A Critical Examination of Dick Cheney’s Record

In advance of Vice President Dick Cheney’s June 2004 visit to Grand Rapids, Media Mouse prepared a critical examination of his record.

Dick Cheney

CHENEY AND WAR PROFITEERING:

From 1995 to 2000, Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton during which time he substantially increased the company’s government contracts. While Cheney quit his job at Halliburton to become Vice President in 2000, Cheney has $18 million-worth of unexercised stock options from Halliburton and received $178,437 from the company according to his 2003 tax returns.

Halliburton has been the subject of intense scrutiny during the occupation of Iraq having won $3.9 billion, 680% more than in 2002. Cheney’s relationship with Halliburton has been the target of criticism over the past year, especially with the award (and later withdrawal) of a no-bid contract to Halliburton as well as the dramatic increase in government contracts. Even in the past day, Democratic members of the House of Representatives have called for an investigation of Cheney’s links to Halliburton after an email was published that appears to directly link the White House with Halliburton’s receipt of a contract to Halliburton to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry.

In conjunction with Halliburton’s recent shareholders meeting, Corpwatch and Global Exchange released a new study on Halliburton–“Houston, We Have a Problem” that looks at Halliburton and their status as the number one financial benefactor of the invasion of Iraq despite being under investigation by the Department of Justice, having been accused of overcharging $61 million for fuel and $24.7 million for meals, and confirmed kickbacks worth $6.3 billion. The study documents Halliburton’s history of corruption, fraud, and waste, in addition to looking at the quality of work done by Halliburton.

CHENEY AND THE INVASION OF IRAQ:

Vice President Dick Cheney was one of the major advocates of a “pre-emptive” invasion of Iraq, an invasion which was later acknowledged to be illegal by neo-conservative Richard Perle. While the invasion was clearly illegal, there has also been a recent debate about possible war crimes by the United States at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad (also worth noting is that Cheney, as Secretary of Defense in 1992, was warned that US interrogation methods may be illegal). This is not the first time that questions of war crimes have surrounded Cheney–Cheney was accused of war crimes in the Gulf War–certainly the killing of 9,300 Iraqi civilians in an illegal war would fit under the rubric of “war crimes.”

Throughout the lead-up to the war Cheney deliberately distorted information on the Iraq, claiming that Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat, raising the specter of Iraq’s “reconstituted nuclear” program, and claiming that Iraq had ties with Al-Qaida. Even after the invasion, Cheney continued to claim that new ties between Iraq and Al-Qaida were being found despite a lack of information, and Cheney still claims that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction despite information to the contrary. For those who are seeking a more in depth chronicle of Cheney’s lies on Iraq, “Iraq on the Record: The Bush Administration’s Public Statements on Iraq” chronicles 51 lies and misleading statements.

CHENEY’S ENERGY TASK FORCE:

Another area in which Cheney has been criticized is with his National Energy Policy Development Group. The Energy Police Development Group began in 2001 and was touted as an effort to create an improved energy police for the country, but it became the subject of intense criticism when it was learned that many of the meetings included energy industry lobbyists and CEOs, and furthermore, when the White House announced that the meetings were secret and nothing about them would be publicly revealed.

Many have charged that the National Energy Policy Development Group is indicative of the Bush administration’s close relationship with corporations, as well as its willingness to provide government access and beneficial legislation to corporations. While the Bush administration claimed that the energy policy would prevent a repeat of the “California Energy Crisis of 2001,” Cheney has documented ties to Enron and the energy crisis, while companies involved in his energy task force are currently facing criminal indictments for their role in the crisis.

JudicialWatch has taken a lawsuit to the Supreme Court seeking disclosure, while preliminary efforts have secured the release of some documents, including a map of Iraqi oil fields reviewed by the task force in 2001. In spring of 2002, under order of a federal judge, the U.S. Department of Energy released 13,500 pages of documents to the National Resources Defense Council and an analysis of their findings is available online.

MONEY AND POLITICS:

Vice President’s Cheney’s last visit, a June 2003 fundraiser, garnered $500,000 in donations to the Bush-Cheney 2004 campaign. The campaign has raised at least $204 million during this election — surpassing a previous record set by Bush. With massive amounts of money being spent on elections, candidates from both parties accept money from lobbyists, although the Bush-Cheney campaign has taken nearly four times as much from lobbyists as the Kerry Campaign.

