Posted by: Ali Davis | June 27, 2010

Sympathy for the Devil

Former Vice President Dick Cheney went into the hospital on Friday for the latest episode in a 30-year series of heart problems.

Some might suggest that Cheney has not been as careful with diet and exercise as he could have, while other might point out that Cheney’s long years in high-level government positions and Plutonian oil wealth have given him access to the best health care in the world, and perhaps those heart scares would not have been just scares for the rest of us.

But because he is in the hospital and because we as a society try to avoid kicking someone while he’s down, very few people will mention the possibility that Cheney’s heart continues to act up because no one has driven a stake through it.

We’ll all say it later, after his release sometime Monday, when he’s healthy enough for us to joke about how evil he is again.

Normally, I would support that cycle. It’s what civilized people do. We lay off Cheney while he’s in the hospital. And one day, after he dies, people will gamely find complimentary things to say, like “family man,” “tireless public servant,” “brilliant administrative mind,” and whatever other carefully edited things they can scrape together out of his record of relentless political manipulation, dishonesty, and consolidation of power.

It will be interesting, really, to watch people scramble to find accurate nice things to say about Dick Cheney when he dies, and to watch them squirm while they try to push those carefully-constructed sentences out of their mouths.

And then after six months or a year, people will relax and, garlic and wolfsbane firmly nailed up, we will be able to talk about what a terrifying, vicious rat bastard he was again.

But just in this one case, I don’t think we should wait.

I even think it’s time we stopped the verbal cease-fires while Cheney is in the hospital.

The last time Dick Cheney was hospitalized, back in February, I wrote that though I have long disagreed with him, I didn’t wish Dick Cheney any pain.

And that, I recently realized, is one of the differences between me and Dick Cheney: He not only wished others pain, he worked doggedly to bring that pain to fruition and fought like a tiger to keep human suffering going.

Dick Cheney spearheaded the program that turned us into a nation of torturers.

He turned us into the only first-world nation that tortures.

And when the ugly truth came out, he took a sickening, cowardly line of argument: The things we knew to be torture were not really torture.

And we should continue to “not torture” people lest we stop the valuable flow of information that he of all people knew we weren’t really getting.

He didn’t even have the balls to have the courage of his sliding convictions, to admit to the torturing and play the I-became-a-monster-to-keep-you-safe card. He hid behind lawyers and slippery language: Slamming a man into a stone wall does not hurt him. Waterboarding magically stops being torture if the right person says so. Because otherwise Dick Cheney might have gotten hurt.

Dick Cheney is a coward. Let’s at least say that.

A great deal of our torture program happened because Bush, Cheney, ‘n’ Friends wanted the people we were interrogating to say the right thing. They asked, over and over again how Al Quaeda was connected to Saddam Hussein.

Given the intelligence we had, it was a stupid and ridiculous thing to ask.

Unless, of course, you had picked your favorite villain before you even took office and had – Oops! – picked the wrong one. Unless you had ignored the departing Clinton team’s specific warnings to watch Al Quaeda because you knew which war you had your disease-ridden heart set on and that wasn’t it.

It’s a ridiculous thing to ask unless you knew you were behind one of the stupidest, rashest mistakes in our nation’s history, and you were desperately afraid the nation would trace all those lost lives back to you.

9/11 happened in large part because the Bush-Cheney administration was watching the wrong guy and refused to watch the right one.

A good chunk of our torture program happened in the desperate hope that they could trace it all back to Saddam Hussein, so they could somehow claim to have been right all along.

People died because of that. People were tortured over and over because of that – because of their inability to come up with the specific kind of made-up information that the administration wanted.

American soldiers have committed suicide over the horror they felt at being a part of our torture program. And in the end, a big part of why they were doing it was to cover Dick Cheney’s frightened ass.

And still, even after he was finally pried out of office, Cheney went on television and did radio interviews and spoke at prestigious conservative dinners to demand that we keep harming other human beings. All so  that he could pretend he was strong, brave, and right instead of a craven bastard who cost thousands of lives.

But at least he helped start a war for which he knew there was no justification and got his pals at Halliburton rich in the process, right?

Dick Cheney never once suggested mercy for any human being who fell into his clutches. I think we should at least get to joke without mercy whether he’s in the hospital or not.

Besides, the current regime cannot bring itself to prosecute Mr. Cheney. Joking is all we can do.

The big fear about making a joke about someone who is in the hospital is that he will die, and then you would feel bad, right?

But if Cheney dies while he’s in the hospital, it’s a victory. He becomes a war criminal who got away scot-free. He doesn’t even get mildly inconvenienced. He’ll probably go down chortling. And then an orderly will burst in wondering why someone is scraping rusty pieces of scrap metal together.

We should do more than make jokes about Cheney while he’s in the hospital; We should prank him. We should keep sending him plane tickets and telling him how many neato monuments and edible babies are in Spain so someone else gets a crack at putting him on trial.

I’m not saying that we should add to the overall rudeness and mean spirits in the world or that all bets are off for everyone, ever. I still support maintaining some form of comic decorum.

I’m just saying that Richard Bruce Cheney has placed himself beyond the pale of mere mortal rules. And on just him it should be, to put it in terms he can understand, open season.

Dick Cheney is in the hospital with heart problems. Let’s hope they’re keeping a close count on those electrodes.

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