Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Tough Guys Don’t Walk


Vice President Dick Cheney has cultivated the image of a serious tough guy, with his grim, scowling vissage, his dismissive “So?” comments when things go badly, his unrepentant defense of torture, including waterboarding, and his brash statements confirming that he approved the interrogation measures that clearly violated US criminal statutes and the Geneva Conventions.

But it appears we willl in a few days get to discover whether Cheney really is a tough guy, or whether he is in truth just the same corpulent, self-centered hypocrite and gutless coward that he was back in the 1960s when, despite being a vocal backer of the Vietnam War, he ducked the draft not once but five times by arranging for student and marriage deferments, which he later defended by saying he had “other priorities” than serving his country.

If, as most people expect, Cheney is offered a pardon by outgoing President George Bush for his role in approving the systematic torture of US captives in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, for his role in the outing of CIA undercover operative Valerie Plame and the subsequent coverup of that crime, and for his role in lying about the alleged threats posed by Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, the vice president will be admitting that he is guilty of those crimes. He will also be taking the coward’s way out, after earlier strutting about and claiming to be in the right.

It would be vintage Cheney–talking big but hiding from responsibility for his statements and his actions.

If Cheney were for real, he would tell Bush he doesn’t want no stinkin’ pardon. He’d say he backed a policy of torture of captives because they deserved it, because it would save American lives, and because he had no respect for international law. He would dare the US government, and other governments around the world that have a policy of universal jurisdiction, to indict him and put him on trial for his actions.

But that’s not Dick Cheney’s way. His way is to duck responsibility and to let lesser people take the heat for him.

We’ve seen his MO already. This is a guy who would furtively destroy the career of a dedicated undercover agent, putting not just her, but all of her in-country contacts in places like Iran at risk for their lives, and then let a subordinate, I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, take the fall for him. Libby, recall, was convicted of lying about his role in exposing Plame’s identity in a federal trial that included considerable evidence that it was his boss, Cheney, who was actually behind the effort. He ended up being convicted and sentenced to prison, though he was spared being locked up by a presidential clemency order. Cheney didn’t lift a finger to protect Libby, who remains a convicted felon, unable to return to his practice of law.

If Bush pardons Cheney, and if Cheney accepts that pardon, he will be admitting that he is a war criminal, willing to let a few low-ranking soldiers who simply did what he says he wanted them to do take the heat for him and his criminal actions.

While we’re at it, it will also be interesting to see whether Bush, whose media handlers have also spent the last eight years constucting an image of him as a swaggering, tough-talkin’ Texas cowboy, will grant himself a broad pardon for his many crimes in office.

My guess is he will do both, confirming that this has been an administration not of tough guys, but of cowards, hypocrites and professional buckpassers.

DAVE LINDORFF is a Philadelphia-based journalist and columnist. His latest book is “The Case for Impeachment” (St. Martin’s Press, 2006 and now available in paperback). His work is available at









Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future