However, it is not just lobbyists that influence policy — it is the dispropotionate influence gained by those who have money to donate. Opensecrets.org tracks money and the elections, allowing for searches of major donors by area.

CHENEY AND THE USA PATRIOT ACT

“The Patriot Act was carefully written to protect the civil liberties that have long defined American democracy.” — Dick Cheney, June 1, 2004

One of the recurring themes in Dick Cheney’s campaign speeches has been the importance of the USA PATRIOT Act in the so-called “war on terror.” Cheney has been consistently defending the USAPATRIOT Act, as well as misrepresenting the dangers that it poses to civil liberties. The USA PATRIOT Act has come under increasing criticism from both left and right wing organizations, and four states and 321 cities and counties, including Grand Rapids MI, have passed resolutions in opposition to it. And yet, despite ample evidence to the contrary, Cheney continues to claim that the USA PATRIOT poses no threat to civil liberties.

Support the Troops?

With Memorial Day here we are sure to hear the mantra “support the troops” repeatedly in the mainstream press. This, of course, is problematic to those who are opposed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. First, there is the obvious question of what does “support the troops” even mean? If one pays taxes, then they are supporting the troops, whether they want to or not. The reality is that the slogan “support the troops” is a semantic trick used by those who are trying to justify war. Their rational is that one must support the war if they “support the troops”, that is, since American lives are at stake, we all must support the war effort or be “unpatriotic”. What is missing from this line of reasoning is the obvious fact that the people in power are the ones putting the troop sat risk in the first place by starting an unnecessary war. Given their definition of what “supporting the troops” entails, then it follows that the antiwar movement cannot “support the troops”.

One hundred years ago Mark Twain wrote “The War Prayer”. It seems as relevent now as it was a century ago.

It was a time of great exulting and excitement. The country was up in arms, the war was on, in every breast burned the holy fire of patriotism; the drums were beating, the bands playing, the toy pistols popping, the bunched firecrackers hissing and sputtering; on every hand and far down the receding and fading spread of roofs and balconies a fluttering wilderness of flags flashed in the sun; daily the young volunteers marched down the wide avenue gay and fine in their new uniforms, the proud fathers and mothers and sisters and sweethearts cheering them with voices choked with happy emotion as they swung by; nightly the packed mass meetings listened, panting, to patriot oratory which stirred the deepest depths of their hearts, and which they interrupted at briefest intervals with cyclones of applause, the tears running down their cheeks the while; in the churches the pastors preached devotion to flag and country, and invoked the God of Battles, beseeching His aid in our good cause in outpourings of fervid eloquence which moved every listener. It was indeed a glad and gracious time, and the half dozen rash spirits that ventured to disapprove of the war and cast doubt upon its righteousness straight way got such a stern and angry warning that for their personal safety’s sake they quickly shrank out of sight and offended no more in that way.

Sunday morning came — next day the battalions would leave for the front; the church was filled; the volunteers were there, their young faces alight with martial dreams — visions of the stern advance, the gathering momentum, the rushing charge, the flashing sabers, the flight of the foe, the tumult, the enveloping smoke, the fierce pursuit, the surrender! — then home from the war, bronzed heroes, welcomed, adored, submerged in golden seas of glory! With the volunteers sat their dear ones, proud, happy, and envied by the neighbors and friends who had no sons and brothers to send forth to the field of honor, there to win for the flag, or failing, die the noblest of noble deaths. The service proceeded; a war chapter from the Old Testament was read; the first prayer was said; it was followed by an organ burst that shook the building, and with one impulse the house rose, with glowing eyes and beating hearts, and poured out that tremendous invocation:

“God the all-terrible! Thou who ordainest, Thunder thy clarion and lightning thy sword!”

Then came the “long” prayer. None could remember the like of it for passionate pleading and moving and beautiful language. The burden of its supplication was, that an ever-merciful and benignant Father of us all would watch over our noble young soldiers, and aid, comfort, and encourage them in their patriotic work; bless them, shield them in the day of battle and the hour of peril, bear them in His mighty hand, make them strong and confident, invincible in the bloody onset; help them to crush the foe, grant to them and to their flag and country imperishable honor and glory — An aged stranger entered and moved with slow and noiseless step up the main aisle, his eyes fixed upon the minister, his long body clothed in a robe that reached to his feet, his head bare, his white hair descending in a frothy cataract to his shoulders, his seamy face unnaturally pale, pale even to ghastliness. With all eyes following and wondering, he made his silent way; without pausing, he ascended to the preacher’s side and stood there, waiting. With shut lids the preacher, unconscious of his presence, continued his moving prayer, and at last finished it with the words, uttered in fervent appeal, “Bless our arms, grant us victory, O Lord our God, Father and Protector of our land and flag!”

