October 31, 2003

The Scourge of Richard Cohen, Vol. XCVII

(Ed. -- The following is a bit of mean spiritedness that will be an on-going feature of this blog. Normally the author will endeavor to be reasonably fair, but this is an exception.)

There are few who deny at what I do I am the best,
Though my talents arenít renowned far nor wide.
When it comes to a fisking of a Cohen slight
I excel without ever even trying.
With the slightest little effort of my blog-like charms
I have seen straw men give out a shriek.
With a mere hyperlink and a well-placed pun
I have swept Dick Cohenís straw men off their feet.

Yet week after week, it's the same routine,
And I grow so weary of illiberal schemes.
And I, Chuck, the Scourging King
Have grown so tired of the same old thing.

Oh, somewhere deep inside of these posts
An emptiness began to grow.
There are blogs out there, far from my home
A readership I've never known.

I rely on the might of conspiracies right
And I'll call Dick right out on his rants.
My esteem of Dick's small, like a paper-trained Rall,
Though he travels throughout England and France.
And since Iím well read, off the top of my head
Iíll insert Shakespearean quotations.
No animal nor man can Scourge like I can
With a flurry of my pop citations.

But who here would ever come to think
That the Scourging King with the hypertext link
Would tire of his crown, if they only understood,
He'd give it all up if he only could.

Oh, there's an empty place in my posts
That calls out for readers unknown.
No fame or praise comes year after year,
Thereís nothing for these empty tears.

All right, enough of my terrifying abuse of Danny Elfmanís lyrics, for now. Happy Halloween! Now read on as I get all slappy with the hollow weenie. The thoughtless horseman of Illiberal Hollow is up to his usual tricks as I treat you to a Scourge of Master of Fiction:

Dick Cheney is the most powerful vice president of modern times -- more powerful than the seasoned Gore under the callow Clinton or the experienced Poppa Bush under the inexperienced Reagan.

Reagan was inexperienced? Compared to whom, Clinton? Carter? Gore was seasoned? Compared to whom? Cheney? George H.W. Bush? Maybe Dick is the most powerful vice president of modern times because the War on Terrorism demands a more engaged vice president. But apparently, being well seasoned wasnít enough to get Al a real job in the White House, despite the lack of adult sophistication on the part of Clinton.

Cheney, in fact, is sometimes referred to as George W. Bush's brain or, to be even more mocking, his ventriloquist.

Mmmm, brains. But wow, throwing your voice from an undisclosed location takes ventriloquism to a whole new level.

It would be fitting, then, for this most powerful of all vice presidents to be the first in American history to be censured.

Huh?

He has it coming.

What?

It won't happen, of course.

Maybe because there would need to be a reason?

But Cheney ought to be made to account for his repeated exaggerations of the Iraqi threat. I am referring specifically to his dire warning that Saddam Hussein's Iraq was working on a menacing nuclear weapons program and the United States had to do something about it. We know now that such a program did not exist.

I donít know that it didnít exist. In fact, I tend to think it did, even if they were thankfully not as far along as we feared. And even so, maybe they were. For the twenty-third time, an absence of evidence is not an evidence of absence.

We know it because it cannot be found.

Wow, I guess the searches are all over then. Or is Dick alluding to some epistemological conundrum concerning the search for weapons of mass destruction that has eluded us all thus far.

We know it because it is impossible to hide such a program because, among other things, traces of it can be detected in the air and in the water.

Traces of programs can be detected in the air and water? Programs?

We know it because the experts -- Americans and others -- have now said so. They have told my Washington Post colleague Barton Gellman that Iraq, in his words, had "no active program to build a weapon, produce its key materials or obtain the technology . . . needed for either."

Ah yes, the always reliable unnamed experts. It must be true since it has been cited by that paragon of objective journalism, Joe Conason.

That, inconveniently, is what U.N. weapons inspectors maintained all along.

As if we can trust the UN to shoot straight on such matters.

But those inspectors were not only dismissed by Cheney as Hussein's useful idiots, they were actually bullied by him.

And rightly so. The stench of hind-sighted historical revisionism is growing very strong here. Maybe it comes from having his head so far up his ass.

Former assistant secretary of state James P. Rubin wrote in Foreign Affairs that when Cheney met with Hans Blix and Mohamed ElBaradei, the two most prominent U.N. inspectors, he bluntly told them that if the Bush administration found fault with their judgment, "we will not hesitate to discredit you."

So, is Dick is suggesting that Cheney discredited them in the absence of any faulty judgment?

