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U.S. Vice-Presidents: War As Politics

Dick Cheney: Whip of the Republicans

After making his way into politics following Donald Rumsfeld’s footsteps, Dick Cheney has imposed himself quickly as the indispensable man of the Republican Party in the White House and the Congress. Confirming without further complexes his determinedly conservative choices, Cheney has opened up the way to the imperial ambitions of the neo-conservative. Conjugating his public positions with financial responsibilities, he has become the Halliburton General Director, while his wife, Lynne, is the administrator of Lockheed-Martin. Dick Cheney has imposed himself as George W. Bush’s Vice-President.

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Richard Cheney - the son of an official at the Agriculture Department, was raised in the State of Wyoming. Enrolled in the University of Yale, he dropped out the University after two years. By that time, he wanted to work and “see the world”. So, for a while, he set to install electric lines in Wyoming, Colorado and Utah, before going back to his studies in the University of Wyoming. He married Lynne Vincent, his youth love, and set out for taking a doctorate in Political Sciences at the University of Wisconsin. When called in to the army to enroll the lists for the Vietnam War, he was given a leave for his students status and later for being a family man. Effectively, his daughter Elizabeth was born in 1966.

A member of the U.S. Association of Political Sciences, he was promoted to Washington in 1968 with the possibility of working for a Congress member. He tried to make an appointment with Donald Rumsfeld, but the latter did not receive him. He then started to work for William Steiger from Wisconsin. When Rumsfeld got the chairmanship of the Office of Economic Opportunity, Cheney tried to contact him again, being successful that time. This way, Cheney became Rumsfeld’s first assistant in Washington for seven years. But this collaboration was not continuous: in 1973, when Donald Rumsfeld took on the position of U.S. Ambassador to NATO, Cheney availed himself of the license granted him to work for a while for Bradley, Woods & Company - a specialized advisory society in the field of finances.

First stay in the White House

That was nothing but a parenthesis. Cheney had already passed his tests and when in 1974, Rumsfeld was nominated the White House Secretary General by Gerald Ford, he naturally summoned his former assistant to his side to play the same role, this time in the very heart of power. Dick Cheney had before him his life’s opportunity and did not let it go. A tireless worker, he took care, for more than one year, of settling the most trivial administrative troubles, from the White House plumbing to the little pad of the presidential copter, even solving the delicate problems of the salaries... the result: Cheney became omnipresent, controlled all the secrets in the White House and very soon was able to prepare political operations of great magnitude.

And this grows when, after the nomination of Donald Rumsfeld for the position of Secretary of Defense, Cheney inherited the chair of his old boss, that is, the White House Secretary General. From this strategic position, Cheney worked together with Rumsfeld in the gradual marginalization of Henry Kissinger, whose intention of commitment with the USSR neither satisfied Cheney nor was it of his approval.

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Gerald Ford and Dick Cheney

It was then both in the name of political realism and his real convictions that Cheney encouraged President Gerald Ford to join the “Morality in Foreign Policy” project devised by his Republic opponent Ronald Reagan in the primary elections. But this clever strategic choice was not enough to avoid the electoral defeat of the outgoing president before Jimmy Carter. The Democrat Party wave was such in the USA that forces Cheney to leave Washington and resume his activities in the Bradley, Woods & Company investment society. But this did not match up any more to the aspirations of someone who had just been Secretary General of the White House. So, in September 1977, Cheney reported to Congress in order to replace the Democrat representative from Wyoming, Teno Roncalio, who passed to retirement.

Despite a first failure in June 1978, Cheney easily won the elections and came back to Washington. This time as a Congressman. He was not the only republican to conquer a democrat bastion. On occasion of the 1978 mid-term elections, the Grand Old Party seized 12 seats so far occupied by the democrats. One of the recently elected republicans was a Georgia’s professor called Newt Gingrich, who very soon became a close friend of his colleague from Wyoming.

An Ultraconservative in the Congress

His experience in the heart of the executive power allowed Cheney to skip the stages in the House of Representatives. He got to know the running of the federal government and met most of the republican leaders. Since 1981, his contacts allowed him to be assigned president of the Republican Political Committee. Also, he seized a seat in the heart of the Interior Committee, in charge of environmental issues, a reason why he became so much complimented by those congressmen financed by the great polluting industries. Immediately afterwards, he joined the House Ethics Commission and the Information Commission. Additionally, he participated in a series of meetings organized by the Congress republicans in order to define his political strategy.