The stranger touched his arm, motioned him to step aside — which the startled minister did — and took his place. During some moments he surveyed the spellbound audience with solemn eyes, in which burned an uncanny light; then in a deep voice he said:

“I come from the Throne — bearing a message from Almighty God!” The words smote the house with a shock; if the stranger perceived it he gave no attention. “He has heard the prayer of His servant your shepherd, and will grant it if such be your desire after I, His messenger, shall have explained to you its import — that is to say, its full import. For it is like unto many of the prayers of men, in that it asks for more than he who utters it is aware of — except he pause and think.

“God’s servant and yours has prayed his prayer. Has he paused and taken thought? Is it one prayer? No, it is two — one uttered, the other not. Both have reached the ear of Him Who heareth all supplications, the spoken and the unspoken. Ponder this — keep it in mind. If you would beseech a blessing upon yourself, beware! lest without intent you invoke a curse upon a neighbor at the same time. If you pray for the blessing of rain upon your crop which needs it, by that act you are possibly praying for a curse upon some neighbor’s crop which may not need rain and can be injured by it.

“You have heard your servant’s prayer — the uttered part of it. I am commissioned of God to put into words the other part of it — that part which the pastor — and also you in your hearts — fervently prayed silently. And ignorantly and unthinkingly — God grant that it was so! You heard these words: ‘Grant us victory, O Lord our God!’ That is sufficient. The whole of the uttered prayer is compact into those pregnant words. Elaborations were not necessary. When you have prayed for victory you have prayed for many unmentioned results which follow victory — must follow it, cannot help but follow it. Upon the listening spirit of God the Father fell also the unspoken part of the prayer. He commandeth me to put it into words. Listen!

“O Lord our Father, our young patriots, idols of our hearts, go forth to battle — be Thou near them! With them — in spirit — we also go forth from the sweet peace of our beloved firesides to smite the foe. O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with hurricanes of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst, sports of the sun flames of summer and the icy winds of winter, broken in spirit, worn with travail, imploring Thee for the refuge of the grave and denied it — for our sakes who adore Thee, Lord, blast their hopes, blight their lives, protract their bitter pilgrimage, make heavy their steps, water their way with tears, stain the white snow with the blood of their wounded feet! We ask it, in the spirit of love, of Him Who is the Source of Love, and Who is the ever-faithful refuge and friend of all that are sore beset and seek His aid with humble and contrite hearts. Amen.”

[After a pause.] “Ye have prayed it; if ye still desire it, speak! The messenger of the Most High waits.”

It was believed afterward that the man was a lunatic, because there was no sense in what he said

Thoughts on Memorial Day

Today is the day in which Americans supposedly honor U.S. soldiers who have died in various wars. It would seem appropriate therefore to consider the words of the decorated soldier in U.S. history, USMC Major General Smedley Butler.

Excerpt from a speech delivered in 1933, by Major General Smedley Butler, USMC

War is just a racket. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of people. Only a small inside group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few at the expense of the masses.

I believe in adequate defense at the coastline and nothing else. If a nation comes over here to fight, then we’ll fight. The trouble with America is that when the dollar only earns 6 percent over here, then it gets restless and goes overseas to get 100 percent. Then the flag follows the dollar and the soldiers follow the flag.

I wouldn’t go to war again as I have done to protect some lousy investment of the bankers. There are only two things we should fight for. One is the defense of our homes and the other is the Bill of Rights. War for any other reason is simply a racket.

There isn’t a trick in the racketeering bag that the military gang is blind to. It has its “finger men” to point out enemies, its “muscle men” to destroy enemies, its “brain men” to plan war preparations, and a “Big Boss” Super-Nationalistic-Capitalism.

It may seem odd for me, a military man to adopt such a comparison. Truthfulness compels me to. I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country’s most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle- man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.

