Why I won't read Dick Cheney's book

The man's a liar, a killer, a shill for the rich and assorted other unsavory things

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In spite of the kerfuffle about former Vice President Dick Cheney's newly published memoir, I have no intention of buying or reading the book, for the following reasons:

1) He is a liar. Anyone who would take the United States to war based on two false reasons -- the claim of Iraq having nuclear weapons and of the Saddam Hussein regime having links to al-Qaida -- has no further right to be believed about anything. Mr. Cheney's approach to these deadly lies was to choose and interpret U.S. intelligence to reinforce his goal, as opposed to arriving at a truth upon which to base U.S. policy.

2) He is a killer. His deliberate actions, probably intended to get himself and President George W. Bush reelected in 2004, led to the deaths of more than 4,400 Americans and countless thousands of Iraqis. Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, fine; George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, no way.

3) He in no small part ran up the debt burden under which America squirms. His commitment to the unfinanced Iraq war and his unswerving devotion to cutting taxes for the rich and deregulating America's financial and commercial institutions helped put us where we are now. This week we will see a shocking report on the increase in the number of Americans on food stamps -- a 70 percent rise in four years -- that points clearly at just where Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney put us.

4) Mr. Cheney played Edgar Bergen to Mr. Bush's Charlie McCarthy. For my younger readers, Edgar Bergen was a well-known comedian and ventiloquist of the 20th century radio days. Mr. Bergen's wooden puppet, who sat on his lap and frequently upstaged him, was Charlie McCarthy.

This device employed by Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney enabled the American public to imagine that Mr. Bush, as president, was either disinterested, cutting brush in Texas, or disassociated from the presidency in a combination of noblesse oblige and arrogance or just stupid. Virtually all of the bad decisions taken by the administration could be attributed to Mr. Cheney's machinations behind the scenes -- along with those of White House adviser Karl Rove. Mr. Bush was simply an oaf, or a tool or a ventriloquist's dummy in their hands. The bad effects of this de facto abdication of responsibility on the part of Mr. Bush are incalculable.

Normally -- I won't say correctly -- a vice president's impact on the country's governance is fairly low. FDR's vice president, Harry Truman, apparently didn't even know about the atomic bomb until the president died. I don't think Mr. Obama's vice president, Joe Biden, is that bad, but Americans did not elect him president.

Considerable power and influence was attributed to Mr. Cheney during Mr. Bush's two terms. Both the allocation of power and the actions of the person wielding it, Mr. Cheney, were damaging to America's well-being.

5) One clear illustration of Mr. Cheney's character was his role in the drama of CIA operative Valerie Plame and her husband, Joe Wilson. (I should say that I have known Joe Wilson for a long time. I have not met his wife.) In this case, Mr. Cheney showed two instances of slimy behavior.

When Mr. Wilson brought back from Africa information that was at variance with the line leading to the U.S. attack on Iraq that Mr. Cheney was promoting, Mr. Cheney went after Mr. Wilson's wife, Valerie Plame, a clandestine CIA operative. He and his allies destroyed her career. They also may have caused the outing of some of her overseas contacts, who may have paid with their lives or liberty.

Mr. Cheney then let his chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, take the rap for what he had done. Mr. Libby ended up with no jail time but with his reputation ruined -- except among people who thought Mr. Cheney was worth protecting.

6) Speaking of protecting Mr. Cheney, another questionable piece of his career is how he always presents himself as a solid, rugged Westerner, a son of Wyoming where the license plates have a cowboy on them. But when it came to fighting in the Vietnam War, for which he was a potential draftee, Mr. Cheney had "other priorities." As a candidate he didn't hide this fact, presuming, obviously correctly, that voters would see his heart problems and evident merit as reasons why it was fine for him to send other young Americans off to fight and possibly die, even though he (and Mr. Bush) hadn't.

7) Then there was his role at war profiteer Halliburton. No one would begrudge Mr. Cheney the right to find a job in the private sector between his time in the administration of the first Bush president as secretary of defense and as vice president when the Bush dynasty came back into power in 2001. On the other hand, to move from secretary of defense to CEO of a big defense contractor, then back into government to work unstintingly for a war that would make that defense contractor even more prosperous should win Mr. Cheney some kind of prize as the "Dancing with the Stars" champion of the military-industrial complex.

8) Finally, Dick Cheney's book apparently was co-written by his no-talent daughter, Liz Cheney.

During his time in office, Mr. Cheney "convinced" the Department of State to accept her as principal deputy assistant secretary of state for Near Eastern affairs and coordinator for Middle East and North Africa initiatives, a subject that she knew little about, except for the doctrine she was promoting. This was at a time when the Iraq war was under way, the Arab Spring was showing its first trickles and the Middle East peace process was going nowhere. It was a poor time to have ungifted amateurs playing important roles in U.S. diplomacy.

So, about the book I would say, don't waste your time reading it. Try something about vampires or werewolves instead.

Dan Simpson , a former U.S. ambassador, is a Post-Gazette associate editor ( dsimpson@post-gazette.com , 412 263-1976).


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