I am not a psychiatrist but I am not being facetious when I pose this question. It is quite incredible to watch Dick Cheney defend the torture that he and George W. Bush authorized and encouraged and to see someone who is dead wrong and yet be dead certain that he is dead right. His defenses of the indefensible are so bizarre that I honestly think that he shows signs of being detached from reality because the things he says seem to go well beyond mere attempts at self-justification and well into delusional territory. There is a deranged quality to the way he calmly and matter-of-factly says the most appalling things.
We know that people can become unhinged in particular ways due to some event and I am beginning to think that the events of 9/11 has resulted in some form of brain damage that has made him truly paranoid. Just watch the things he says and the way he says it in this set of clips of Cheney down the years. Jon Stewart’s last line is priceless.
(This clip aired on December 15, 2014. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)
As Conor Friedersdorf says of Cheney:
Once 9/11 happened, Dick Cheney ceased to believe that the CIA should be subject to the U.S. Constitution, statutes passed by Congress, international treaties, or moral prohibitions against torture. Those standards would be cast aside. In their place, moral relativism would reign. Any action undertaken by the United States would be subject to this test: Is it morally equivalent to what al-Qaeda did on 9/11? Is it as bad as murdering roughly 3,000 innocent people? If not, then no one should criticize it, let alone investigate, charge and prosecute the CIA. Did a prisoner freeze to death? Were others anally raped? Well, what if they were?
If it cannot be compared with 9/11, if it is not morally equivalent, then it should not be verboten.
That is the moral standard Cheney is unabashedly invoking on national television. He doesn’t want the United States to honor norms against torture. He doesn’t want us to abide by the Ten Commandments, or to live up to the values in the Declaration of Independence, or to be restrained by the text of the Constitution. Instead, Cheney would have us take al-Qaeda as our moral and legal measuring stick. Did America torture dozens of innocents? So what. 9/11 was worse.
Now that Cheney is stating all this explicitly it must be rejected as moral madness. Torture was the ticking time bomb. It exploded. And a city on a hill was destroyed. I hope it is rebuilt in time for my unborn children to grow up in a place that abhors torture, regarding it as a dark curiosity perpetrated by history’s villains.
We’ve got a long way to go.
Friedersdorf thinks this is moral madness. But could it be actual madness? Seriously, has this man gone round the bend? If he does not technically meet the definition of being insane, then he is a psychopathic liar, which is not a great improvement.