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No euphemisms for enhanced interrogationist Dick Cheney

Dick Cheney
REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday sharply criticized President Obama’s handling of terrorism policy during a speech at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

In his big AEI speech on national security yesterday (transcript here), former Veep Dick Cheney slammed the Obama administration for, among other things, using “euphemisms” to talk about what his administration called “the global war on terror.” The Obamian doublespeakers, Cheney complained, prefer to call it “overseas contingency operations.”

I gather there may be a modicum of truth here. Some administration spokesters have indeed uttered the phrase in describing the U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the term does the have the air of pettifoggery about it.

I agree with Dick Cheney. Plain-speaking is a good thing. But for the former vice president to deliver a rebuke on the topic is a fairly stunning display of chutzpah.

His was an administration that pushed through a law making it easier to wiretap phones, monitor email, access medical and financial records and deport immigrants, and decided, because of their commitment to candor, to name it “the USA Patriot Act.” It’s education policy was “no child left behind.” The transfer of prisoners to countries that employ torture was “extraordinary rendition.” The Bush policy allowing more “harvesting” of trees was dubbed the “health forest initiative.”

If you have other favorite euphemisms of the Bush years, feel free to reminisce in the comment thread.

But what the heck. Cheney is out of office now and free to return to his natural penchant for plain-speaking. And, as he said Thursday:

“It’s one thing to adopt the euphemisms that suggest we’re no longer engaged in a war. These are just words, and in the end it’s the policies that matter most.”

And most of his talk was a robust defense of a policy that he advocated and still defends, a policy that authorized the use of interrogation tactics that crossed boundaries into what previous administrations, and the current administration, have considered “torture.” A blunt word, that, and still being disputed by Cheney and others, but certainly no euphemism.

No, but there is a euphemism for those tactics, coined and relentlessly repeated by the Bush-Cheney administration. The euphemism, which is really a classic of the genre, is “enhanced interrogation of high-value detainees.” How’s that for calling a spade a spade?

The plain-speaking former veep, who is offended by euphemizing, used the term “enhanced interrogation” 12 times in his fairly short speech.

Comments (22)

  1. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 05/22/2009 - 12:57 pm.

    Which ever side an individual would like to take on this issue, it would be fair to say that both sides are correct to a degree.

    President Obama appealed to our sense of reason and our hopes for the future

    Former Vice President Cheney appealed to our sense of fear and would want us to base policy on our darkest instincts.

    What I do find rather ironic, is that former Vice President Chaney was at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) when he gave his “political speech” about torture.

    This is the very same think-tank (AEI) including Mr. Fred Kagan that partnered with retired General Jack Keane. In order to turn the “biggest foreign policy blunder” of the Bush/Chaney administration into the successful surge policy which is currently being used in Iraq .

    The fact that it took a retired general and a mere think-tank to reverse course in a three-year-old failure of a war, is a “stunning indictment of the American military’s top leadership” and the administration that ran the war effort.

    It must have made for some interesting conversation after the vice president’s speech.

  2. Submitted by David Brauer on 05/22/2009 - 01:17 pm.

    Richard – so would this efficient takedown of Cheney’s dissembling from McClatchy’s DC bureau:

  3. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 05/22/2009 - 04:15 pm.

    Since Congress has yet to declare war against either Iraq or Afghanistan, I’m not sure that Cheney’s ‘plain speaking’ is particularly accurate.
    I sympathize with Obama’s attempts to find a more accurate way to describe the attempts to deal with terrorists, but to oversimplify and call it a ‘war’ is not a solution.

  4. Submitted by david granneman on 05/22/2009 - 05:08 pm.

    hello all
    in his speach president obama said he was not pointing fingers, but mentioned the name BUSH only 26 times.
    president obama said he was assuming personal responsibility for the security of people of the united states. if dick cheney is correct when he says the president is making a serious mistake by abandoning the security messures put in place by president bush then if americans are killed in terrorist attack – then president obama SHOULD BE HELD DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE DEATHS. the way obama and pelosy have treated the fine people of the cia and fbi i will bet he will get less cooperation from these organizations that have kept us safe for the past seven years.

