Like a tar-black sludge, sticky and suffocating, the last eight years of American politics dripped over our faces, plugging eyes, noses, ears, mouths. As Bush-Cheney White House atrocities oozed into the public consciousness, we were numb, deaf, blind—unscandalized.
Who's surprised by the news that former Vice President Dick Cheney may have run a secret death squad? Yet where are the yards of ink in the national press that should be devoted to this constitutionally questionable "assassination ring"?
Investigative reporter Seymour Hersh dropped word of a possible Cheney-run death squad into a public appearance at the University of Minnesota in March. "Congress has no oversight of it," Hersh said. "It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on."
Got that? Hersh is claiming the Joint Special Operations Command was a band of assassins set up independently. It didn't answer to an ambassador or a CIA station chief, he says; it didn't answer to the joint chiefs of staff or the secretary of defense. According to Hersh's investigation, it answered directly to Cheney. Under President Bush's authority, he says, the squad was charged with "finding people on a list and executing them."
Hersh is a Pulitzer Prize-winner known for uncovering the My Lai Massacre during the Vietnam War and, more recently, for reporting on the practices at the Abu Ghraib prison. He's a staff writer for The New Yorker and markedly anti-Bush. Though he hasn't put pen to paper on the issue of the VP-operated assassination ring, he's says he’s confident in his findings.
Who's surprised by the news that former Vice President Dick Cheney may have run a secret death squad?
But in spite of the hovering accusation, CNN's John King didn't ask the former vice president about it the next day during an interview. And Bill O'Reilly went off about how if such a squad existed, Hersh would already be dead. (That logic doesn't make Cheney any less menacing. Is O'Reilly really saying if the former vice president of the United States had a doom crew he would off people who criticize him or disagree with him? Comforting.)
On Saturday, March 30, Cheney's security adviser answered a few pointed questions from CNN's Wolf Blitzer. He confirmed that, yes, there is a list of people who have committed or are planning acts of war against the United States. It would be constitutional to whack ’em, he says.
That the issue was brought up is progress, though I'm still waiting for someone to ask, "Was there a death squad overseen only by Cheney? How long was it around? Who did it kill? Are you sure that's legal?"
Hersh, of course, says it's not. He told Amy Goodman in an interview on "Democracy Now!" last week that President Ford signed an executive order banning this kind of thing in the '70s.
And another thing: Do these assassins continue to carry out these orders under this administration, making their way down a worldwide hit list?
"The CIA is mounting a hidden war in Afghanistan" wrote Bob Woodward for the Washington Post in 2001. The New York Times ran a story in early March this year about the a secret branch of special ops calling off missions in Afghanistan because there have been too many civilian deaths.
There are plenty of questions left to ask. When will the big-timers, the TV news networks and national newspapers, the Associated Press and Reuters, get us some answers? So far, pundits and loudmouths have weighed in. Hersh has been interviewed about his comments extensively. A month later, few solid facts have made it into media. It’s time for the rest of us to clean the tar from our senses and start demanding answers.