I suspected I was just part of a racket at the time. Now I am sure of it. Like all the members of the military profession, I never had a thought of my own until I left the service. My mental faculties remained in suspended animation while I obeyed the orders of higher-ups. This is typical with everyone in the military service.

I helped make Mexico, especially Tampico, safe for American oil interests in 1914. I helped make Haiti and Cuba a decent place for the National City Bank boys to collect revenues in. I helped in the raping of half a dozen Central American republics for the benefits of Wall Street. The record of racketeering is long. I helped purify Nicaragua for the international banking house of Brown Brothers in 1909-1912 (where have I heard that name before?). I brought light to the Dominican Republic for American sugar interests in 1916. In China I helped to see to it that Standard Oil went its way unmolested.

During those years, I had, as the boys in the back room would say, a swell racket. Looking back on it, I feel that I could have given Al Capone a few hints. The best he could do was to operate his racket in three districts. I operated on three continents.

New York Time Apologizes (sort of) for WMD Coverage

Today the New York Times published an editorial admitting that it’s coverage of Iraq and WMD’s during the lead up to the invasion of Iraq was flawed. In their own words:

We have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged–or failed to emerge.

The Times prefaces this statement by first explaining how the majority of their war leadup reporting was accurate and that, in re-examining their coverage they “found an enormous amount of journalism that we are proud of.”

In most cases, what we reported was an accurate reflection of the state of our knowledge at the time, much of it painstakingly extracted from intelligence agencies that were themselves dependent on sketchy information.

The Times also has posted on their site a sampling of articles they published about the decisions that led the United States into the war in Iraq, and especially the issue of Iraq’s weapons. This sampling has fifteen articles that seem to be hyping Iraq’s WMD capabilities, of these, nine were written by Judith Miller. Judith Miller’s reporting has been extensively reviewed and commented on in the New York Review of Books, the Washington Post, Slate, and Counterpunch. The Times editorial mentions no journalists by name and deflects the issue of Judith Miller’s irresponsible reporting by saying:

Some critics of our coverage during that time have focused blame on individual reporters. Our examination, however, indicates that the problem was more complicated.

The most enlightening aspect of today’s Times editorial is not it’s content, which is as much a justification as an apology, but rather the timing of it. In its explanation of how it got duped into publishing faulty information, the Times squarely places the blame on Ahmad Chalabi and the INC. It is telling that while Chalabi has been discredited as a viable source of intelligence for months, the Times has not been willing to admit this until the same week that Chalabi has officially fallen out of favor with the Bush administration. It would seem that the New York Times has found a convenient scapegoat in the newly discredited Chalabi to excuse their culpability in selling the Iraq war to the American public.

Wal-Mart Continues to Draw Criticism

Union leaders and community organizers convened a national meeting in Washington DC yesterday to discuss Wal-Mart’s downward pull on wages and ways to challenge the company’s influence. The AFL-CIO is also considering making Wal-Mart a major focus of its post-election activities.

Wal-Mart has been the subject of intense criticism for years. Wal-Mart recently began a campaign to improve their image, seeking to counter charges that the company has negative impacts on the communities it enters. Wal-Mart is trying to recast themselves as a positive force–advertising a false commitment to their employees and the commmunities in which they open stores. However, such statements ignore the reality of the Wal-Mart corporation–violations of environmental laws, use of a growth model that promotes urban sprawl, anti-union actions, sexual discrimination, exploitation of immigrants, and low wages.

There are indications that Wal-Mart is beginning to feel the pressure. Citizens have prevented Wal-Mart from opening in Inglewood, California while a campaign is currently underway to prevent Wal-Mart from opening stores in Chicago. In addition, activists are planning large demonstrations outside of Wal-Mart’s annual shareholders meeting in Arkansas.

More Information:

Activists Crash Heritage Foundation Meeting in Chicago

Activists masquerading as members of a made-up rightwing think-tank, “the Society for Socioeconomic Stability,” crashed the Hertiage Foundation’s annual Resource Bank meeting in Chicago. The Heritage Foundation is a conservative think-tank that spends over $25 million annually to influence policy with their major goal being the dismantling of the “liberal welfare state.”

