Sunnis continue slaughtering each other, and the country remains so dangerous that candidates in the Dec. 15 national elections move from town to town in armored military convoys. No one’s safe from assassination, even Saddam Hussein’s defense lawyers.

Back home, prosecutors have accused two Americans — one a convicted fraud artist — of using bribery and kickbacks to plunder U.S. funds earmarked for reconstruction services in Iraq.

At the same time, the Justice Department is finally examining the award to Halliburton — the vice president’s corporate alma mater — of a no-bid, multibillion-dollar contract to repair Iraqi oil fields.

Day after day, the news gets worse.

After such a heavy cost — so many heroic soldiers and innocent civilians killed or injured, so many billions spent — the United State is more despised than ever by the radical Muslim world.

After all this, Iraq — which had no al Qaeda presence when Saddam Hussein was in power — is now a hotbed recruiting center for the fanatical terrorist group.

After all this, Osama bin Laden — the most wanted man on the planet, the monster who financed and helped mastermind the Sept. 11 attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Centers — is still on the loose.

It’s no wonder people feel weary and disillusioned.

For a time, Cheney’s office was Smear Central for retribution against critics of the Bush war policy. Some of the fun has gone out of that sport since his right-hand man, Scooter Libby, got busted.

Recently, the vice president carefully went out of his way to exempt from scorn Rep. John Murtha, the Pennsylvania Democrat and Vietnam combat veteran who has called for an immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops.

“A good man, a Marine, a patriot,” Cheney said of Murtha.

Only days earlier, a White House spokesman had lashed out at Murtha, comparing him to rabble-rousing filmmaker Michael Moore. The attacks stopped when somebody figured out that the public wouldn’t stand for another vicious Swift-Boating of a war veteran.

There’s no easy answer for how to get unstuck from Iraq, but there’s room for open and honest debate. Unfortunately, no one has less credibility on the subject than Cheney.

The last time he was right was 1991, after the first Gulf war, when he defended the first President Bush’s decision not to bomb Saddam out of power and install a new Iraqi government.

Such an invasion, Cheney warned then, would have gotten the United States “bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.”

A veritable voice of reason, he said, “How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable?”

Good question, Dick.

It’s the same one now being asked by solid Americans in all parties and all walks of life, people who don’t need pious war lectures from a paper-cut expert.


Mondale: VP needs balance
Former vice president says office should be supporting role and that Cheney 'stepped across a line'

Pioneer Press

Walter Mondale, the man who transformed the vice presidency from a ceremonial job to a position of power, thinks Vice President Dick Cheney wields too much power and may be undermining the president.

But Mondale is increasingly impressed by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and believes she is steering the Bush administration toward more cooperative relations with other countries.

Mondale, 77, a former Minnesota attorney general and U.S. senator, was vice president under President Jimmy Carter from 1977 through 1980. He was the first vice president to have an office in the White House, have access to all presidential information and play a meaningful role in running the country.

Retired after 50 years in public life, he remains deeply involved in public-policy debates, and "of course I keep a constant interest in politics," he said during an interview in his Minneapolis law office last week.

He said he is deeply troubled by the war in Iraq and advocated a change in policy to bring U.S. troops home faster. He believes Cheney and other so-called neo-conservatives exaggerated the threat Iraq posed to the United States but Rice is steering the administration back to a more pragmatic foreign policy.

Here are excerpts from our interview.

Q. You have called Vice President Cheney the most powerful vice president in history, and you set the stage for him becoming that by making the vice presidency a more influential office. How do you assess his performance?


I think Cheney has stepped across a line. The so-called "executivizing" of the vice presidency, which we did, strengthens the vice president's ability to help the president if the president wants it. That's what Carter did, and that's what's happened under most presidents since that time. But I believe Cheney has moved beyond what I think Carter or any of the other presidents would have tolerated.

He organized his staff to almost substitute for the (National) Security Council. He's gone deep into the agencies to pressure opinions and advice. I think that a vice president has to be careful not to intimidate the rest of the government. Otherwise, the president doesn't get honest advice from the other agencies.


How responsible do you think Cheney is for getting us into the war?


Cheney's record on the facts leading up to this war is pretty appalling. He's the one who talked about imminent nuclear weapons delivery systems, chemical laboratories, the al-Qaida connection, and the Niger yellowcake and aluminum tubes. We now know he was making most of those points long after the agencies of our own government were saying, "This stuff is not true." But he kept doing it. I think that's outrageous.

I don't think we'd have gone into this war if we hadn't been persuaded that America was in imminent danger from these various facts, and they weren't true. So I think the vice president has a lot of explaining to do.


Does the vice presidency have too much power?


I think the vice presidency is about right, but I think it should be understood the vice president is not the prime minister. He does not carry the presidential authority with him. He works to help the president in ways that the president wants it done.

I think the idea of moving the vice president into the White House to help the president is still a very good idea, and I think it's settled now as American institutional policy. But I think what the vice president does inside that office that has the potential to undermine the honesty of the advice the president gets from elsewhere in the government raises questions that ought to be considered.


You have criticized the administration's go-it-alone approach in foreign policy. Do you still think the administration has to work harder at getting international support?


I do. I think the neo-conservatives did a lot of damage because their idea was that we were the only big power in the world, and other countries just had to go along with us. If they didn't, it didn't hurt us. In fact, almost everything that is important to us requires that we work with others as best possible.

I think the neo-cons have lost. They're not out of there completely yet, but you don't hear much about them anymore.

I think Condoleezza Rice is moving away some from the old neo-con line and restoring some balance. So maybe we're moving in the right direction. I hope so.

