Let’s face it: Dick Cheney is one scary guy. We rarely see him but when we do it seems some catastrophe has just occurred here or abroad, or he’s threatening one if we reject his administration’s agenda. Peddling misinformation is another pastime that summons him from his crypt, from the Saddam-9/11 link and poised stockpiles of WMD to Dr. Strangelove-esque proclamations that our troops will be "greeted as liberators" or the insurgency "is in the last throes."
If Karl Rove is Bush’s brain, then Dick Cheney is his dark shadow.
Touted in 2000 as the battle-ready elder statesman on the ticket, Cheney - four heart attacks notwithstanding - was supposed to stem doubt about Junior’s ability to run the country. But pre-9/11, Cheney’s appearances were kept to a minimum in order to avoid underscoring George’s lack of presidential gravitas. And since 9/11, Cheney has – initially under the cover of national security – managed to remain almost completely out of the public eye. Every now and then, he emerges from one of his undisclosed bunkers to bark something out of the corner of his mouth, like a modern-day Mr. Potter. As when he snarled at Pat Leahy, “Go fuck yourself,” on the hallowed floor of the Senate (which, incidentally, is illegal).
Meanwhile, and largely to the blind eye of the mainstream media, Dick Cheney - a.k.a. “Big Time,” as his little buddy calls him - has spent the majority of his tenure pulling strings behind the scenes for his friends in high places. Bush knocks ’em down - countries, cities - and then Big Time, through no-bid contracts, sends in his crew of cronies to mop up for whopping profits (over $10 billion in Iraq alone). While local contractors, from Baghdad to the Bayou, get bupkis. So brazen is this practice that not even political fallout from Katrina’s gross negligence proved a deterrent. Halliburton and a cast of ol’ chums were back on the job before you could say misappropriation of funds.
When critics like Noam Chomsky and others use the term “corporate media,” it’s to highlight one simple but salient point: it’s not in the interest of media, owned by big business, to shine a light on such shady dealings. (Incidentally, it was Senator Leahy’s disgust at the no-bid Halliburton contracts in Iraq that set Cheney off.) At the end of the day, it’s why these stories go unreported or underreported, or are given a positive or neutral slant.
Each time Halliburton is awarded another no-bid contract by this administration - if it is reported - it’s as if the process is completely above board. Even the subsequent and seemingly inevitable stories of graft and incompetence, the hallmark of both Halliburton and this administration, draw little or no attention. When they do, they vanish in a media minute. Follow-up inquiries of such wrongdoings often go unmentioned by network and cable news, or are mentioned in passing right before cutting away not to a correspondent to shed further light, but rather to a commercial that conveniently blunts the impact of the story. When printed, these news items are often banished to the back pages, usually encapsulated in one-paragraph nuggets only news addicts might spot, but not the general American reading public (and that’s of the minority of them who read the newspaper regularly).
Case in point is a story broken by the Hattiesburg American and picked up by alternative media sources, but utterly neglected by the mainstream press. While everyone wondered where Cheney was after Katrina hit, it turns out that – aside from vacationing in Wyoming – he was making sure power was restored to a pipeline that serves the Northeast. His office left two voice mail messages for the Southern Pines Electric Power Association, ordering them to immediately restore power to Colonial Pipeline Company. In doing so, power was delayed at least 24 hours to two rural hospitals and a number of water systems in the Pine Belt. In the end, it was not restored to the hospitals until six days after the storm.
“We were led to believe a national emergency was created when the pipelines were shut down,” said Jim Compton, general manager of the South Mississippi Electric Power Association. Crews who were trying to restore power to the two rural hospitals – Stone County Hospital and George County Hospital – were ordered instead to work on the Colonial Pipeline project. They were also forced to do this in extremely hazardous conditions, including working in the dark while there were fires in the trees and broken power poles strewn about. Their lives, though, as the lives of those stranded in the hospitals without electricity and water and food, come at a small price to our emperor of empathy.
In the end, it took one man to voice the feelings of so many Americans when it comes to our Vice President, and to our mainstream media for their kid’s gloves in dealing with him: “Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney.” These words, delivered by Gulfport resident Ben Marble in the middle of Cheney's post-Katrina photo-op, resonated as we had to once more watch Bigtime rise from the depths to gloss over his culpability in more death and destruction with platitudes. “Go fuck yourself,” Marble repeated, like a wind whistling the words we heard in our heads.
For a brief moment, America seemed right again. Before, of course, Marble was hunted down by military police waving M-16’s, who apprehended him up the road on the site where his house once stood, then handcuffed, detained and questioned him.
And before Big Time resumed, as Bob Dylan might say, his idiot wind.