  5. Submitted by David Brauer on 05/22/2009 - 06:29 pm.

    David – with all due respect, your math is wrong. Obama mentioned Bush 5 times in his speech, either to describe how some of Obama’s actions had Bush precedents, or to note that there was legitimate disagreement even at the time.

    1. And even under President Bush, there was recognition among members of his Administration – including a Secretary of State, other senior officials, and many in the military and intelligence community – that those who argued for these tactics were on the wrong side of the debate, and the wrong side of history.

    2. Meanwhile, over five hundred and twenty-five detainees were released from Guantanamo under the Bush Administration.

    3. For example, the court order to release seventeen Uighur detainees took place last fall – when George Bush was President.

    4. In 2006, I did strongly oppose legislation proposed by the Bush Administration and passed by the Congress because it failed to establish a legitimate legal framework, with the kind of meaningful due process and rights for the accused that could stand up on appeal.

    5. I released the memos because the existence of that approach to interrogation was already widely known, the Bush Administration had acknowledged its existence, and I had already banned those methods.

  6. Submitted by david granneman on 05/22/2009 - 07:50 pm.

    hello all
    if dick cheney is on “wrong side of history.” then why is president obama and pelosy so afraid of releasing the documents which would prove or disprove the usefullness of waterboarding these murdering criminals. if this technique did not save thousands of lives in los angeles then release the documents that would prove cheney a liar or a saviour. the democrates seem to think these terrorists where somehow abducted on their way to the store to pick up a carton of milk. they are evil murdering animals that would not think twice to cutting off your head. in past wars soldiers out of uniform where shot as spies not put up in some camp at taxpayers expense.
    mr brauer you talk about your moral rights for these people. WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF YOU WHERE HOLDING SOMEONE WHO HAD INFORMATION THAT COULD SAVE THOUSANDS OF LIVES. would you read them their rights and hoped that they gave you the information that would save lives. mr brauer you need to get into the real world. george bush and dick cheney are not the evil ones – the people who killed thousands of people in the world trade center should be the target of your attention

  7. Submitted by david granneman on 05/22/2009 - 08:04 pm.

    hello all
    i just listen to an army commander discuss how the taliban interrigate prisoners. he said one of their favorite techniques is they pour boiling oil on the prisoners legs. this causes instant burns and causes the victims skin to peal off. do you think really think waterboarding is torture compaired to that. these people dont play games and discuss the moral right of pouring boiling oil on a prisoner.

  8. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 05/22/2009 - 08:16 pm.

    The former vice president, his neo-con supporters and his fellow apologists for torture have proven one thing time and time again in their lives… THEY ARE COWARDS, plain and simple.

    Those with true courage and even the slightest modicum of wisdom recognize the smell of such rank cowardice from at least a mile away. The entire neighborhood around Mr. Cheney constantly reeks of it.

    When you listen to his angry, aggressive bloviations, look a little deeper and you’ll see a week, frightened, cowardly little man who, if he ever did meet an actual terrorist would dissolve into a quivering puddle.

  9. Submitted by Frank Bowden on 05/23/2009 - 12:06 pm.

    David G.,
    Do I think waterboarding is torture compared with ….? Yes. Try listening to the opinion of a conservative talk show host who was waterboarded as an experiment.
    I find it incredibly disheartening that there are so many Americans who think we must stoop to the level of the worst regimes in history. We Americans used to be proud that we were better than that. Now it seems many Americans are too cowardly to stand up for our traditional national values. It is a tragedy that much of the world feels that it can no longer look to us a model society worthy of emulation. So sad….

