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May 22, 2009

Vice President Emeritus

Roy Meachum

A considerable portion of the American public seems curious that ex-Vice President Dick Cheney developed into the Great Defender of the recent administration. I am not. During the eight years George W. Bush sat in the Oval Office Mr. Cheney ran the nation, especially in financial and foreign affairs.


All but forgotten: Several weeks after the 2001 inauguration, the former Halliburton CEO summoned the nation's corporations and their executives to the White House. They held a meeting so secret that details never leaked out. In light of what happened to the falling away of governmental supervision of the financial markets, it's possible to wonder if major American businesses were not assured they would not received "interference" from the White House. In any event, that's what happened, notably in the banking industry. Not until the run-up to the Iraq invasion did I focus on Mr. Cheney's take-charge role in Washington.


While the president was spouting about the connection between Iraq's Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda's September 11 attack on Washington and New York, his vice president was notably plotting with exiles like Ahmed Chalaby. The reason may be, as opposed to government agencies like the CIA, Mr. Chalaby was cocksure.


Despite decades in exile, when he never set a foot in his native land, Ahmed Chalaby was Mr. Cheney's guide in Iraqi affairs, notably, on the questions of weapons of mass destruction. He assured the vice president. Mr. Chalaby promised an invasion would bring out Iraqis in the same mood as 1944's French. Not bottles of wine and not kisses from pretty ladies – it was a Muslim nation – but cheers, support and affection on every hand.


It was known, without question at the time, Mr. Chalaby fixed the hour for the invasion by telling Mr. Cheney that Saddam Hussein and both his sons would be in a Baghdad restaurant on March 19, 2003. They were not, as search through the rubble demonstrated, but U.S. tanks rolled over the border. The war was on.


At first, with the vice president's support, Mr. Chalaby appeared headed to taking over from Iraq's dictator with backing from American tanks and guns. With Mr. Cheney's backing, the long-time exile held minor posts until it was obvious to Washington that he had absolutely no support in his native land. At the same time, there is reason to believe the vice president had a major say in the occupation, including dissolving the army, originally on Mr. Chalaby's behalf, which cost lots of American blood.


Of more important benefit to him the vice president's former corporation, Halliburton, captured a lion's share of the war's fees and money awarded by the Department of Defense, which he had run for President Bush's father. His Pentagon experience and influence were vital elements in being offered the leadership of a major defense contractor. His former company continues to profit from the war in the Near East and he still has stock shares.


Having cosseted the Republican Party's radical right wing all the time he occupied the second most important office in the land, Mr. Cheney's doing more of the same. He's aided and abetted by characters of the same ilk, especially radio's Rush Limbaugh. No leopard changed its spots.


Lacking a real "bloody blanket," as the GOP radicals possessed after the Civil War, Richard Cheney and others have to invent their own. They're doomed to fail. Unlike the Confederate rebels, they cannot make absolute cases that Democrats, liberals and independents have acted as enemies against the United States and its people.


Invective, slander and lies are not enough, even for the one-time vice president of the United States.


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