Having worked for former Republican President Ford against the other republican Ronald Reagan during the 1976 primary presidential elections, Dick Cheney was sometimes presented as a centrist republican by the press. Nonetheless, the analysis of his votes left little doubt about his solid position to the right of the right wing.

In Foreign policy, Cheney opposed the application of the treaties to the Panama Canal negotiated by Jimmy Carter; he systematically supported de development of new weapons, such as the MX missile, and rejected any sanctions against the South Africa Apartheid racist regime.

As to domestic affairs, Cheney voted against arm control (including those able to go through armored surfaces and those that cannot be detected by metal detectors), he opposed the laws on abortion and positive discrimination, and as a staunch supporter of the polluting industries, he tried to boycott the extension of the 1987 Clean Water Act. Contrary to a number of U.S. politicians of the hard or extreme right wing, who, at any rate, tried to gain an image of political respect for themselves, Richard Cheney became blinded by rage when the Washington Post rated him as a «moderate» in the early 1980. As a result, he made his assistant Dave Gribben call the newspaper editorial staff to remind them of his being a real «conservative».

As with Donald Rumsfeld’s case, Cheney’s closeness to the U.S. State Apparatus explained why he was contacted during the Reagan’s term to participate in the coup d’état simulation operations performed under the command of Oliver North. If the official menace was then that of a Soviet nuclear attack, the real thing behind it was a demonstration of strength by Vice-President H.W. Bush (father) considered by the executive power.

Anyhow, Cheney, as former secretary general of the White House, was held responsible for one of three acting teams, each one directed by a member of the Reagan administration, which did not respond to the constitutional and legally established order of presidential succession. The Secretary of Agriculture, John Block, and also the Secretary of Commerce, Malcolm Baldrige had thus also been involved in these operations. The fact that none of these personalities had any experience in the field of international relations makes us think that they only served a façade for more qualified team members in this field such as Rumsfeld, Cheney or Woolsey.

However, such “inexperience” of the true-false acting president basically put forth an important political issue, that of his credibility in the face of both his national public opinion and the international community. To confirm this credibility of power in the eye of the world, they devised a plan consisting of ordering a U.S. strategic submarine to surface - a decision which clearly represents the control of the U.S. army or navy by the executive power.

Undoubtedly, Dick Cheney took advantage of his knowledge of the U.S. State Apparatus. He was able to mysteriously disappear for four days every year. As an old staff of the White House, he managed to participate in all the Congress commissions dedicated to information matters. When the Iran-Contras scandal broke out in 1986-1987, Cheney was particularly well positioned to calm down the feelings of the Congress, definitely irritated. A close friend to democrat Lee Hamilton, who presided over the Congress Research Commission, Cheney got the position of representative of the republican opposition in the heart of this Commission and blocked any attempts by the democrats to accuse Vice-President George H.W. Bush (father).

In 1988, Cheney equally led the opposition to a bill drawn up by Congress by virtue of which the White House would, in the future, inform him of any secret action in not later than a 48-hour term after such action was triggered. As a good «guard dog», Cheney was awarded with more and more important positions, which turned him into the republican «whip» (master, big boss) of the House of Representatives in 1988, and almost into the leader of the republican minority. Only the temptation of a more important position kept him from getting up to it, which would finally go to his friend Newt Gingrich.

Arrival at the Pentagon

George H.W. Bush did not forget the great support Dick Cheney gave him in Congress. That is why, he sent him the promotion in 1989 after having taken on his post in the White House. The creation of a presidential team specialized in foreign policy is trusted to James Baker III, the nominated Secretary of State, and General Brent Scowcroft. But both men faced an important difficulty: the candidate chosen by them to fit the Secretary of Defense position, John Tower, was officially rejected by the Senate due to his close relationship with the Defense Industry. Therefore, they needed a substitute, preferably in the ranks of the Congress to avoid further delays in the nomination process. Snowcroft proposes the name of Cheney, with whom he had worked during the Ford administration. Then the National Security Counselor, this man close to Kissinger used to hold long discussions with the White House Secretary General in order to iron out his chief’s differences with Donald Rumsfeld.

