NEWSHAM: Guantanamo diaries

Better Dead Than Red

Next week, Dick Cheney is releasing a memoir from his years as vice president, and he has promised that it will result in “heads exploding” all over Washington. The memoir, titled “In My Time,” apparently contains nothing unexpected to anyone who paid attention during the Bush years: Cheney was always right, torture saved America, and if we made any mistakes, it’s because we didn’t bomb enough countries.

But one of the most reviled figures in American political history didn’t stop there. As reported by the New York Times, which has obtained a copy of the book, Cheney grew frustrated as his neoconservative, unilateral approach to foreign policy was increasingly pushed aside by the administration. He portrays himself as a steady and experienced actor amid a group of naïve buffoons: former CIA director George Tenet’s decision to resign in 2004 was “unfair to the president;” Colin Powell’s resignation after going public with his misgivings about the war in Iraq was “for the best”; and Condoleezza Rice, after having expressed doubt about Iraqi WMDs, ultimately came before Cheney and “tearfully admitted [he] had been right.”

The book, written with the assistance of Cheney’s daughter Liz, has been panned by a New York Times book reviewer as “dry” and “highly selective,” and by Maureen Dowd, who pointed to “cherry-picking” throughout. Such bad reviews, however, aren’t anticipated to be an impediment to its success, if the $2 million advance Cheney received from Simon and Schuster is any indication.

Meanwhile, in Australia, David Hicks is fighting to keep the estimated $10,000 he has earned for his work, “Guantanamo: My Journey.” Hicks, perhaps better known as the “Australian Taliban,” was captured, unarmed and unresisting, in Afghanistan in 2001. He would spend the next six years of his life in the prison at Guantanamo Bay — a “model facility” that Cheney was “happy to note” has not been closed by President Obama.

At Guantanamo, Hicks alleges he was sodomized, beaten, deprived of sleep, forced to consume unknown drugs and subjected to what Cheney refers to in his book as “tough” interrogation techniques.

Besides being subjected inhumane treatment, Hicks was also a victim of the legal ambiguity that reigns in Guantanamo Bay. After finally being charged in 2004 after three years of abuse and ignored Australian requests that Hicks be treated fairly, the military tribunal trying Hicks was ruled unconstitutional in 2006, and the charges were dropped. However, with the passage of the Military Commissions Act later that year, Hicks was charged — ex post facto, in violation of the Constitution and numerous international declarations to which the United States is party — with providing material support for terrorism. Ultimately, Hicks entered an Alford plea — pleading guilty while professing his innocence, in exchange for reduced time — and was sentenced to nine months in prison.

The case against Hicks was unconstitutional and admittedly weak, and the former chief military prosecutor Colonel Morris Davis even said publicly that Hicks’ imprisonment was negotiated by Cheney and Australian Prime Minister John Howard. Nevertheless, the Australian government is seeking to confiscate Hicks’ earnings, saying that they constitute proceeds from crime. The intent of such so-called “Son-of-Sam laws” are to prevent criminals like David Berkowitz, the Son of Sam serial killer, from profiting from their crimes. But in this case, Hicks is being prevented from being remunerated for writing about crimes perpetrated against him.

By contrast, Cheney is free to keep his $2 million payout. In spite of his admitted roles in launching a war of aggression, ordering illegal wiretapping and authorizing torture, Cheney will likely continue to be granted immunity by future administrations equally submissive to our national security state. Under this administration, accountability is for the foot soldiers, while the ranks of well-connected statesmen like Cheney walk free.

If he’s lucky, Cheney might even be able to retire to the Italian villa he recounts dreaming of for several weeks while recovering from heart surgery in 2010, free to walk its “little stone paths … to get coffee or a batch of newspapers.” Hicks, however, may not be so lucky, and his time at Guantanamo — a “safe, secure, and humane” facility, according to Dick Cheney — may be yet another whitewashed chapter in America’s history.

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