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June 11, 2004

Tricky Dick Cheney


by Paul Sperry

Nearly three years have passed since 9-11, yet one wonders if Vice President Dick Cheney ever abandoned his "secure undisclosed location."

He still seems to be secreted away somewhere, only coming out of hiding long enough to resell the Iraq war on some friendly neocon stage lent for the spread of more false propaganda.

After Cheney shovels it out, he flashes his sinister grin and scurries back into his hole, out of sight again and accountable to no one not the press corps, not the Congress and not the American people, who will pay for the White House's dishonest war with their lives and treasure for decades to come.

Tricky Dick Cheney has been allowed to tell war whoppers with virtual impunity, including ones involving his old firm's war-profiteering, and they've now reached such a critical mass that the public must demand he answer for them either in a press conference or public testimony, or preferably both. And right now. The nation can't wait for, or count on, the vice presidential debates (assuming Cheney stays on the ticket) to melt back this congealed evil accumulating on its soul.

Whopper No. 1: On Oct. 10, 2003, Cheney told neocons at the Heritage Foundation that Saddam Hussein "had an established relationship with al-Qaeda," a charge contradicted by U.S. intelligence briefings Cheney has received.

The National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq found that Saddam's secular regime had no working relationship with al-Qaeda and would only take the "extreme step" of reaching out to such Islamic terrorists if it were attacked by the U.S. and had nothing to lose. Even then, the report said the intelligence community had "low confidence" in such a scenario.

Whopper No. 2: In the same speech, Cheney, doing his best impression of Baghdad Bob, still maintained Iraq was a weapons-of-mass-destruction powerhouse.

"If Saddam Hussein were in power today," he said, "this ally of terrorists would still have a hidden biological weapons program capable of producing deadly agents on short notice."

Apparently it was so hidden that no one, including Saddam, can find it just like the nuclear weapons and stockpiles of chemical weapons the White House claimed he had before it launched an unprovoked attack on Iraq. To date, no banned weapons have been found despite an exhaustive multimillion-dollar search.

"I don't think they existed," concluded a glum David Kay, the ace-in-the-hole neocon inspector the White House handpicked to find the weapons evidence, after the fact.

Whopper No. 3: A month earlier, Cheney claimed they had found conclusive proof of an illicit Iraqi bioweapons program in the form of two old trailers rusting in the desert.

In a Sept. 14, 2003, interview with NBC's Tim Russert, he called them "mobile biological facilities" that can be used to produce deadly germ agents for terrorist attack.

Only, Kay said he couldn't "corroborate" that. The trailers, which came back negative for traces of warfare agents like anthrax, were more than likely used to fill hydrogen weather balloons.

In fact, Iraq may not have had any mobile bioweapons labs at all. Turns out another unreliable Iraqi defector tied to Ahmed Chalabi was the source of that prewar intelligence. The exile failed a lie detector test by the Defense Intelligence Agency and was labeled a "fabricator" before the war, yet the White House used him anyway to help build its case for invasion.

Whopper No. 4: Cheney in the same NBC interview claimed the pair of trailers discovered in Iraq could have been used to make smallpox.

"We've, since the war, found two mobile biological facilities that can be used to produce anthrax or smallpox or whatever else you wanted to use during the course of developing the capacity for an attack," he told Russert.

Major news, if true.

However, growing smallpox requires a bioreactor and a maximum containment lab. The trailers, which had canvas siding, had neither.

But then Cheney knew this.

He also knew that in the run-up to the war the U.S. intelligence community estimated the chances were only "even that smallpox is part of Iraq's offensive BW [biowarfare] program," according to the October 2002 NIE report.

Whopper No. 5: Further trying to justify the Iraq war, the vice president brazenly tried in the same interview to resuscitate the fable that hijacking ringleader Mohamed Atta met in Prague with Iraqi intelligence before 9-11.

He claimed the feds haven't been able to discredit it. "We just don't know," said Cheney, who a year earlier told Russert the allegation was "credible."

That's not what the FBI director said.

"We ran down literally hundreds of thousands of leads and checked every record we could get our hands on, from flight reservations to car rentals to bank accounts," Robert Mueller said in a little-noticed April 2002 speech in San Francisco. "The records revealed that Atta was in Virginia Beach [Va.] during the time he supposedly met the Iraqi in Prague."

