Panetta versus Cheney


CIA Director Leon Panetta is quoted as saying in regards to the recent Cheney media appearances:

“It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”


Former Vice-President Dick Cheney has responded by saying he hopes Panetta was misquoted in claiming his wish for an attack.

Panetta is absolutely right. The shameful, hawkish media-tour to promote torture policy and degrade the Obama presidency should be met with even more harsh words than these of Panetta’s. But they will do for the time being.

4 thoughts on “Panetta versus Cheney


    The recent appearances of the Cheneys over the media as a credible political opponent on par to the Obama administration’s policies and stances raises an issue of journalistic deontology! This is definitely of artificial making.

    On the one hand, we’ve got a legitimately elected President of the United States who has undergone the rigorous electoral process having to make his case to the American people and coming out successful in eliciting the policies he intends to carry out during his mandate within the confines of the American political institutional structure and process.

    On the other hand, we’ve got political personae (the Cheneys) who are effectively being presented by the media as a legitimate opponent on par to the Obama administration whereas they do not bear any electoral mandate whatsoever for the political views they profer and with no consequent responsiblity, stake and risk that will arise from any such mandate while the President is tied to them.

    For comments/expressions of opinion on the President’s policies, their views have been given such a broad artificial reception by the media that runs very contrary to the expression of opinion as we’ve come to know it. These views are rather given almost the same weight and placed on par as the political stances of a legitimately elected president with a legitimate mandate for the policies he is undertaking while the Cheney’s hold no such legitimate mandate and with no accompanying political accountability whatsoever.

    The issue here is that such attitude by the media is contrary to what we’ve come to expect from normal implicit democratic rules. If the Cheneys had any pretense for policies they wished to be implemented after the Bush Administration, the solution would have simply been for Dick or Liz to run for president. Since they didn’t, it is artificial for the media to strive to present them as a counterweight on par to the Obama administration’s policies well beyong what will be expected for the opinion of a simple citizen that the Cheneys are now notwithstanding their previous political roles.

    And by the way, by extension is it acceptable that any citizen, no matter what self-righteous pretense they might have, to be artificially given a similar counterweight role on par with the President on any policy issues of the Obama administration while not holding any legitimate political mandate for which they will be politically accountable for their stances? It can be understandable, that the Cheneys can be of direct concern when it comes to matters of direct relation to political issues having to do with Cheney’s role in the Bush administration. But to raise their views on the policies and stances the administration should take on par with the President undermines appropriate journalistic deontology because as we should all know by now “elections do matter”.

    What strikes the mind here is that the Cheneys have perfectly understood this “naïvété” of the media and are using this “media confusion about fairness” to artificially strive to extirpate Mr. Dick Cheney from accusations of introducing torture policies during the Bush Administration among other political accusations. Their strategy is very simple. Legally, Cheney can’t make it (they know that secretly). In all courts of law, so-called EITs are definitely torture practices. Besides, the facts as we know them are overwhelmingly against him and the Bush Administration, and Dick Cheney’s contradictions are extensive.

    The real strategy of the Cheney’s here is totally otherly: turn it “political”. First, saying torture works and was for the good of the country should elicit the fervour of many Americans. Afterall, all what is needed is that a substantial number of Americans polled buy to this argument, and then the issue’s legal underpinning may be undermined.

    Secondly, posing artificially as the right wing counterweight to the Obama’s administration policies elicits the impression and fervour in some quarters particularly to the right that he is making the President moderate and thus he is political useful. A look at this second political trick shows how the media has effectively been manipulated: knowing fairly well that in his administrative role the President will have to take practical and pragmatic postures with respect to the release of photos of abused detainees as well as on other policies, all what Dick simply have to do is to posit that he is against releasing the pictures and pretend to take critical policy issues postures on the right, making him seemingly a moderating influence on the President.

    Thirdly, the Cheneys simply have to claim that Obama is following the Bush Administration’s policies he criticized pointing to his strategies in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo. In this case too, the media is manipulated as they ignore the fact that the Obama administration does not have the luxury of starting from scratch as Bush had on all these issues but rather adopts a “course correction strategy” of the situations to bring them as close as possible to what he advocates.

    The fact is that, the underlying strategy of Dick and her daughter is to make this three steps political trick extirpate Dick from the accusations levied against the former administration. The sad thing is that the media is “naïvely” falling for these political tricks!

    While Obama has been criticized for following the Bush Administration policies on National Security, there is a failure to recognize that the Obama Administration does not have the luxury of revoking abruptly all the policies of the previous administration with which he disagrees politically simply from an “administrative” standpoint as starting all over is unrealistic. So what he is doing is to adapt a “course correction strategy”.

    With military commissions, a legal framework approved by the judicial and legislative branches will be set up unlike during the Bush Administration where these commissions existed in “legal limbo” and were ruled illegal by the Supreme Court. As for rendition, the Obama Administration policy unlike the Bush Administration policy is to hand over foreign detainees to their foreign governments only on the assurance that they will not be tortured. Further, the CIA will no longer move detainees to “black sites” (secret CIA prisons) since these have been ordered to be closed. The point is Obama is determined to remain within the bounds of the law. Even with the issue of indefinite detention of prisoners, the Obama Administration has advanced that it will regularly seek the approval of the legal and judicial branches.

    Cheney goes as far as to make a remark seemingly to prove that even Obama finds EITs (torture) potentially useful:
    “Yet having reserved for himself the authority to order enhanced interrogation after an emergency, you would think that President Obama would be less disdainful of what his predecessor authorized after 9/11. It’s almost gone unnoticed that the president has retained the power to order the same methods in the same circumstances,”

    This is a crappy fallacy! Of course, it is the obligation of the President to be open to take any action as he might deem appropriate in the case of any future eventuality whatever its nature (and not only with respect to a terrorism related emergency). Now it is one thing for the President to be open to take any action (on the basis of this broad principle) and another thing to purport that because in principle he is open to any such future eventuality, he should validate any unlawful principle as the policy of the administration. In which case he may just as well validate the overriding of any legal principle, for instance the fifth amendment, since there is the remote possibility that there might be a future eventuality which may require him to be open to an action that compromises the fifth amendment.

    The President’s official stance is always for the primacy of legality. To follow Dick Cheney’s logic, then no legal principle should be upheld by the President as well, since there is a remote possibility that he may be open to override it in case of a future eventuality. The fact is the onus for overriding a legal principle rests on the exception to the legal principle, and it does not rest on the legal principle in of itself as Cheney seems to purport. In the case of the so-called “Enhanced Interrogation Techniques” (torture policy), the immediacy and efficiency grounds raised by Cheney as the exception to the legal principle (Geneva protocol and other legal rules on torture) fail awfully given the details we now have of how these EITs were carried out.

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