Is Vice President Dick Cheney Losing It?
by Jeffrey Steinberg
One day after a bipartisan Senate majority passed legislation holding the White House accountable for its disastrous Iraq policy, Vice President Dick Cheney appeared at an awards dinner for former Sen. Malcolm Wallop, on Nov. 16, and used the occasion to stage a psychotic outburst against anyone daring to question the Bush Administration's motives for going to war in Iraq.
Cheney ranted: "The suggestion that's been made by some U.S. Senators that the President of the United States or any member of this Administration purposely misled the American people on pre-war intelligence is one of the most dishonest and reprehensible charges ever aired in this city.... Some of the most irresponsible comments have, of course, come from politicians who actually voted in favor of authorizing the use of force against Saddam Hussein.... Back home a few opportunists are suggesting they were sent into battle for a lie.... The President and I cannot prevent certain politicians from losing their memory, or their backbone."
Within moments of Cheney's over-the-top tirade, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) stood in the well of the Senate and responded, forcefully, to the Vice President's lies. "Tonight," Reid told the session, "the Vice President has come out of his bunker and is speaking at a gathering of Washington, D.C. insiders, which is closed to the press. Unfortunately, he brought his bunker mentality with him. He is repeating the same tired attacks we've heard from Administration officials over the last two weeks. In the last 24 hours, 10 of our brave soldiers have been killed in far-off Iraq. On such a night, you would think Cheney would give a speech that honors the fallen and those still fighting by laying out a strategy for success."
Senator Reid called, once again, for the Vice President to appear before the American people in a press conference to: "come clean, not to continue the pattern of deceit.... If he has time to talk to D.C. insiders ... oil executives ... and a discredited felon—Ahmed Chalabi—who is under investigation for giving this nation's most sensitive secrets to Iran, he has time to answer the questions of the American people."
Reid concluded with a warning: "Tired rhetoric and political attacks do nothing to get the job done in Iraq. America can do better."
Phase II and the Plamegate Probe
The Vice President's beast-man outburst was, if nothing else, psychologically revealing. Cheney knows that he has a great deal to hide, not the least of which is his personal role in the leaking of the identity of CIA undercover officer Valerie Plame Wilson. Speaking on MSNBC on Nov. 14, former Nixon White House Counsel John Dean predicted that Cheney would soon resign "for health reasons." Dean dissected the Oct. 28 indictment of Cheney's former chief of staff, Lewis Libby, and emphasized that the Special Counsel is targetting the Vice President, personally, for violating the Espionage Act. Dean was referring to the fact that Cheney was the person who told Libby that Valerie Plame Wilson worked in the counterproliferation division of the CIA, which is in the Directorate of Operations. Cheney and Libby knew from her assignment that Ms. Wilson was conducting covert operations for the Agency.
According to government sources, Special Counsel Fitzgerald has been very active since the Libby indictment, deposing a significant number of new witnesses, including Washington Post Deputy Managing Editor Bob Woodward, and pursuing leads that emerged late in the probe.
Cheney is also sweating about the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence's Phase II probe into Bush Administration policymakers' abuse of the pre-Iraq war intelligence.
Lyndon LaRouche emphasized in his webcast that the issue for the SSCI is not the interpretation of the intelligence community's work product by policymakers. The issue is what New Yorker magazine investigative writer Seymour Hersh dubbed the "stove-pipe"—the flow of fake intelligence from Ahmed Chalabi's Iraqi National Congress and other neo-conservative-linked outfits, through the Office of Undersecretary of Defense Douglas Feith, directly into the Vice President's hands. The issue is, in fact, the outright lies that were told by Cheney, to get the Congress to capitulate to his obsession with war on Iraq, an obsession he harbored for a decade.
On Nov. 15, Cheney held a private 45-minute session with Ahmed Chalabi, who was visiting Washington on behalf of the Iraqi government. Sources familiar with the Chalabi visit said that the Cheney meeting, and other private meetings the former Iraqi National Committee head had, were to "get their stories straight"—that is, coordinate the coverup of the lies that led the U.S. to war.
