U.S. Must Regain Respect By Rejecting Former Vice President’s Claims

Last week former Vice President Cheney gave an interview where he continued to espouse his dangerous claims that President Obama’s moves to correct some of the Bush Administration’s most egregious abuses make us less safe. He continued to defend the Bush Administration’s support for Guantanamo Bay and inhumane interrogation of terrorism suspects, and he notably claimed that “we’re not going to win this fight by turning the other cheek.” This is a shameful attitude.

Not to mention a groundless one. His statements offer sweeping and totally unverifiable pronouncements about the effectiveness of the Bush policies. “If it hadn’t been for what we did — with respect to the terrorist surveillance program or enhanced interrogation techniques for high-value detainees, the Patriot Act and so forth — then we would have been attacked again,” Cheney claimed.

In fact, the policies have had a deleterious effect on our troops in Iraq; interrogator Matthew Alexander has posited that at least half of our losses and casualties in that country have come at the hands of foreigners who joined the fray because of our program of detainee abuse. As he wrote in the Washington Post, “How anyone can say that torture keeps Americans safe is beyond me — unless you don’t count American soldiers as Americans.”

Washington Post editorial this weekend does a nice job of debunking some of the outrageous statements made by Cheney:

Most profoundly, Mr. Cheney fails to recognize the damage these policies have done to the country’s reputation at large. They have alienated even once-stalwart allies, and they have played into the hands of terrorist leaders, who use the sordid images from Abu Ghraib and tales of abuse at secret CIA prisons overseas as political ammunition to recruit the next wave of suicide bombers and foot soldiers. Thanks to Mr. Cheney and his allies, global respect for the United States is at a low point. Part of the mission of preventing attacks must be to repair that damage.

With his executive orders on Guantanamo, secret prisons, and torture, President Obama has begun the project of restoring America’s reputation – and making us safer. But there is more work to be done, including the establishment of a non-partisan commission investigating the facts and circumstances relating to U.S. detention and interrogation since September 11, 2001, and identifying lessons learned so that our country can avoid future abuses. Such a commission could be instrumental in assessing the strategic impact of the policies Cheney has continued to praise without cause or reflection.

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Published on February 9, 2009

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