More of Cheney’s Fingerprints

It seems that practically every outrage committed by the Bush administration has Dick Cheney’s fingerprints all over it.

Recall how Sen. Hillary Clinton last month asked the Defense Department for information about military contingency plans for withdrawal from Iraq. It was the sort of request that someone in her position as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee might routinely make. But Eric Edelman, Douglas Feith’s successor in the Defense Department, responded to the request by contending that “public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda.” Clinton found this reply “outrageous and dangerous” and wrote Secretary of Defense Robert Gates directly, asking if this was the official view of the Defense Department. Gates responded in conciliatory fashion, somewhat distancing himself from the notorious neocon.

Cheney, however, asked by CNN’s Larry King about the exchange, pronounced Edelman’s dispatch “a good letter.” Jim Lobe has suggested that the letter was actually written by Cheney’s chief of staff, David Addington. Once again, it seems, Cheney circumvented the normal chain of authority, using his well-placed neocon minions to deal with his enemies and perpetuate a climate of fear.

Recall the infamous visit of Alberto Gonzales, then Bush’s top lawyer and now the Attorney General, to the sick-bed of his predecessor John Ashcroft in March 2004. The Justice Department had concluded that the administration’s wiretapping program was illegal and should not be extended, and Ashcroft (while a religious nutcake and reactionary) agreed. But Gonzales — sidelining the acting Attorney General James B. Comey — sought to twist the sick man’s arm and get him to sign off on continuation of the program. Gonzales went with White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card to the hospital, to urge a man just out of surgery to sign off on a continuation of the criminality. Comey, learning of the bizarre mission, “rushed to the hospital with emergency lights flashing and a siren blaring, to intercept Gonzales and Card” according to the New York Times.

Fearing that Gonzales and Card might demand his own removal from the hospital, Comey arranged for FBI director Robert Mueller to meet him there. Comey told Congress he “literally ran up the stairs” of the hospital to thwart Gonzales’ effort. So a combination of the ailing Attorney General, the acting Attorney General, and the FBI chief, thwarted the attempt to get Ashcroft’s signature. Soon thereafter, Comey, Ashcroft, Mueller and their aides threatened a mass resignation if the spying program wasn’t modified, and Bush agreed to make some changes. We still don’t know what this all entails, and it’s safe to assume that a lot of unconstitutional surveillance is going on. But plainly at the very summit of political power dramatic confrontations are unfolding.

Cheney is at the center of these conflicts. As Lobe notes, a New York Times editorial on July 29 indicated that the administration’s wiretapping program was a pet project of the vice president, and that “unwilling to accept” the Justice Department’s conclusion, “Vice President Dick Cheney sent Mr. Gonzales and another official to Mr. Ashcroft’s hospital room to get him to approve the wiretapping.”

Larry King asked Cheney whether he had in fact sent Gonzales to do this. “I don’t recall,” he replied. “But certainly I was involved because I was a big advocate of the Terrorist Surveillance Program.”

And a big opponent, no doubt, of Deputy Attorney General Comey, who had appointed the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, his good friend Patrick Fitzgerald, to investigate the Plame CIA leak case which resulted in the felony conviction of Cheney’s former chief of staff “Scooter” Libby. Is it not amazing that Comey as acting attorney general felt the need to take the actions he did to prevent Cheney’s cabal from executing a coup in 2004? (Comey left the Justice Department in August 2005.)

Repeat: he “rushed to the hospital with emergency lights flashing and a siren blaring, to intercept Gonzales and Card.” This is not a Hollywood thriller, but a real developing scenario about conflict within the U.S. power elite, between more or less sane people and wannabe fascist thugs.

These are frightening times. Less so because angry Muslims want to vent their rage about U.S. foreign policy than because homegrown nazis feel the time is right to attack — in the name of anti-terrorism and national security — any law or person standing in the way of their world-transforming goals. Cheney sits at the center of a web of neocons desperately working to perpetuate the occupation of Iraq, regime change in Iran and Syria, and the establishment of long-term bases to encircle rising China. They want to make sure that their work is furthered under the next administration, and are maneuvering tirelessly to achieve that end.

Sirens should be blaring, emergency lights should be flashing everywhere. Instead a business-as-usual Congress hands Bush his spy bill that he gleefully signs in the quiet privacy of his latest Camp David retreat.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History at Tufts University, and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at: Read other articles by Gary.

2 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. Jeanne Capozzoli said on August 8th, 2007 at 8:26am #

    When Gates was nominated to replace Rumsfeld, he pledged to get rid of the neocons in the DOD. Around the US and the world, one could hear a collective sigh of relief that the “chicken hawks” would be sent packing. Why is Edelman still there? That he (or Addington) issued this attack on Hillary without the permission of Sec. of Defense Gates is very scary. It means that Cheney and the disgraced neocons are still determined to carry this war to Iran.

  2. Robert Hauser said on August 8th, 2007 at 8:57am #

    While I had not until now heard of this incident, and while entirely infuriating, it is nonetheless far from shocking…..I am in fact reminded of what was then known as the “Second Deck Mutiny” that took place back in 1941 as senior grade naval officers in the capitol “rebelled” against the Roosevelt reptilian regime’s totally treasonous attempts to withhold priceless Purple Code transcripts from the Hawaiian Garrison and Seventh Fleet and instead send them wholly duplicitous and ambiguous dispatches.

    When people refer to 9/11 as a “second Pearl Harbor” (and they were doing that long before the smoke began to clear) I doubt that most or even any of them fully realized the truth of what they were saying.

    I do flatly object to your comparison of the “Cheney branch of government” as start up “nazis”….World War II was over 2/3 of a century ago and few if any who write about it today, such as yourselves, have any vague notion of the bald faced lies the Roosevelt regime was milling out daily from their “Room 14 Lie Factory” located, far from surprisingly in Rockefeller Center, to stir up nationwide germanophobia and hatred of Germany and all things German.

    True “nazis” took to the streets of Munich and then the rest of Germany to fight the communists with their fists even though sometimes outnumbered ten to one…..i don’t feature a lotus-eating fat gut Cheney or a poor little rich brat Bush doing that or anything like it…do you? Besides the word “nazi” refers to the German Nazional Sozialistischer Arbeiterspartei which means National Socialist WORKERS’ party….whether anyone likes it or not, National Socialism was a true workers’ movement.

    What has Bush or Cheney or any other of the all too numerous dregs in American politics ever done for the working people of this god forsaken country? You tell me.