By those same days, Cheney had also worked with James Baker in the Gerald Ford reelection campaign. With a strong position due to this double support, he swiftly assumed his work in the Pentagon, where he met Paul Wolfowitz, originally chosen by John Tower. He rejected to openly support Richard Armitage - a candidate to the position of secretary in the Army, which faced the attacks of the veteran associations led by millionaire Ross Perot. Finally, Armitage found himself compelled to withdraw his candidature. Friends and enemies gathering then around Dick Cheney would last in the heart of the George W. Bush neo-conservative administration.

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Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld

For the time being, the new Defense Secretary had a lot of work ahead. In order to implement his policy, he tried to win the approval of Colin Powell. They both met together in the early 1980’s, when Cheney was a member of Congress and Powell a commander in Germany. They had both discussed long after Powel was the leader of the republican minority in the House of Representatives. Cheney did not hesitate for an instant to make pressure so that President George H.W. Bush appointed him for the position of the Interarms General Staff after Admiral William Crowe announced his intention of retirement.

Once this decision was ratified, the two men decided to gather every day in order to work together in the challenges awaiting them because on November 10, 1989, the collapse of the Berlin Wall caused the disappearance of Washington’s most fearsome enemy, namely, the USSR. A re-evaluation of the U.S. military apparatus became necessary and both Powell and Cheney were determined to limit to the full the military budget restrictions claimed by de democrats.

“Crooked Coup” in Panama

In December, 1989, Cheney had to supervise the «Fair Cause» operation in Panama. Tired of General Manuel Noriega’s excesses, the United States wanted to replace him. Noriega, however, had played an active role in the region making Washington abstain from hunting him yet. In 1979, this former pupil of the Americas School, turned into a CIA agent, had above all «made easier the exchange of weapons and drugs carried out by the Contras of Nicaragua, providing his military protection, pilots (...) and very discreet bank capacities for all» [1] in a time where the United States were fighting the Sandinista guerrilla in their own territory. However, his demands turned increasingly unbearable for the White House, which wanted to get rid of this somehow annoying ally on the eve of the restitution of the Panama Canal Zone, foreseen for January 1, 1990.

Washington decided then to intervene in December, 1989, taking support in the synergy existing between Dick Cheney and Colin Powell. The latter saw in it an extraordinary field to apply his military doctrine, inherited from the Vietnam’s disaster and hastily summed up to the “war zero death” slogan. This doctrine consists of ensuring that the U.S. troops should be sent only when the objectives are clearly defined, when the public opinion has been successfully led to back up the intervention and when the military potential deployed is really great.

The operation was, in fact, successful. The mass disembarkment of marines in their own territory, with the only slogan of “save your skin” ended up in the massacre of thousands of Panamanians, many civilians among them. Manuel Noriega was arrested and transferred to Miami to be sentenced to 40 years imprisonment for drug trafficking. Simultaneously, the United States established a puppet regime in Panama headed by Guillermo Endara who was linked to organized crime and particularly to the drug barons.

According to Los Angeles Times, this new arrangement with the direction of the cartel, contrived in the White House would result in the multiplication of the number of labs for the manufacturing of cocaine during the coming few years. Parallel to this and from his military viewpoint, Powell corroborated his well-founded strategic conceptions. Even more when the operation, much more related to the most classical aspect of the “crooked coups” and despite the cost of many Panamanian human lives, did not arise a remarkable opposition in the core of the U.S. public opinion. With this, Dick Cheney could measure the strength of propaganda. A weapon, he would consequently resort to very often.

The Iraqi Laboratory

The Defense Secretary was involved in the contrivance of the Iraqi threat with the help of his assistant - a specialist in imaginary threats, Paul Wolfowitz. The strategy developed by both men was simple: it was all about prodding Sadam Husein to invade Kuwait and spread the idea that the dictator was threatening Saudi Arabia with the eventual purpose of deploying U.S. troops in the Gulf Region.

The plan worked out perfectly all right. In the mid 1990’s, Kuwait oil companies began to extract oil from the oilfields situated on the other side of the border, on Iraqi territory, thus increasing their production and making prices go down. The emir not only remained deaf to the protests from Baghdad and the threats from Sadam Hussein, but claimed the immediate refunding of the facilities granted to Iraq to fight Iran for 10 years. But the Iraqi dictator was aware of this. Though he had tried to profit from this provocation to reintegrate the old Iraqi province to Iraq by military force, he knew as well that he could act without the blessings from Washington. On July 25, 1990, Hussein summoned the U.S. Ambassador to Baghdad, April Glaspie, to deal with her the dispute with Kuwait.

