|A villain for the Ages|
History has few such villains as Richard B. (Dick) Cheney. The man is a perfect beast. A villain to rival even Iago in pure malevolence of heart. Dick Cheney is a man who saw an opportunity for immortality, an opportunity to make his historical mark on the world, to establish an empire of his own. And he seized it.
In some circles that passes for greatness.
Hearken back to Cheney's time as Secretary of Defense in Bush the Elder's administration. Like some death-obsessed necromancer, wandering the dark passages of a medieval dungeon, Cheney learned many secrets in that time. He learned how government contracts were written, about how they were awarded, about how they were overseen and managed. Whether he came into the job with evil in his heart, or whether he succumbed to the temptation of the unimaginable wealth of the Federal Treasury is unclear. But what is clear to me is that Cheney viewed the Federal Treasury as an oilman would an oil field.
There were incredible riches to be had. It was just a matter of extraction.
When he left the Defense Department, Dick Cheney hooked up with his friends in the resource-extraction industry, no doubt leveraging the knowledge he had gained as a "public servant" and arranged to be named CEO of Halliburton.
When Junior Bush needed a running-mate for the national election of 2000, Cheney saw that if he had the courage to act, he had the power to shape history, to brand it with the Cheney iron, the way he no doubt watched ranchers brand their cattle in Wyoming.
It is well-documented how Cheney manufactured a case for war with Iraq and that, as a result of the invasion, Halliburton was awarded military contracts for billions of dollars without being subject to competitive bids. It is well-documented that Cheney, as sitting vice-president, was being awarded a salary en absentia from Halliburton. Halliburton went from the verge of bankruptcy in 1998 to $15.26 billion in revenues in 2008, at the end of the Junior Bush administration.
The services that Halliburton provided in exchange for those billions of dollars were, by many accounts, shoddy or non-existent and by all accounts rife with corruption. But the well was gushing, the dollars fell from the sky.
It should come as no surprise that Halliburton is implicated in the BP Oil disaster. Federal regulators are investigating the cementing techniques that Halliburton employed to prevent blowouts for the deep sea well that is now spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico, despoiling the Gulf Coast.
And, just as with the Iraq war, Halliburton, having extracted what wealth it can from the situation, is now attempting to extricate itself. Leave the clean up for the chumps, just like with Iraq.
Halliburton is the endowment Dick Cheney plans to leave behind when he exits this mortal coil. Note how he has groomed daughter Liz to take over when he is gone. Halliburton is the Cheney family's fiefdom. It is the source of their power. Real power. Not the fickle, illusory power that comes with the consent of the governed. Cheney's is the kind of power that can only be ruthlessly seized. It is the kind of power that one protects with murder, with torture, with bald-faced, shameless lies. The kind of power for which one must sacrifice one's humanity.
No doubt Cheney has no regrets. Greatness, after all, has its price.