Members of The Yes Men operated a table throughout the event, with their invasion culminating in a speech to meeting attendees. While many attendees criticized “social programs” such as the No Child Left Behind Act initiated by the Bush administration, The Yes Men criticized the administration’s war on Iraq, calling it “crony corporate welfare” and “market distortion on a fairly gigantic scale.” The Yes Men, who have previously gained attention for posing as members of the World Trade Organization, plan on going to Geneva to file an official complaint with the WTO stating that the invasion of Iraq was an illegal trade subsidy.

Read More about Crashing the Heritage Meeting:

Ignoring Patterns of Abuse in the Military

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld testified before congress yesterday amidst calls for him to resign over recently published photographs of widespread abuse of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. In his testimony he took responsibility for the abuse as leader of the military, but he is ignoring demands to resign that have been coming from citizens and some Democratic politicians. It is also worth noting that his testimony was disrupted by protestors.

While Rumsfeld has said that “a lot more pictures” exist, many of them have not been released to the news media and have been selectively published by the press in the United States. Rahul Mahajan’s Empire Notes blog has published a number of the photos and the Independent Media Center has put out a video of US troops gunning down a wounded Iraqi — a video that has aired around the world but not in the US. Moreover, as the media reports the abuse of prisoners as an “un-American” act, thereby making the abuse into a unique “scandal,” they ignore how the military institutionalizes such behavior and how violence and torture have historically been used by the United States to obtain information. The corporate media has ignored historical cases of abuse–both My Lai and, more recently, Guantanamo Bay. There has also been no effort to show that this abuse is part of a systematic policy of colonization that has killed over 9,000 Iraqi civilians.

Religion as the Last Refuge of the Scoundrel

According to the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, there is supposedly something in this country called separation of Church and State. It may surprise people to learn that yesterday was a federally recognized “National day of Prayer”. George Bush, the president who has had fewer press conferences, and more vacation days than any president in modern history, took the time to hold a half hour event at the White House to promote prayer. Considering the immorality of the policies pursued by the Bush administration, the idea of Bush leading anybody in a prayer is rife with irony. Of course, the ultimate irony concerning this event would be the organizer’s choice for the 2004 National Day of Prayer honorary chairman…Marine Colonel (and criminal) Oliver North!

Tax Day

Tomorrow is April 15, or simply “tax day” as it is known to millions of Americans. While the vast majority of American citizens feel that the tax system is incredibly screwed up, the majority continues to file returns and pay their taxes. Increasingly, the tax system has been “reformed” to favor the super rich at the expense of everyone else. This trend has accelerated under the Bush administration, which has used small $300 tax rebates to gain public support for huge tax breaks for the very wealthy. Also, the IRS has continued to have it’s enforcement ability cut, allowing more wealthy people to avoid paying taxes. At the same time that the IRS was letting the wealthy get away with tax avoidance, Congress did finance a crackdown on the poor. The working poor, most of whom make less than $16,000, are eight times more likely to be audited than millionaire investors in partnerships. And of course, American corporations are paying an increasingly smaller percentage of the tax burden. This trend is unlikely to change, as both George Bush and John Kerry are for lower corporate taxes. Even more disconcerting than the question of who is paying taxes is the question of what the taxes are being spent on. A staggering amount of taxpayer’s money is being spent to finance US imperialism, militarism and war. In response to this, various organizations and people have adopted a strategy of tax resistance as a political statement.

Here locally on the 15th, an action is planned for the downtown post office

Grand Rapids Petition Drive to Target Sewage Proposal

At Noon on Thursday, April 15 at the downtown Grand Rapids post office site, a 112-page report will be released by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Clean Water Action and West Michigan Environmental Action Council detailing how the Bush administration is rewriting environmental rules to benefit industry in ways that sometimes hurt taxpayers. On a day when average Americans are filing their federal income taxes, the news event will focus on how Bush administration’s policies are benefiting industry.

The report will also coincide with an announcement Thursday by Clean Water Action of a petition drive to get City Commission backing of a resolution opposing the Bush administration’s proposed so-called sewage “blending” policy that weakens sewage treatment standards. This rule rewriting by the Bush administration comes at the expense of Grand Rapids, which has already invested over $200 million to upgrade sewage infrastructure.

Who: Clean Water Action, Natural Resources Defense Council and West Michigan Environmental Action Council

What: Release of “Rewriting the Rules: The Bush Administration’s Assault on the Environment” and petition drive announcement

Where: West side of Main Post Office Downtown Grand Rapids

When: Noon