Saturday, May 23, 2009

Growing The Numbers

Former Vice President Cheney, the man who spent most of the eight years of the Bush administration out of sight, has been quite visible the last several months. Mr. Cheney appears to be on some kind of crusade, one that will revise history to show that the Bush administration's repeal of basic civil liberties and its use of torture were justified. Such a crusade requires plenty of publicity, and the press has been quite willing to provide it. The problem is that Mr. Cheney keeps increasing the drama by citing numbers that cannot be verified, a problem that the press has finally noticed, as evidenced by this article in the Los Angeles Times.

Twice in the last two weeks -- including during his speaking duel with President Obama on Thursday -- Cheney has said that the Bush administration's approach may have saved "hundreds of thousands" of lives.

It is a claim that goes beyond anything Cheney or former President George W. Bush said while in office -- crediting their approach with preventing casualties on a scale that the United States has not seen since World War II.

But terrorism experts said that though it is possible to envision scenarios that involve casualties of that magnitude, no evidence has emerged about the plots disrupted during the Bush administration to suggest that Cheney's claim is true.
[Emphasis added]

The lack of evidence to back up his assertions certainly didn't stop Mr. Cheney from making even more outrageous claims: his second reference to six-figure casualties, Cheney went further, saying that those lives were saved as a direct result of the CIA's use of waterboarding and other so-called "enhanced" interrogation methods.

"The intelligence officers who questioned the terrorists can be proud of their work and proud of the results," Cheney said in his speech Thursday, "because they prevented the violent death of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of people."

None of those the US kidnapped and tortured provided the kind of useful information that Mr. Cheney is hinting at because they couldn't, as Bruce Hoffman, a terrorism expert at Georgetown University, pointed out:

"No matter how you slice this, it's very hard to get to the hundred thousand figure unless Al Qaeda had a nuclear weapon," Hoffman said. "Which they didn't."

It is unlikely that such facts will stop Mr. Cheney's crusade, however, especially since the media continue to provide the former vice-president and members of his family with platforms and microphones. At least now, fortunately, some members of the press are beginning to do their jobs by pointing to the emperor's state of undress.

Perhaps there are some grounds for hope after all.

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