Former Utne Editor in Chief David Schimke on conflict, compassion, partisanship, and peace
Regardless of the author, political “tell alls” rarely tell readers anything they didn’t already know or firmly believe, except that the self-proclaimed hero or heroine of the tale is even more brilliant, arrogant, genuine, superficial, or petty than we dared dream. And given what I can only imagine lurks in the bionic heart of former Vice President’s Dick Cheney, I’m not making plans to curl up with his new book, In My Time: A Personal and Political Memoir, over the Labor Day weekend.
I have found one reason to be excited by the VP’s 576-page curtain call, though. The international human rights organization Amnesty International is shrewdly taking advantage of the momentary media buzz around the book’s release to remind people of the lies that Cheney, his boss, and their loyalists told and continue to tell to justify “institutionalized torture, arbitrary detention and enforced disappearances”—all immoral and indefensible violations of the Geneva Conventions and the United States Constitution.
“Amnesty International is reiterating its call to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to immediately open a criminal investigation into the role former President George W. Bush, former Vice President Dick Cheney, and other officials played in the use of torture on detainees held in U.S. custody,” Tom Parker, policy director for terrorism, counterterrorism and human rights for Amnesty International U.S.A., said in a press release on August 25.
On August 30, supporters of the organization showed up to protest Cheney’s appearance on NBC’s Today Show, and their signs calling for accountability were caught on camera. That afternoon, Amnesty members delivered a copy of Cheney's memoir to a spokesperson at the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C., along with a personal letter to Holder demanding that his office look into crimes committed during the Bush administration’s so-called “war on terror.”
Amnesty also launched Cheney’s Conscience, a parody account on Twitter that it hopes users will read and repost in an effort to remind people of the vice president’s actions in and out of office.
I’m still unsure why President Obama decided against pursuing his predecessors in the courts. A good case could be made that he simply wanted to keep his options open and continues to allow, if not encourage, torture and rendition off the grid. A more generous interpretation is that he didn’t want to get mired in a highly polarizing political fight. Either way, it’s a good guess he assumed Bush and Co. would show some gratitude and stay silent on the issue. Cheney, in particular, has chosen to do just the opposite. If there’s any justice, his braggadocio and the inventive work of organizations like Amnesty International will cause the Obama administration to reconsider its passivity.
Image courtesy of Amnesty International.