Thursday, March 01, 2007

Dick Cheney, its time to resign

Haliburton needs you.

Political

THE ABC OF CHENEY


Source: The Age 02/23/2007
US POLITICS

Dick Cheney, currently in Australia, is often described as the most powerful vice-president in American history. He's also one of the most controversial. Here's why:
D is for Defence: Dick Cheney served as defence secretary under President George Bush snr between 1989 and 1993. During this time, he oversaw the US invasion of Panama, codenamed Operation Just Cause, in 1989 to depose the country's de facto military leader, General Manuel Noriega.

Involving more than 27,000 troops and 300 aircraft, the invasion was powerful and swift. Within days, Noriega was on the run and sought diplomatic refuge in the Vatican's mission in Panama City. Subjected to loud rock'n'roll 24 hours a day, he lasted only days in the Vatican mission before handing himself over to the US military. In 1991, Cheney devised the US-led multinational action Operation Desert Storm against Saddam Hussein's regime after Iraq invaded Kuwait.

He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his efforts. But after inflicting a crushing defeat on Saddam, the US decided to let him remain in power instead of deposing him. The ramifications of this decision are still being felt today.

I is for Iraq: President George W. Bush decided in the aftermath of the September 11 terror attacks on the US to finish what his father did not. Again, Cheney was a key player, this time as Vice-President. Cheney, together with his mentor and friend, former US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld, was among the chief architects of the plan to remove Saddam for good. As the US-led coalition, including Britain and Australia, powered into Iraq in March 2003, Cheney predicted US forces would be "greeted as liberators".

But the Iraqi weapons of mass destruction that the US, Britain and Australia said were the justification for the war were never found and probably never existed. Fuelled by the US occupation, sectarian violence continues on a horrific scale, with hundreds of Iraqis dying every month. In America, support for the war has plummeted as more than 3000 US military personnel have lost their lives. Cheney remains resolute in his belief that progress is being made in a war that was "the right thing to do".

C is for CIA: One of the biggest scandals Cheney has been implicated in is the leaking of information about a covert CIA agent Valerie Plame in 2003. Plame's husband, Joseph Wilson, a former US ambassador, has claimed members of the Bush Administration revealed his wife's covert identity as payback for him criticising its justifications for the Iraq war. In October 2005, Cheney's chief of staff, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, was indicted by a grand jury investigating the leak. Libby, who promptly resigned, was charged with lying to FBI agents and the grand jury, and obstructing justice. The trial jury was still considering its verdict yesterday. During the long-running saga, it has been reported that Cheney and Bush advised Libby to disclose Plame's identity, something Libby himself denies.
K is for Kennedy County Sheriff's Office: The sheriff's office in the southern Texas county cleared Cheney of any criminal wrongdoing in one of the most bizarre episodes of his life when he accidentally shot hunting partner Harry Whittington during a quail shooting expedition in February last year.

Turning to blast a bird, Cheney peppered Whittington in the torso, face and neck with shotgun pellets, causing the 78-year-old Texas lawyer to suffer a minor heart attack. Cheney was criticised at the time for not releasing details of the incident for 18 hours. The chief deputy of the Kennedy County Sheriff's Office, Gilbert San Miguel, said, "This was a hunting accident. . . there was no alcohol or misconduct."

C is for Chief of Staff: Cheney assumed the mantle of chief of staff to President Gerald Ford in 1975 after he and Rumsfeld oversaw sweeping changes to Ford's cabinet in a series of political manoeuvres immediately dubbed the "Halloween Massacre". The pair are said to have persuaded Ford to replace James Schlesinger as defence secretary with Rumsfeld, which opened the door for Cheney to become the president's chief of staff. Henry Kissinger was fired from the National Security Council and William Colby sacked as CIA director and replaced by George Bush snr. Vice-President Nelson Rockefeller also announced he would not be Ford's running mate in the 1976 elections.

