Thursday, July 19, 2007

Dick Cheney Impassive as Twin Towers Crumbled, Thousands Died

By Luke O'Brien
June 24, 2007
All you conspiracy theorists out there (and everyone else, for that matter) should check out the big Dick Cheney feature in the Washington Post today. It's the first of a four-part series that interviewed over 200 people to explore how the most powerful vice president in the history of the universe brought his megalomaniacal tendencies to bear on a pushover president, operating unchecked and in deep-bunker secrecy while he and his lawyers dismantled fundamental civil liberties, a country unto himself.

The most disturbing part of the story -- and there are many -- recalls Cheney's response to the sight of the twin towers collapsing. While millions of people around the world wept, Cheney, in his bunker, barely reacted. Chilling stuff. Here's the section from the story:

"In a bunker beneath the East Wing of the White House, Cheney locked his eyes on CNN, chin resting on interlaced fingers. He was about to watch, in real time, as thousands were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.

Previous accounts have described Cheney's adrenaline-charged evacuation to the Presidential Emergency Operations Center that morning, a Secret Service agent on each arm. They have not detailed his reaction, 22 minutes later, when the south tower of the World Trade Center collapsed.

'There was a groan in the room that I won't forget, ever,' one witness said. 'It seemed like one groan from everyone' -- among them Rice; her deputy, Stephen J. Hadley; economic adviser Lawrence B. Lindsey; counselor Matalin; Cheney's chief of staff, Libby; and the vice president's wife.

Cheney made no sound. 'I remember turning my head and looking at the vice president, and his expression never changed,' said the witness, reading from a notebook of observations written that day. Cheney closed his eyes against the image for one long, slow blink.

Three people who were present, not all of them admirers, said they saw no sign then or later of the profound psychological transformation that has often been imputed to Cheney. What they saw, they said, was extraordinary self-containment and a rapid shift of focus to the machinery of power. While others assessed casualties and the work of 'first responders,' Cheney began planning for a conflict that would call upon lawyers as often as soldiers and spies."

UPDATE: It seems some readers take issue with me only pulling the quote about Cheney's bunker reaction. Call the vice president's behavior what you will -- cold, strong, in shock, etc. -- I found it interesting and thought you would too. People react differently in moments of crisis. I was surprised at Cheney's response.

The rest of the WaPo story focuses primarily on Cheney's efforts to legally justify warrantless surveillance and torture, reduce government transparency and accountability and other measures the administration enacted after 9/11. Since those efforts have been widely reported elsewhere (including here), I thought it best that you just read the story for yourselves. I'd rather not pull any more quotes and make this post any longer. But there is a lot of good stuff about Cheney ordering secret service visitor logs shredded and the giant safes in which he stores all his information. Go check out the series. There's another entry already up. See here.

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