  10. Submitted by david granneman on 05/23/2009 - 04:51 pm.

    hello all
    for the man you so quickly call a coward – had the couarge to keep you and your family safe from harm for 7 years. i hope president obama has the same couarge. iT easy to sit in your ivory tower and monday morning quarterback – you may have a differnet outlook if YOU WERE RESPONSIBLE FOR THOUSANDS OF LIVES.

  11. Submitted by david granneman on 05/23/2009 - 05:12 pm.

    hello all
    frank said
    “I find it incredibly disheartening that there are so many Americans who think we must stoop to the level of the worst regimes in history.”

    let me see, the nazis gassed millions of prisoners in gas chambers. the russians executed millions of prisoners in siberia. the chinese ran demonstrators over with tanks. sadam hussan put prisoners into a meat grinder.

    call me crazy but i hardly thing pouring water in the face of three terrorists is stooping to the level of the worst regimes in history.

  12. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 05/23/2009 - 09:00 pm.

    RE: Mr. Granneman,
    Mr Chaney have five college deferments in order to avoid military service in Vietnam. Mr Chaney said he “never served” because of deferments to finish a college career that lasted six years rather than four. Which he attributed to sub-par academic performance and the fact that “I [he] had other priorities in the 60’s than military service.”

    Individuals who have never served or have avoided military service and who often advocate the use of the military, are nicknamed “chicken hawks”.

    For the simple reason that when they had an opportunity to serve in the military they choose to avoid the call of duty. But they now have no problem asking other families to put their children in harms way when they in fact avoided the call to duty.

    Another reading is a Republican trying to argue that the Republican administration wasn’t really that bad, an exercise in post-hoc credit claiming and trying to identify with the current wave. Yes, you can nuance the Bush/Chaney foreign policy but didn’t we all just live through that and no one can convince me that there was this clear division into periods.

  13. Submitted by M Grier on 05/23/2009 - 10:25 pm.

    David G., you are missing the point. These guys want to die as martyrs. Threatening death is like threatening you with ice cream or virgins (if that’s your thing). I side with our troops that it is torture; your experience may differ.

    None the less, what a stupid way to gather information! Why not stick to effective means that don’t put our troops in harms way?

    Cheney lost all national security credibility when he outed a US spy, for such a petty reason at that. I’ll support our troops instead of Cheney, thank you very much!

    This is Memorial day weekend, after all!

  14. Submitted by david granneman on 05/23/2009 - 11:01 pm.

    hello all
    frank also said
    “It is a tragedy that much of the world feels that it can no longer look to us a model society worthy of emulation. So sad…. ”

    only liberals would think being made uncomfortable for a few seconds would be considered torture.

  15. Submitted by david granneman on 05/24/2009 - 06:22 am.

    hello all
    on this Memorial Day i would like to honor the mem amd women of our armed services.
    unlike michele obama and the liberals on this forum, I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN PROUD OF MY COU7NTRY.
    when the united states has gone to war it was never for monitary gain, or to aquire territory, or to subjigate people. the duty of a free people is to help free other people. the men and women of the armed services have given their lives to help free their fellow man. george bush and dick cheney have passed the gift of freedom to millions of iraq people. i am very proud of these men and women and president bush to have passed on the greatest gift of FREEDOM.

  16. Submitted by M Grier on 05/24/2009 - 10:57 pm.

    Hello Mr. Granneman,

    How about a memorial day celebration that doesn’t denigrate over half of your fellow citizens, many of them soldiers, and family of soldiers?

    Can you speak highly of our country without the unwarranted slurs against our leaders and citizens?

    It’s clear you love our country. We all love our country. It’s not fair of you to post such partisan rhetoric in response to Memorial Day.

    This day, let’s all stand together and pay tribute to our fallen soldiers. There is no room for hatred against fellow Americans on Memorial day!

  17. Submitted by Richard Schulze on 05/25/2009 - 09:46 am.

    Well said MacGregor Grier!

    It would be nice if we could just keep it to a dull roar. Without the demagoguery and the divisive language.