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Ambassador April Glaspie confirms Sadam Hussein that the United States is green lighting the way to annex Kuwait

She brought him proposals in an unequivocal diplomatic language: «I was in the U.S. Embassy in Kuwait in the late 1960’s. The instructions given to us then were that we must not express any opinions on this subject and that this issue had nothing to do with the United States.

James Baker demanded that our official spokespersons should not insist on these instructions» [«Excerpts From Iraqi Document on Meeting with U.S. Envoy», New York Times, September 23, 1990.]]. A few days later, the State Department recalled very appropriately that no defense agreement links the United States to Kuwait. Being already “green lit” and after the failure of the last negotiation, Sadam Hussein launched the offensive.

Kuwait’s invasion, though not a surprise for the Bush administration, was differently interpreted by its leaders. As a result, Colin Powell affirmed right from the start that «we would come into war with Saudi Arabia, but I doubt we would do it with Kuwait» [2]. For the hawks Cheney and Wolfowitz, this was, on the other hand, about the divine opportunity of negotiating with Saudi Arabia the installation of U.S. military bases on its territory.

The two men boosted then the alarmist statements up about Sadam Hussein’s expansionist intentions, trying very hard to make negotiations with the Iraqi dictator fail, though this latter was willing to withdraw from Kuwait to avoid the disaster [3]. Nevertheless, Cheney had to come to an understanding with the opposition, in the heart of the government, about his old ally Colin Powell, who was already afraid of the U.S. getting involved in a dangerous military adventure.

The “hawks”, however, seemed to be more convinced. Dick Cheney even proposed to President Bush that he should declare war without asking the endorsement from Congress, which was, however, constitutionally obligatory. George H.W. Bush (father) refused to adopt this extremist position, but was persuaded of the necessity of intervening militarily. With all this, the opposition between the Defense Secretary and the Chief of Interarms General Staff grew inevitably stronger, even more when Cheney and Wolfowitz still tried to devise a military attack plan by themselves, with the help of Henry S. Rown, behind Colin Powell’s back [4].

Unfortunately for its creators, the plan provoked the opposition of Saudi Arabia and Turkey since it threatened to bring about a lasting instability in the country, even after an eventual withdrawal; and from that angle, it was seen as a previous step to divide Iraq. Consequently, the plan was turned down. The White House rather opted for a mass intervention plan with the U.S. troops backed up by the international coalition, where propaganda was supposed to play a key role to ensure the approval by the public opinion, both domestic and international.

This is all about an intermediate solution, which suited both the supporters of the “Powell Doctrine” and the «hawks» clan. Both trends in the heart of the government finally came to an agreement on the legitimacy of the intervention. The rapid military and “painless” success of the U.S. troops (barely 60 casualties and 50 «missing persons») was the new confirmation, in the view of republicans, of the fairness of the neo-conservative strategy, basically when Cheney and Powell had agreed, against Wolfowitz’s alarmist position, on the need of quickly calling a halt to the risky military adventure. The success was therefore complete.

A “Hawk” Is Born

After all these years in the Pentagon and two particularly successful military operations lived through, Dick Cheney’s ideology in terms of international politics has grown considerably strong. Unquestionably, his proximity to Paul Wolfowitz also influenced the development of a true neo-conservative doctrine in this field.

The United States, and particularly the U.S. army, then faced a total reconsideration caused by the slow but sure collapse of the former Soviet block. In this setting, Cheney entirely adhered to the Wolfowitz’s doctrine, prone to discourage the emerging powers that wanted to contest the United States as far as keeping a strong military power was concerned.

This doctrine was developed on the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, directed by Cheney, coordinated by Wolfowitz and drawn up by Zalmay Khalilzad [5]. When certain passages «were filtrated» to the press and fed a controversy, Cheney defended the text unlike Wolfowitz, who, first of all, tried to protect himself. The Defense Secretary had never been afraid of openly expressing his opinions. A few weeks later, when the definitive version of the report was published, after its new partial drafting by Scooter Libby, it was the name of Richard Cheney the one to appear on the cover.