In another blow to Cheney and company, it was recently revealed that the Pentagon's Inspector General informed the U.S. Senate on Oct. 19, that a full probe into Doug Feith would be launched, to determine whether his office bypassed the CIA and provided uncorroborated intelligence to the White House to bolster the case for war. The Inspector General's probe came as the result of separate requests from SSCI Chairman Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Democrat Carl Levin (Mich.). Roberts asked for a review of the Office of Special Plans, the Iraq war-planning and propaganda unit that was a hotbed of neo-con agitation. Among the Office of Special Plans staff was Lawrence Franklin, the Iran desk officer who has pled guilty to passing national security secrets to officials of AIPAC (the American Israel Public Affairs Committee) and the Israeli embassy in Washington. Levin demanded a broader probe into the overall operations of Feith's policy office in the run-up to the Iraq war, and submitted ten questions for the Inspector General to investigate.
Vote of No-Confidence
Senator Reid's forceful reply to Cheney's Nov. 16 geek act came in the context of a growing chorus of demands for Cheney's departure, and for a radical change in Bush Administration policy—starting in Iraq.
On Nov. 15, the Senate voted up an amendment to the Defense Authorization Bill, defining 2006 as the year for Iraq to restore full sovereignty, pledging that the U.S. military will not remain in Iraq "indefinitely," and mandating that President Bush report to Congress every 90 days on the progress in Iraq. The language of the amendment was hammered out by Senators Reid, Levin, Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), and John Warner (R-Va.). The agreement was also endorsed by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.).
After the vote, Reid hailed the bipartisan action as a "great day." "Republicans in the Senate have acknowledged that the situation in Iraq should not be 'stay the course.' " And in a separate press conference, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman Warner reiterated his strong backing for another amendment, banning the U.S. from conducting torture on prisoners. That amendment, sponsored by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), is another direct hit on Vice President Cheney, who, along with his newly minted chief of staff David Addington, has been the Administration's outspoken advocate of torture.
The same day the Senate was passing the bipartisan Iraq amendment, Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.), in a speech at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington, assailed the Administration for attempting to stifle criticism of the disastrous Iraq war. In a speech that also called for the convening of a regional conference on Iraq's security, involving all of Iraq's neighbors, including Iran and Syria, Hagel demanded: "The Bush Administration must understand that each American has a right to question our policies in Iraq and should not be demonized for disagreeing with them. Suggesting that to challenge or criticize policy is undermining and hurting our troops is not democracy nor what this country has stood for, for over 200 years.... To question your government is not unpatriotic—to not question your government is unpatriotic. America owes its men and women in uniform a policy worthy of their sacrifices."
Call for Withdrawal
When Cheney lackeys in the House Republican leadership moved to block the convening of a Congressional conference to resolve the Defense Authorization Bill, with the aim of stalling a vote on the anti-torture and Iraq accountability amendments, Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) was furious. Murtha convened a news conference Nov. 17 to announce that he was calling on the Bush Administration to withdraw all American troops from Iraq. Murtha described the Bush Administration's Iraq policy as "a flawed policy wrapped in illusion." "Our military is suffering. The future of our country is at risk. We cannot continue on the present course,"
The bipartisan revolt against Cheney's Iraq war is the latest step in the movement building for Cheney's ouster. Washington sources have told EIR that a ferocious fight is now under way inside the White House, over the issue of Cheney's future. The fight is increasingly taking the form of leaks from unnamed "senior White House officials," expressing their anger at Cheney. For example, the Nov. 13 Washington Post published an analysis of Lewis Libby's "attempt to obscure Cheney's role, and possibly his legal culpability" in the Valerie Plame Wilson leak. "Even some White House aides privately wonder whether Libby was seeking to protect Cheney from political embarrassment," the story concluded.
Time magazine reported that Cheney is becoming "less essential," and BBC aired a report that "there is a feeling on the part of the President, according to people very close to him, that the President got unwise political advice and rosy predictions of how a war and post-war in Iraq would play out." The BBC report noted that Bush and his top advisors think "that the Cheney national security operation got a little too ambitious and got too independent."
Summarizing the picture, the London Guardian reported on Nov. 14 that "The President's allegiance to Dick Cheney consigns him to irrelevance and his country to chaos." Bush's decision to reappoint Cheney as his 2004 running mate "day by day, brings him down.... Cheney is ... too old, too sick and in too much trouble. The prosecutors who pursue his chief of staff pursue him too.... Every time [Cheney] climbs into some bully pulpit and snarls defiance, Bush's ratings slide again.... Goodbye dear Dick, your time is up. Resignation offered and accepted."