This whole thing where members of the Cheney family deign to speak to the public as if their opinions mattered is still a relatively new phenomenon. But I've more or less determined that the best way to rebut their ramblings is to have some sort of memory or something. Today's Morning Joe provided an example. In the midst of a discussion on GITMO, came this exchange:
DEUTSCH: [Obama] has been very clear that he is going to allow himself the opportunity to indefinitely detain these detainees.
LIZ CHENEY: He says that as a platitude, but that's what we do right now at Guantanamo. So, he comes and he really mischaracterizes the decision made in the last eight years but then says --
DEUTSCH: How is he mischaracterizing them?
CHENEY: Because he's saying we violated American values and he said we lost our way. He said we left him a mess. I think most Americans think we were attacked on 9/11. That was an attack. It wasn't a mess.
Oy. Yeah, you really have to break out the old CONDESCENSION-TO-ENGLISH translation dictionary there, don't you? I'll tell you what, I'll not dispute the contention that "most Americans think we were attacked on 9/11." But that conclusion does not preclude the existence of a "mess," before or after the attack. Here -- and it's hard to tell -- Cheney seems to be insisting that 1) 9/11 did not occur because of an underlying "mess" and 2) there wasn't a mess left for President Obama when the Bush administration left. For the sake of being complete, let's look at both!
Now, I seem to recall that some perfectly reputable people gathered in conference to investigate the "mess" that led to 9/11 as a part of something called the "9/11 Commission." Their basic conclusion? There was a mess:
RICHARD CLARKE: I did get a response, and the response was that in the Bush administration I should, and my committee, counterterrorism security group, should report to the deputies committee, which is a sub-Cabinet level committee, and not to the principals and that, therefore, it was inappropriate for me to be asking for a principals' meeting. Instead, there would be a deputies meeting.
It slowed it down enormously, by months. First of all, the deputies committee didn't meet urgently in January or February.
Then when the deputies committee did meet, it took the issue of Al Qaida as part of a cluster of policy issues, including nuclear proliferation in South Asia, democratization in Pakistan, how to treat the various problems, including narcotics and other problems in Afghanistan, and launched on a series of deputies meetings extending over several months to address Al Qaida in the context of all of those inter-related issues.
That process probably ended, I think in July of 2001. So we were ready for a principals meeting in July. But the principals calendar was full and then they went on vacation, many of them in August, so we couldn't meet in August, and therefore the principals met in September.
That's from the testimony of former NSC counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke, describing the tangled up and torturous way the intelligence bureaucracy treated the issue of al Qaeda in the early months of 2001. But, hey, don't take his word for it! Here's then-National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, at the same 9/11 Commission:
RICE: Commissioner, with all due respect, I don't agree that we know that we had somehow a silver bullet here that was going to work.
What we do know is that we did have a systemic problem, a structural problem between the FBI and the CIA. It was a long time in coming into being. It was there because there were legal impediments, as well as bureaucratic impediments. Those needed to be overcome.
Obviously, the structure of the FBI that did not get information from the field offices up to FBI Central, in a way that FBI Central could react to the whole range of information reports, was a problem.
RICE: Those changes should have been made over a long period of time. I fully agree with you that, in hindsight, now looking back, there are many things structurally that were out of kilter. And one reason that we're here is to look at what was out of kilter structurally, to look at needed to be done, to look at what we already have done, and to see what more we need to do.
But I think it is really quite unfair to suggest that something that was a threat spike in June or July gave you the kind of opportunity to make the changes in air security that could have been -- that needed to be made.
So, it's worth pointing out that Liz Cheney is talking about an administration that once presented the existence of a "mess" as a defense against accusations that they didn't do enough to prevent the attacks.
As for what the previous administration left behind, well, let's total it up, shall we? We went to war in Afghanistan to curb the Taliban, and instead allowed the Taliban to reconstitute themselves and return. We sought to destroy the terrorists who attacked us, and instead appeased them by allowing them to escape to safe havens from which they threaten the world. We went to war in Iraq to disarm a dictator of deadly weapons and instead discovered none. We persisted in occupying Iraq in the hopes that democracy would take root, and the nation remains in turmoil over basic decisions, like oil-revenue sharing. We were told the occupation would spread Western-style democracy, and instead what has spread is the influence of Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, and various gangs of armed, funded extra-governmental militias. And we tortured and imprisoned people and the only thing we have to show for the effort is a marked increase in incidents of violent global jihadism.
So: a mess, I'm afraid! This is not the trick of memory. It's the memory of a whole bunch of tricks!
Anyway, Liz Cheney also said that her father "feels... very strongly that he has an obligation to defend the brave men and women that carried out the program who have been really libeled by the current administration when they call it torture and say we somehow are not upholding American values." It seems to me that in constantly defending the personnel who carried out the torture under orders and constantly insisting that they not be held responsible for any wrongdoing, Obama's done a lot to defend those brave men and women. What's more, he hasn't ordered any of them to commit any more acts of torture, to the best of my knowledge, which is another way of "defending" them.
I get the feeling that the Cheneys don't actually know what "libel" is, frankly! But I guess if you've spent so much time above the law, it can be pretty difficult to discern.