Whopper No. 6: Cheney has suggested Iraq sponsored 9-11, or at least harbored and supported the terrorists who attacked America.

"If we're successful in Iraq," he told Russert last September, "we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9-11."

His words belie the findings of his intelligence services, who unanimously agreed in the secret NIE dossier on Iraq that its government was not behind 9-11 or the first World Trade Center bombing or the U.S. embassy bombings in Africa or any other "assault," as Cheney put it, on American territory.

"We have no specific intelligence information that Saddam's regime has directed attacks against U.S. territory," the intelligence community advised Cheney and the president in the recently declassified executive summary of their report to the White House.

It's plain that Cheney knew this before the war, knew it when he went on national TV again last fall and knows it today just as he knows that the "geographic base of the terrorists" who attacked America remains along the Pakistani border with Afghanistan, the real war front, and the one the White House continues to neglect at our peril.

Whopper No. 7: "I have no financial interest in Halliburton of any kind and haven't had now for over three years," Cheney also told Russert last fall.

No interest, that is, except for a deferred annual salary and 433,333 shares of unexercised Halliburton stock options. That's right. The shares are worth millions, and Cheney's potential profit goes up with each new contract Halliburton lands.

The oil-field services giant's revenue is driven by contracts, and Cheney, who's spent most of his career in Washington, has been its rainmaker. That's why it hired him. Then in 2001, the board parachuted him into the White House with a $34 million payout, and two years later Halliburton wound up with one of the biggest federal contracts in history, financed at your expense.

Whopper No. 8: Russert asked Cheney if he had any role in the secret $7 billion contract the Pentagon gave Halliburton before the war to rebuild and run Iraq's oil system and even distribute its energy products outside Iraq. "Were you involved in any way in the awarding of those contracts?"

"Of course not, Tim," Cheney indignantly replied. "And as vice president, I have absolutely no influence of, involvement of, knowledge of in any way, shape or form of contracts led by the [Army] Corps of Engineers or anybody else in the federal government."

That's not what a Pentagon e-mail uncovered by government watchdog Judicial Watch suggests.

Dated March 5, 2003, it says the Halliburton contract "has been coordinated w VP's [vice president's] office." Three days later, the Army Corps of Engineers awarded Halliburton the no-bid contract.

Whopper No. 9: Russert: "Why is there no bidding?"

Cheney: "I have no idea."

But if his office was read in on the Pentagon deal as the e-mail indicates, then he had to have known why competitors were muscled out. There's no less than a 10-page Pentagon document justifying the secret Halliburton deal, declassified last week thanks to a Judicial Watch lawsuit.

In effect, it says Cheney's old firm was favored because it was the only one that could hit the ground running in Iraq but the only reason it could do that was because the Pentagon gave it a head start. Halliburton got to study its secret contingency plan in November 2002. And the month before the final contract was inked, Halliburton was allowed to "pre-position equipment and personnel" for the Iraq oil project an advantage Bechtel, Fluor and other competitors never got.

And bear in mind that even before 9-11, Cheney and his secret White House energy task force (which no doubt included Halliburton officials) were poring over maps of Iraqi oil fields, and sizing up foreign competitors for oil contracts there.

Tricky Dick Cheney is the MSG of Bush administration scandals he shows up everywhere. Besides war-profiteering, he's been accused of pressuring CIA agents to cook up anti-Iraq intelligence; of intimidating ex-diplomat Joseph Wilson, who blew the whistle on the White House's phony Iraq uranium charge, by illegally blowing the cover of his undercover CIA officer wife; of schmoozing Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia to fix a lawsuit against his secret energy task force; and on and on.

Demand the vice president explain himself in a formal press conference. Call his office at (202) 456-7124, and let his staff know he can no longer duck accountability. Don't take no for an answer. Remember: he works for you, the people, and his arrogant lies are robbing you of your tax dollars and the lives of our nation's sons and daughters.

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Sperry, formerly Washington bureau chief of Investors Business Daily, is a Hoover Institution media fellow and author of Crude Politics: How Bush's Oil Cronies Hijacked the War on Terrorism (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003).

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