I think Rice is heading the State Department in a sounder, safer way. The more I watch her, the more I think she knows exactly what she's doing.

What she did last month in Gaza (brokering an Israeli-Palestinian agreement on security controls at a border crossing) may sound like a little thing, but I don't think that other (neo-conservative) crowd would have done it. They just had attitudes.


What do you think the United States should do in Iraq?


I don't believe we can just walk out of there. But I do believe we have to have a plan for reducing the American presence in a way that will give the Iraqi government a decent chance to step up to the plate to do what they have to do to defend and govern themselves.

Some Iraqis want us to stay. But the fact that we are substituting for what a state and people should do for themselves is delaying the time when they should act on their own. I think it's time for Americans to reach a decent bargain with the Iraqi government that allows us to push more of this responsibility off onto the Iraqis. Give them time to do it, but tell them, "We're not just going to walk away and leave you alone, but this is something you increasingly have to do, and Americans will be around less and less to do it for you.''

How long it would be or what kind of presence it would take are practical issues that would have to be decided. But I think there ought to be that change in approach.

That may be going on right now. If they (the Bush administration) are taking 20,000 or 30,000 troops out of there next year, that is the beginning of the step out. That is not cutting and running. It is doing the one thing that gives the Iraqis an honorable chance to protect and govern themselves.


Cheney caught up in Big Lie

First published: Monday, December 5, 2005
by Helen Thomas

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney's nose should be growing longer every day. His stream of falsehoods in his desperate defense of the administration's decision to attack Iraq is pitiful.

Cheney has accused Democratic war critics of being "dishonest and reprehensible" in saying the administration misled the nation into war. But that's what the administration did.

In a speech last week to the American Enterprise Institute -- a conservative think tank in Washington -- the vice president claimed congressional Democrats who voted to give President Bush authority to go to war had concluded -- "as the President and I did" -- that Saddam Hussein "was a threat."

But Cheney did not explain how Saddam was a threat to the United States, given that Iraq was the target of stringent economic sanctions and regular satellite surveillance, not to mention that American air power had chopped the northern and southern sectors of Iraq into no-fly zones for years.

Cheney also contended that pre-war intelligence showed that "the dictator of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction." He asserted that "the burden of proof was entirely on the dictator of Iraq" on whether Iraq possessed unconventional weapons.

That's baloney.

Before Bush gave the order to invade, U.N. inspectors assured the U.S. Saddam had destroyed his stockpile of weapons after his 1991 defeat in the first Gulf war. The President chose to ignore those assurances.

After the U.S. invasion and occupation, two American weapons-hunting teams came to the same conclusion, having searched Iraq in vain for the unconventional weapons arsenals that Bush and Cheney used as their excuse to invade. But the vice president had no doubts before the invasion.

In 2002, Cheney said: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

In the same year, he said: "Saddam Hussein has indeed stepped up his capacity to produce and deliver biological weapons" and "he has reconstituted his nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon."

In 2003, he said: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Cheney also said the U.S. knows where the nuclear weapons are. I remember reporters asking the White House spokesman back then why the administration didn't tell the U.N. inspectors where to find the weapons if the U.S. knew where they were. There was no answer because there were no weapons.

Perhaps more shameful is Cheney's continual efforts to link the 9/11 terrorist attacks with Iraq and to conflate the U.S. invasion with the war on terrorism.

In 2004, even after President Bush said there were no ties between Saddam and the al-Qaida terrorist network, Cheney insisted: "I think there's overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al-Qaida and the Iraqi government. I'm very confident there was an established relationship there."

He continued this Big Lie in his AEI speech. He launched into a retrospective on the 9/11 catastrophe and sought to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq as somehow linked with that "watershed" event, noting the terrorist attack "signaled an entirely different era."

He also spoke of the need to take an "essential step in the war on terror" by ridding the world of a "murderous dictator."

The frequent vows by administration officials that we have "to stay the course" seem to mean that we are going to continue to compound the mistakes they made in the first place. I believe more and more Americans are beginning to see through this stonewall.

Helen Thomas e-mail address is hthomas@hearstdc.com


Bush Gossip & Tonight's Ten Minutes on Air America' Majority Report

December 01, 2005

Barbara Bush is allegedly TICKED off at Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Andy Card, nearly all of them -- except Karen Hughes -- for how her boy is faring in the hearts and minds of Americans.

The matriarch of the Bush clan is colder than North Pole ice right now to those around her son who she thinks have undermined him. I'll tell who my sources are if Patrick Fitzgerald gives a call and makes me -- but the sources are very close to Poppa Bush (41), who has been traveling a bit with some of his old entourage, including Brent Scowcroft and others of the first Bush regime.

While TWN has been able to confirm that Laura Bush's mother-in-law wants to do more than put coal in the stockings of the Vice President and the other top handlers of her son's White House, we have not been able to confirm a slightly stronger bit of the rumor, which is that Barbara -- not Laura -- was planning to call on Nancy Reagan just to get a refresher lesson on how she took on and kicked out then Chief-of-Staff Donald Regan. (I embellish here; Barbara Bush is not going to take lessons from Nancy, it just sounded good. My source told me that Barbara was about to "pull a Nancy Reagan" on these attendants.)

Cheney may be tougher to dump than Don Regan, but then again, Barbara Bush is one of those wonders of nature (we hear) who knows no limits and can easily surge beyond category 5 hurricane winds.

Should be interesting to watch the role of the First Mother in the coming couple of months. Watch for a lot to change right after the State of the Union address, I've been told.

And if you are near the radio or internet termninal, I'll be chatting with Sam Seder of Air America's Majority Report tonight at 7:50 p.m. ET for a quick ten minutes.

More later.

-- Steve Clemons