    This nation is built on ideas from across the spectrum. Some conservative and some liberal.

    Individuals have sacrificed their lives for these concepts. As such, families lives are changed forever, with the ultimate sacrifice that their Mothers, Fathers and Sons have made for our country.

    God bless each and every one of them.

  18. Submitted by John E Iacono on 05/25/2009 - 12:31 pm.

    After long and thoughtful consideration I have come to a few still tentative conclusions about our treatment of enemy combatants in our struggle to contain and defeat a group not affiliated with any country with which we could legally wage war:

    >The Geneva conventions do not apply to this effort, any more than they would apply to Italy’s struggle against the Mafia;

    >This does not absolve us from reflecting upon the means that we use to achieve a good end;

    >We cannot ever justify bad means by a good end — to claim that “it kept us safe” does not justify a bad means.

    >When fear of imminent threat consumes us, we all can and sometimes do, take actions which we later regret (a man, for instance, might shoot and kill an intruder in his home, only to discover after the fact that it was only confused drunk);

    >That we acted out of fear does not absolve us from expressing our remorse and will to act otherwise in future — but neither does is assure that we will not act similarly again, because fear is a hugely motivating instinct;

    >Understanding that this basic instinct is fully operative in each and every one of us should be basic to any discussion of the acts of others, not knowing if we would have acted in the same way if presented with the same threat in the same circumstances;

    >It would appear that all or most of the “rendition” tactics used were inappropriate means to a good end, and that those who employed them were acting under the influence of extreme fear.

    >Our reaction to these tactics should keep these facts and circumstances in mind, with the result that an appropriate response would be to acknowledge the errors, to understand the actors, and to move on intending not to repeat them.

    >Beyond this, the cacaphony of hostile opinions being expressed are so much political speech cynically intended to gain some advantage at the expense of persons who mistakenly attempted to act in our own defense — in itself a much less excusable immoral act.

  19. Submitted by Bernice Vetsch on 05/26/2009 - 02:05 pm.

    I’ve always liked the Healthy Forest Act that would allow loggers to build multiple roads through virgin timberlands but which might save a few of the trees…if we were lucky.

    Another favorite is Operation Iraqi Freedom. What???

  20. Submitted by Virginia Martin on 05/27/2009 - 02:33 pm.

    As a matter of fact, men were abducted on the way to the store (or some equivalent thereof). The U.S. offered a substantial bounty to Iraqis for turning in suspects. They spent millions on this. Nice, huh? I hate my neighbor or the guy across the street so I’ll tip off the US army.
    Torture is NEVER OK for anyone–suspect or total innocent. The religious umbrella organization, National Council of Religion against Torture, has come out clearly: Torture is a moral issue.
    I recommend more reading from the people who have been released–some after 7 years of confinement and torture even after it was recognized they were innocent, and by some former CIA and FBI people.
    You should try reading a little history. The US has often gone to war for power and money, starting with stealing the Indians’ land from them and trying to eradicate them. Even the Civil War was at least partly about money and power. Look it up. Might learn something.
    And why should I have any credibility in what you say when you

  21. Submitted by William Pappas on 05/27/2009 - 07:59 pm.

    The cowardly Cheney is perhaps engaging in his most cowardly act of all. He is taking public his advocacy of torture to engender a smattering of conservative support. When he is eventually charged with violations of the International Convention against Torture he can handily point to the “public debate that has always raged on the topic”. How can you convict a man of taking a perspective on this matter with which such a large contingent of our society agrees? He knows he is in danger of future prosecution and this is just prepping his defense. I am appalled at his public demeanor and shameless defense of such heinous acts of uncivilized behavior. May he reap his just rewards.

  22. Submitted by david granneman on 05/28/2009 - 10:51 am.

    i am amaised with all the sympathy for people who live and breath to KILL AMERICANS.

    i wonder if they would be this sympathetic if these murders where living in their neiborhood.


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