It now appears that it's Cheney who's been discredited.

You wish. Sorry Dick, this is just another conclusion stated without any argument.

Cheney did not limit his bullying to U.N. inspectors. His growling impatience with dissent pervaded the Bush administration, especially the intelligence agencies.

Ah yes, the early inspiration for John Ashcroftís jack-booted dissent crushing brigades.

In the New Yorker, Seymour M. Hersh reports that Cheney dismissed intelligence that did not fit his preconceived notions and seized on reports that validated his views.

Saying it doesnít make it so. Don't forget, Syís got a lot invested in the quagmire thesis.

He basically short-circuited the laborious process for vetting intelligence -- one that worked well -- and instead reached down into the CIA and elsewhere to mine the particle of information that suited his purposes.

Uh huh. After all, the procedures used within the intelligence community had worked so well in predicting and preventing terrorist activities up to that point. No reason to change the procedures while youíre sitting in some bunker eighty feet under ground waiting for the next attack to occur.

Cheney, of course, was not alone. He had Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and Condoleezza Rice on his side. All three, including on occasion Bush himself, made preposterous statements about Iraq's nuclear potential, Rice once saying, "We don't want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud."

What exactly is preposterous about that statement? The problem with the smoking gun, as I have noted before, is that a gun only smokes after it has been fired.

No, and we don't want the national security adviser saying things that are not true, either.

What did Condoleezza Rice say that wasnít true? What?

But Cheney was in a class of his own.

A bunker of his own, actually.

Not only did he trample traditional intelligence procedures -- helped, incidentally, by the compliant CIA director, George Tenet -- but he repeatedly issued Chicken Little warnings about Iraq's nuclear potential.

Oh yea, those traditional intelligence procedures that had worked so well up to 9/10. How dare he? As for Chicken Little, sorry, but heís been checked out and choked up by the Angry Left for so long that we wouldnít know how to use him on the right if we wanted to.

He characteristically put things in absolute terms. "We do know, with absolute certainty, that he [Saddam Hussein] is using his procurement system to acquire the equipment he needs in order to enrich uranium to build a nuclear weapon," he said a year ago.

I havenít seen anything that would contradict this statement.

We knew no such thing -- not with certainty, absolute or otherwise.

Dick is quite epistemologically challenged with all these assertions throughout this column about what is knowable and unknowable.

In fact, intelligence officials had grave doubts about Cheney's assertion. Ultimately, a version of this fiction wound up in the president's State of the Union address.

If I remember correctly, it would up there because CIA Director George Tenet passed it through. Gosh, and I thought Dick was just complaining about not following the vaunted intelligence procedures that were working so well. Spooky.

Cheney was a University of Wisconsin graduate student during the Vietnam era and, by his own admission, took little notice of the antiwar movement on campus.

What in the Hell does Vietnam have to do with this? (Ed. -- Remember this for the next Scourge.)

If he had, he might have discerned that it was animated not just by opposition to the war but by the incessant fudging, lying and misrepresentations of the Johnson administration -- everything from concocted body counts to the discredited domino theory.

The domino theory has been discredited?

Now Cheney has become a key player in yet another dismal effort to mislead the American people.

Of course, I would say the same thing about Richard Cohen.

As with Vietnam itself, issues of candor and judgment are beginning to obscure worthy war aims, such as the elimination of Hussein's murderous regime. It's good that Saddam is gone and Iraq is free. It's not good that the road to Baghdad was paved with deception.

Yea, yea, yea. Bush lied, people died. But it was all in a good cause. If only it had been led by the right guy. Is that it Dick?

It is hard to know whether Cheney's repeated assertions about Iraq's nuclear program were purposeful misrepresentations or the product of a true believer's faith in his own misconceptions.

Or perhaps, the truth.

Either way, the always smug and contemptuous Cheney has much to answer for.

Smug and contemptuous? Dick Cheney?

He has failed as George Bush's brain.

Mmmm, brains. In order to believe that, you had to buy into the whole Krugman-Rall-Dowd-Ivins-DNC-A.N.S.W.E.R position that Bush is a moron, Haliburton is pulling the strings, itís all about oooooiiiiiilllll, kill the brown people, distract the proles from the sorry economy, and Bush stole the election conspiracies well documented at Democratic Underground and IndyMedia.

Let's hope he is not his conscience, too.

At least Dick has one. Dick Cheney, I mean.

Posted by Charles Austin at October 31, 2003 09:56 AM
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