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Dick Cheney and Colin Powell distracting the spectators

Like the group of officials of the Bush government, the Defense Secretary was moved away from the political sphere following the arrival of Bill Clinton to office in January 1993. Dick Cheney returned to civilian life, back to the American Enterprise Institute, the think-tank (a) per excellence of the neo-conservatives. In 1993, Cheney felt strong enough to talk about his eventual candidature in the primary republican elections, with the purpose of defeating Bill Clinton «on the foreign policy subject».

The reception of his party was too poor to encourage him to go forward. As happened with Rumsfeld some time before, Cheney was forced to abdicate in January 1995. But his ambition of returning to political issues was not gone. That same year he was nominated president - general director of the Halliburton oil equipment giant [6] - a society, which he had once helped to get amazing military contracts [7].

The circle closed. Cheney was part of the elite of the U.S. state apparatus and at the same time had got interests in the energy field [8]. A blend of recurrent specimens in the U.S. political life which benefited both his personal finances and those of the firm. This one profits from the large book of addresses of Dick Cheney and his relations in the Defense milieu. In the democrat government, Halliburton was to gain, above all, the wonderful logistics market along with the deployment of U.S. troops in Bosnia and then in Kosovo.

The aggressive foreign policy conducted by President Clinton, especially after his re-election in 1996, did not satisfy, however, the most militaristic republicans whom Cheney had gradually connected to. The former Defense Secretary joined the neo-conservative power conquering project, which took shape since January, 1997. That same year, he was among the first 25 signatories of the principle statement of the Project for a New American Century [9], published by the American Enterprise Institute. He also participated actively in the meetings of the Foreign Policy division of the Congressional Policy Advisory Board, created in the heart of the Republican Party by Martin Anderson with the purpose of allowing the development of a neo-conservative foreign policy, with the financial support of the Hoover Institute from the Foundation Heritage and from the American Enterprise Institute.

Cheney often called on his friends Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz and George Shultz, as well as Casper Weinberger and the protected of candidate Bush, Condoleezza Rice. He also supervised the first Vulcains meeting, instructed Rice and Armitage, both Bush’s advisers on foreign policy issues, and mobilized all of his network in the campaign. His efforts were rewarded. Asked by George W. Bush to assign the vice-president who was to appear on the presidential ballot, Cheney ended up proposing his own name. A fast alternative prepared by the former president’s son, who had already suggested the idea to him a few months before. The machine was now complete.

It is not a surprise that Richard Cheney had asserted himself as the leader of the neo-conservatives. In fact, this individual can be regarded as a synthesis of the various components of this alliance, a simultaneous member of the American Enterprise Institute, of the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, former president-general director of Halliburton and former Defense Secretary. As such, he controls all the facets of the military-industrial complex governing the United States since more than 50 years ago.

[1] L’État Voyou, by William Blum, Parangon, 2002.

[2] My American Journey, by Colin Powell, Ballantine Books, 1995.

[3] About the secret negotiations with Iraq directed by France, see «Le double jeu de François Mitterrand », by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire, November 3, 2003.

[4] About this Episode, see «Paul Wolfowitz, l’âme du Pentagone», by Paul Labarique, Voltaire, October 4, 2004.

[5] Ibid and «La doctrine stratégique des Bush», by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire, July 9, 2004.

[6] Voir «Halliburton, profiteur de guerre», by Arthur Lepic, Voltaire, September 23, 2004.

[7] In 1992, When Dick Cheney was living his last few months as Defense Secretary, Halliburton got a logistics supply contract in the Army’s Logistics Civil Augmentation Program (LOGCAP). According to experts, «this is the first time that the army goes through a planning program similar to that of a private enterprise». Halliburton mainly provides logistics for the U.S. military intervention in Somalia. «Dick Cheney and the Self-Licking Ice Cream Cone», in How Much Are You Making On The War Daddy ? - A Quick and Dirty Guide to War Profiteering in the Bush Administration, by William D. Hartung, Nation Books, 2003.

[8] His wife, Lynne Cheney, is responsible, on her side, for the American Enterprise Institute and administrator of the Lockheed Martin armament giant.

[9] For a list of the successive signatories of the Project, see the Right Web site.

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