Perhaps the most remarkable passage in his speech to AEI last week was the following:
In public discussion of these matters, there has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib prison with the top secret program of enhanced interrogations. At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulations, and simple decency. For the harm they did, to Iraqi prisoners and to America's cause, they deserved and received Army justice. And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful, and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men.
There are two options in trying to understand this passage: a) It reveals a profound and disturbing level of denial about his own record; or b) It is one of the Biggest of Big Lies ever told by a vice-president of the United States. Perhaps the easiest way to show this is to cite the final and definitive "Conclusion 19" of the Senate Armed Services Committee Report:
The abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib in late 2003 was not simply the result of a few soldiers acting on their own. Interrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s December 2, 2002 authorization of aggressive interrogation techniques and subsequent interrogation policies and plans approved by senior military and civilian officials conveyed the message that physical pressures and degradation were appropriate treatment for detainees in U.S. military custody. What followed was an erosion in standards dictating that detainees be treated humanely.
There is no factual dispute as to the real origin of what Cheney calls the "disgraces" of Abu Ghraib: Dick Cheney via Don Rumsfeld. Cheney himself has boasted of the most dramatic of the torture and abuse techniques, waterboarding. He also pioneered and now defends a program in the CIA and at Gitmo that, in what it does to human beings suspected of being terrorists, is identical to the photos of Abu Ghraib. Look at the photos again.
Forced nudity: approved by Cheney. Hooding: approved by Cheney. Stress positions: approved by Cheney. Use of dogs: approved by Cheney. It is not just me arguing that Abu Ghraib was a function of a policy dictated and approved at the highest levels. It's the entire Republican Senate leadership of the Armed Services Committee. It's every objective journalist's conclusion. It's in several Pentagon reports. It's demonstrable in the photos themselves. So who are you going to believe: Cheney or your lying eyes?