Vice President Cheney on Larry King Live:
KING: Amnesty International condemns the United States. How do you react?
D. CHENEY: I don't take them seriously[.]
KING: Not at all?
D. CHENEY: No. I -- frankly, I was offended by it. I think the fact of the matter is, the United States has done more to advance the cause of freedom, has liberated more people from tyranny over the course of the 20th century and up to the present day than any other nation in the history of the world. Think about what we did in World War I, World War II, throughout the Cold War. Just in this administration, we've liberated 50 million people from the Taliban in Afghanistan and from Saddam Hussein in Iraq, two terribly oppressive regimes that slaughtered hundreds of thousands of their own people. For Amnesty International to suggest that somehow the United States is a violator of human rights, I frankly just don't take them seriously.
KING: They specifically said, though, it was Guantanamo. They compared it to a gulag.
D. CHENEY: Not true. Guantanamo's been operated, I think, in a very sane and sound fashion by the U.S. military. Remember who's down there. These are people that were picked up off the battlefield in Afghanistan and other places in the global war on terror. These are individuals who have been actively involved as the enemy, if you will, trying to kill Americans. That we need to have a place where we can keep them. In a sense, when you're at war, you keep prisoners of war until the war is over with.
We've also been able to derive significant amounts of intelligence from them that helped us understand better the organization and the adversary we face and helped us gather the kind of information that makes it possible for us to defend the United States against further attacks. And what we're doing down there has, I think, been done perfectly appropriately. I think these people have been well treated, treated humanely and decently.
Occasionally there are allegations of mistreatment. But if you trace those back, in nearly every case, it turns out to come from somebody who had been inside and been released by to their home country and now are peddling lies about how they were treated.
This is outrageous. The Vice President of the United States saying on national television that allegations of mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay are false. They are are not. He is, quite simply, a liar.
Indeed, Amnesty International's report contains numerous allegations by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay (scroll down to section 12 for starters), and I suppose, if, like the Vice President of the United States, you're not inclined to trust brown people, you might not believe a word of what any of the large number of them said. Surely, though, you would be less inclined to disbelieve your own Federal Bureau of Investigation:
An FBI document from December 2004, originally classified as secret for 25 years, included the following prior observations by FBI agents:[...]
A detainee’s mouth was duct taped for chanting from the Koran…military employee who applied the duct tape found it amusing;
A detainee being isolated for substantial periods of time;
Agents heard of detainees being subjected to considerable pain and very aggressive techniques during interrogations;
Agents aware of detainees being threatened…by dogs;
Agents have seen documentary evidence that a detainee was told that his family had been taken into custody and would be moved to Morocco for interrogation if he did not begin to talk.
That FBI agent must a bleeding-heart liberal, right Mr. Vice-President? Probably this one too:
An FBI memorandum dated 14 July 2004 stated the following about the treatment of a Guantánamo detainee:
"In September or October of 2002 FBI agents observed that a canine was used in an aggressive manner to intimidate detainee #63 and, in November 2002, FBI agents observed Detainee #63 after he had been subject to intense isolation for over three months. During that time period, #63 was totally isolated (with the exception of occasional interrogations) in a cell that was always flooded with light. By late November, the detainee was evidencing behavior consistent with extreme psychological trauma."(329)
The Vice President says that he doesn't take Amensty International seriously. Well, it's hard to take the Vice President seriously if he is so willing to lie about undisputed facts.
But what I find really outrageous about the Vice President's statement is its cowardice.
Many on the right have defended the harsh interrogation practices that the US has used in the "war on terror;" they downplay the practices as no worse than a fraternity hazing or claim it is a necessary evil. This viewpoint, while repellent, is at least intellectually consistent and courageous in its stupidity. In order to downplay the significance of prisoner abuse, the abuse must be conceded to exist. There is no such consistency or courage in Vice President Cheney. He is unwilling to face the reality of the situation for which he is, in part, responsible. It is morally bankrupt.