Liz Cheney’s defense of dad is getting weaker

By Kerry Drake
— August 12, 2014

It’s too bad Liz Cheney’s campaign against Sen. Mike Enzi in Wyoming self-destructed before it even geared up. If it hadn’t, she might not have had time to go on Fox News recently to defend her father’s approval of torturing prisoners.

Wyoming Campaign Finance
Kerry Drake

Then again, Liz Cheney will always find time to try to turn the tables on those who would dare attack her father. It’s her calling, and her vitriolic responses are the reason why there’s always a seat available on a TV news program somewhere for her to rant against her father’s enemies. She makes news.

You can easily imagine the knee-jerk reaction in the newsroom. “Obama said torture was bad again,” a producer yells to his crew. “Get a Cheney.”

Who else are you gonna call? But the former vice president’s enemies list grows longer every day — filling up with members of his own party, including GOP presidential hopeful Rand Paul — and Liz is getting worse at her job.

She tries hard, but it must be discouraging to realize your own legacy will be trying to improve the image of a man considered by many throughout the world as a war profiteer and war criminal. Dad didn’t give her much to work with. Perhaps if he’d ever admitted to giving a second of thought to the idea his approval of torture was legally and morally wrong — instead of constantly, proudly vowing he would do it all again — there might be some tiny possibility of changing the world’s opinion of him.

It hasn’t seemed to faze the Cheneys or any other neocons that they lost, and lost badly -— not just their credibility by lying about the reason they preemptively attacked Iraq, but the battle for the heart and soul of the Republican Party. They fully expected to lead the party for generations, but that notion sank like a rock — just like Cheney’s prediction the people of Iraq would greet us as liberators.

So it falls to Liz Cheney to rewrite history and try to get somebody to buy her version. Judging by the fiasco that was her interview with Fox’s Monica Crowley on Aug. 1, the only things she has left in her arsenal are rage and easily refuted lies. Liz hurled words like “utter disgrace” and “despicable” at President Barack Obama for having the audacity to admit what the nation already knows: “We did a whole lot of things that were right, but we tortured some folks. We did some things that were contrary to our values.”

The president was referring to a report on Central Intelligence Agency activities in the war on terror requested by the Senate Intelligence Committee. The agency reportedly redacted much of it and Democrats want the full report released.

Like her father, Liz Cheney steadfastly refuses to acknowledge “waterboarding” is torture, and euphemistically calls the simulated drowning part of the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation methods.” She also claims it was used sparingly for detainees at Guantanamo, and that it provided information the U.S. would not have been able to attain any other way — including details eventually used to track down and kill Sept. 11 attack mastermind Osama bin Laden under Obama’s watch.

Numerous intelligence and congressional reports, plus news and human rights organizations, have clearly reported those neocon talking points as false. Apparently the Cheneys believe if they go on TV enough and continue to say them, someday someone besides the Tea Party will embrace them as facts. It’s the media’s job to make sure that doesn’t happen, and it can begin by not calling them enhanced interrogation methods. Under any definition of the term, Dick Cheney supports torture.

Cheney knows that. It’s why he relied on a semantic argument when he was interviewed by ATV, a college TV station, earlier this year. He argued that men deemed terrorists by the U.S. could be waterboarded legally because the 1949 Geneva Convention — which prohibits cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment — does not apply to “unlawful combatants.”

The media needs to stop trying to “balance” its reports on torture by grabbing a Cheney to respond every time the topic comes up. Calling out the family on it — as Fox News host Megyn Kelly did recently when she confronted Dick Cheney on his ridiculous claims about his role in misleading us into the Iraq War — should become the norm, not the exception.

If Liz Cheney would actually analyze how Obama has responded to the way the Bush and Cheney administration approved torture tactics, she would stop bashing the president and start thanking him for letting her dad and his buddies walk away free. When Obama took over the presidency, he condemned the use of torture by the previous administration but claimed making people accountable for what they did would tear the country apart. He said we needed to focus on the future, not past acts, as terrible as they were.

I think history will prove Obama wrong not to vigorously prosecute torturers and the officials who gave them permission to use any means necessary to extract information from detainees in the name of security. By not holding them accountable, Obama has made this nation’s actions and its response to torture ambiguous. Yes, we condemn it, but we’re not willing to punish anyone.

Actually, that’s not true. There was one person prosecuted: former CIA analyst John Kiriakou is now serving 30 months in federal prison. His crime? He revealed the name of a covert CIA operative and blew the whistle on the CIA’s use of torture. In Los Angeles recently, a student asked Cheney why Kiriakou is in prison but he and the other architects of the policies allowing torture are free. The former vice president sat mum, as his wife Lynne replied they respected the person’s right to ask the question, but they had a right not to answer it, so they wouldn’t.

If Liz Cheney and her father had faith in their convictions that he did nothing wrong, they should welcome a trial that would allow them to present their defense and decide the issue once and for all. That might actually help heal the nation. If it’s left an open question, as Obama’s non-action has allowed it to be, all they can do is trot Liz out on the talk show circuit or have her write another book.

Come to think of it, that’s a better use of her time than ever becoming a U.S. senator from Wyoming, Virginia, or wherever she decides to hang her cowgirl hat. At least it’s steady work.

— Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake is a contributor to WyoHistory.org. He also moderates the WyPols blog.

— Columns are the signed perspective of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of WyoFile’s staff, board of directors or its supporters. WyoFile welcomes guest columns and op-ed pieces from all points of view. If you’d like to write a guest column for WyoFile, please contact WyoFile editor-in-chief Dustin Bleizeffer at dustin@wyofile.com.

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Veteran Wyoming journalist Kerry Drake has covered Wyoming for more than four decades, previously as a reporter and editor for the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle and Casper Star-Tribune. He lives in Cheyenne and...

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  1. Used to think that lawyers were the slimiest profession, but with columns like this, so called “journalists” like this are closing in for that title.

  2. Kerry, thanks for writing this. Ive been waiting for someone to do this piece for years. I almost gave up hope for the people of Wyoming.

  3. I, for one, am glad good reporting doesn’t just let sleeping dogs lie on this matter. We have far too many Cheney type folks in the world that assume if they poop in the corner no one else will mention the stench nor complain about cleaning up the mess. I admire Nelson Mandela’s truth and justice courts that worked to create a country of forgiveness. Indeed revenge is not helpful, but to turn a blind eye to the atrocities of this trumped up war and the untold billions pocketed by the war profiteers should not go unrevealed. It doesn’t take a lot to connect the dots from Cheney’s CIA background to Halliburton CEO to U.S. Vice President throwing a match on the Iraq war to private bank accounts. The beans need to be spilled, counted, cooked and digested.

  4. Thank you for this great commentary on Cheney’s abominable torture advocacy and policy. Dick Cheney belongs in prison for his role in the inhuman treatment and torture of prisoners in Abu Graib, Bagram, Guantanamo and elsewhere. Shame on Obama for allowing this criminal to remain free. And shame on us all for not vigorously demanding Cheney’s prosecution.