Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cheneyworld: Robot Gone Wild

Watching the VP interview by Jim Lehrer on PBS last night recalled the movie "Westworld" about a theme park in which lifelike robots run amok and start killing. It came out at the time that an automaton named Dick Cheney, codenamed Backseat by the Secret Service, was serving in the White House, getting toilet leaks fixed and installing a headrest for Betty Ford on the presidential helicopter.

More than three decades later, asked whether 4500 American and more than a hundred thousand Iraqi deaths were "worth" what happened there, the now glorified robot answers, "I think so...Because I believed at the time that what Saddam Hussein represented was, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, was a terror-sponsoring state--so designated by the State Department. He was making payments to the families of suicide bombers; he provided a safe haven and sanctuary for Abu Nidal and other terrorist operations. He had produced and used weapons of mass destruction, chemical and biological agents.

"He'd had a nuclear program in the past. He killed hundreds of thousands of his own people and he did have a relationship with al-Qaida...That's not to say that Saddam was responsible for 9/11; it is to say, as George Tenet, CIA director testified in open session in the Senate, that there was a relationship there that went back 10 years."

In Cheneyworld, ask a question and the pre-recorded tape spools out the automatic answer. In that hermetically sealed space, the response about mistakes in Iraq, illegal torture, the economic meltdown, whatever is same robotic "I don't buy that."

In his insightful book, "Rise of the Vulcans," James Mann reported that "Cheney's ascent in the Ford White House served as an illustration of how an individual can rise to the top by virtue of his willingness to take care of the mundane chores that persons with larger egos avoid, thereby establishing reliability and learning all the inner workings of an organization.

"Cheney was akin to the clerk who becomes chief executive, the copy editor who rises to become editor in chief, the accountant who takes over the film studio."

But just as the Yul Brenner gunslinger robot in Westworld turned murderous without blinking an eye, we now have the 2009 model Cheney, with real blood on his hands after an eight-year rampage, still spouting the programmed answers to what he was doing all that time.

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