H is for Halliburton: The giant US engineering and oil services company is where Cheney served as chief executive and chairman between 1995 and 2000. His personal fortune, which runs into tens of millions of dollars is derived mostly from his time at Halliburton. Before running for vice-president in 2000, Cheney put all his shares in a blind trust and has repeatedly claimed to have no ties to the company. But he has still received financial gain from it in recent years due to a deferred compensation or payment program Cheney arranged with the company in 1998.
With the Democrats now in control of the US Congress, an investigation into Halliburton's $7 billion no-bid contract with the Pentagon to help rebuild Iraq is possible. Cheney's office has repeatedly claimed to have had no involvement in the decision. But Democrats argue emails between Pentagon and White House officials in 2003 clearly link Cheney to the contract.
Halliburton's work in Iraq has been mired in controversy, with US Government audits finding the company's subsidiary KBR charged millions of dollars for work it never completed. The company was also under fire for hiring cheap foreign labour to work in Iraq. In 2004, Cheney clashed with Democrat senator Patrick Leahy during a Senate photo shoot after Leahy had criticised his links to Halliburton, with the Vice-President telling Leahy to "go f--- yourself".
E is for Executive Powers: Cheney has been a strong advocate for Bush to be able to exercise executive powers such as phone-tapping in America's war on terror. In response to revelations that the National Security Agency was conducting phone-taps without warrants in violation of existing laws, Cheney said "we believe . . . we have all the authority we need".

As Vice-President, Cheney has been influential in advising Bush that he needs to execute his executive powers to defend America. In 2002, his office supervised the drafting of memos that advised Bush the Geneva Convention on torture need not apply to terrorist suspects. "Bottom line is we've been very active and very aggressive defending the nation and using the tools at our disposal to do that," Cheney told reporters in December 2005. He derided senior Republican John McCain's introduction of legislation to ban the inhumane treatment of detainees, saying it would cost "thousands of lives".

N is for Neo-Conservative: Cheney, along with Rumsfeld and his former deputy defence secretary, Paul Wolfowitz, are leading proponents of the neo-conservative ideology that has driven America's domestic and foreign policies since Bush's ascension to the White House in 2000. The classic definition of neo-conservative ideology is less taxation to stimulate economic growth, strong domestic government and ensuring the national interest is protected at all times in regards to foreign affairs.

Many neo-conservatives started out as Democrats dissatisfied with the move to the left of their party in the 1970s, but today most are associated with the Republican Party. In the late 1990s, Cheney was a member of the Project for a New American Century - a Washington think-tank many accuse of agitating for US global domination. The group was a significant supporter of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

America's woes in Iraq in recent years have caused the downfall of many of the neo-conservative agenda's leading lights, including Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz. Recent reports out of Washington also suggest Cheney's influence in the Bush Administration may be on the decline.
E is for Environment and Energy: Once described by serial presidential candidate Ralph Nader as a dinosaur living among mammals, Cheney has often been criticised for his record on environmental issues during his time as a congressman, political adviser, business executive and vice-president. Cheney has advocated drilling for oil in Arctic wildlife reserves, strongly pushed for the expansion of America's nuclear industry and been accused of having secret meetings with fossil fuel company chiefs on setting energy policies.

He has headed the Bush Administration's energy taskforce and presided over extreme secrecy regarding its operations. In 2005 it was revealed executives from companies such as Exxon Mobil, Conoco, Royal Dutch Shell and BP met energy taskforce members while they were developing energy policy. Cheney's office has fought against judicial rulings to release information on the taskforce and has rejected a series of freedom-of-information law requests seeking documents.

Y is for Yale: The prestigious university is where Cheney briefly studied for a few semesters in 1959 after a Republican businessman from his home state of Wyoming helped him get a scholarship. Former Yale classmates of Cheney's have recounted his disdain for study and liking of a good time. "He spent his time partying with guys who loved football but weren't varsity quality," his former room mate Stephen Billings told Rolling Stone magazine.

Cheney has since sought to explain why he failed to stay the course at Yale by saying "wasn't gonna go to college and buckle down" and "I didn't like the east". He later gained a master's degree in political science from the University of Wyoming. Like Cheney, Bush also spent time at Yale, as did his father, the first President Bush.

Richard Baker is an Age reporter.

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