Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Cheney's Legacy

Former Vice President Dick Cheney is clearly more concerned with his own legacy and political partisanship than with the well being of America, even though his actions bring attention to his own devastating failures in office and undermine this nation's president.

Take the most recent attack on President Barack Obama's initial handling of the nearly catastrophic attempt to blow up an airplane over Detroit. "He seems to think if he closes Guantanamo and releases the hard-core Al Qaeda-trained terrorists still there, we won't be at war," Cheney said in a written statement. "But we are at war and when President Obama pretends we aren't, it makes us less safe." This is an amazing statement coming from the man who, while serving as vice president, personally authorized the release of more than 500 Guantanamo prisoners, dozens of which are reported to have reengaged in terrorism against the United States.

As vice president, Cheney played a key role in undermining the civil rights of Americans through the Patriot Act, and authorizing the use of illegal torture, such as waterboarding, in interrogations. Cheney's statement about President Obama continued, "He seems to think if he gives terrorists the rights of Americans, lets them lawyer up and reads them their Miranda rights, we won't be at war." Perhaps waterboarding passengers before they board a plane will mollify Cheney?

The former vice president's chutzpah and outspokenness is especially remarkable considering all that went wrong during his term. There was the Iraq War, poorly justified and badly executed by the Bush/Cheney administration. There was also the failure to find even one weapon of mass destruction in Iraq, the single most urgent reason cited for going to war. And there were no Al-Qaeda training camps in Iraq either. Yet thousands of brave American soldiers have died or been injured, and billions of dollars have been spent in this war which America is committed to for years to come.

The former vice president also took his eye off the ball in America's war on terror. The Bush/Cheney White House failed to close the deal in Afghanistan eight years ago, and rid the world of Osama bin Laden. Instead they allowed the problem to fester and grow until their last day in office.

Following the ghastly terrorist attacks on America September 11, 2001, President George Bush set up a commission "to provide recommendations designed to guard against future attacks." On July 22, 2004, that commission made its findings public. Yet to this day America has not successfully implemented all of the commission's recommendations. Perhaps doing so would have "connected the dots" between a father's warnings to the U.S. Embassy in Nigeria, his son's failure to get a visa for Great Britain, and his attempt to buy an airline ticket to Detroit for $500 cash while carrying no luggage.

Cheney and some ambitious Republicans are critical of President Obama for taking so long to respond to the attack. But where were these same critics when it took President Bush six whole days to comment about Richard Reid's failed attempt to blow up an airliner with a shoe bomb? And did these same GOP critics rush out fundraising letters to their constituents warning of America's safety immediately following the Reid incident as some have done this time around?

In his written statement Cheney identified President Obama's "goal of his presidency--social transformation, the restructuring of American society." Well, after the Bush/Cheney administration, what choice did he have? Sure, the issue of national security is critical. But the new president inherited a near economic depression, record job losses, huge government deficits that will be damaging to our children's future, failed oversight of the nation's financial institutions, more than 40 million Americans without health insurance and rapidly increasing medial costs.

The failure to stop the Detroit "underwear bomber" is unacceptable. There is plenty of blame to go around. But it is time to stop scapegoating; it is time to fix the systemic problems. It is time to knock down walls and jealousies between the appropriate government agencies, to leverage existing technologies to centralize and track important information. As an example, if Google can create a technology to prioritize a search, or send out Google alerts or can place a targeted advertisement on a Blog, why can't the U.S. government create a software program to track terrorism suspects? So that if England puts someone on its "no-fly" list an alert is sent to the TSA and its counterparts worldwide.

It is time to stop politicizing America's safety; to stop all the national bickering and backbiting. The war with Al Qaeda needs everyone's total focus. There is too much at stake!

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