STEVEN JONAS, MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On July 30, 2012, former Vice-President Dick Cheney described President Obama as one of the "weakest" Presidents, ranking even (sic) Jimmy Carter above him (1). That statement makes one wonder: what is Cheney's definition of the opposite of weakness? That is "strength." Well, let's take a look at some of Cheney's personal and political history to try to determine the answer to that question.
1. Cheney, by his own admission, was able to gain five deferments from the draft during the Vietnam War. The last was obtained when he married his wife and she became pregnant. Married men with children were not being drafted. Cheney one commented (as I recall) that he sought those deferments because he "had better things to do with his time," or words to that effect. Strength?
2. When Cheney was Bush I's Secretary of Defense he strongly supported the US invasion of Kuwait in response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of that country. This despite the fact that just before the latter's invasion his government (which had been supported by the US during its war with Iran in the 1980s) has talked with one April Glaspie, then US Ambassador in Baghdad. The Iraqis were very concerned with the Kuwaitis'' "diagonal drilling for oil, across and under the Kuwait/Iraqi border.
Negotiations had been underway in an attempt to resolve the problem. At what would be the last of those meetings, the Kuwaiti Prime Minster alludes to the long-standing Middle East rumor that Hussein's mother had been a prostitute. Hussein, who had been praised in the then recent past by Republican Senators including Bob Dole, Alan Simpson (Cheney's political god-father), and Democrat turncoat Phil Gramm, asked Glaspie about the US view on his dispute with Kuwait. She replies by saying: "We have no opinion on Arab-Arab conflicts, like your border disagreement with Kuwait" (2). Hussein, thinking he has a green light from the U.S., invades Kuwait. Cheney's military goes on the attack shortly thereafter. Another definition of "strength?"
3. Fast forward to 2000. Bush II asks Cheney to head the committee to select his Vice-Presidential candidate. Cheney eventually proposes himself and Bush accepts. Strength?
4. Right after the 2000 election, before the Inauguration, Cheney convenes his famous "Energy Task Force." Not even the full membership has ever been revealed, much less at least an executive summary (if not its full report) of its occlusions which governed US energy policy for the next eight years (and under Obama have in part spilled over into the next four). Cheney kept the work of that task force entirely secret. Strength?
5. The story of the Iraq War has been told repeatedly. In sum, none of the excuses for it held any water. Hussein had had nothing to do with Osama bin Laden. In fact, there is evidence that they cordially hated each other. There were no weapons of mass destruction, as shown over-and-over again by the weapons inspectors under the direction of the UN chief for that task, Hans Blix. In fact, in the run-up to the war when the Bush Administration, led by Cheney, was claiming that there were such weapons, the claim supposedly based on CIA evidence, Blix repeatedly asked the CIA to share it with him. The CIA never responded. And we know what came next. Strength?
6. The US invades Iraq without bothering to get a declaration of war from Congress. (I wonder where the "strict-constructionists" were on that one.) The US wins quickly and takes over the country. Our troops are not received with citizens throwing flowers them, as the Cheneyites had predicted. Cheney and his boy Rumsfeld are running the occupation. (Funnily enough, under Nixon, Cheney was Rumsfeld's boy.) On the civilian side things go to hell in a hand-basket very quickly, beginning with looting of the great Iraqi historical museums. Rumsfeld's response to that one is "stuff happens." Things in Iraq go downhill from there, until a puppet Iraqi government (but not puppet enough) forces Bush to accept a treaty providing for the eventual US departure (which the GOP of course blames on Obama). It appears as if the real war aims of the Cheney/Bushists are oil, bases, and permanent war (3.) Destroying a nation under completely false pretenses. Strength?
7. Then there is the outing of Valerie Plame to get at her husband Joseph C. Wilson for blowing the whistle on the false Saddam/Yellow Cake/Niger story (4). It became clear during the investigation of the matter of breaking the law on revealing the identity of national security agents (otherwise known as "spies," which Ms. Wilson actually was) that the idea originated with Cheney and/or Karl Rove. Cheney hid behind Scooter Libby, who he got to take the fall for himself and Rove. Strength?
8. And finally we come to The Cheney Torture Doctrine. And no, the use of the term "enhanced interrogation" doesn't make it any less torture. Nor does the term make its use any less a violation of, among other things, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution which makes all treaties to which the United States has adhered, including such ones as the Geneva Conventions which prohibit the use of torture, the "supreme law of the land." Torture, as has been proved over and over again throughout history, is a weapon of the weak, not of the strong. Strength? Hardly.
Some record of "strength" for this man. Cheney should really take care when he calls other people "weak."
2. Lapham, L.H., "Notebook: Trained Seals and Sitting Ducks," Harper's Magazine, May, 1991, p. 10.
3. The CheneyBush War Policy: Connecting the Dots for Permanent War, 02/27/2007,
4. The Triumph of Cheneyism: His Pernicious Legacy, 11/03/11,
Steven Jonas, MD, MPH is a Professor of Preventive Medicine at Stony Brook University (NY) and author/co-author/editor/co-editor of over 30 books. In addition to being a columnist for BuzzFlash/Truthout, he is the Managing Editor of and a Contributing Author to TPJmagazine.net.