Movie review: Vice (2018, re: Dick Cheney)

My disdain for Dick Cheney has been quite high for years

Vice.movieIn many ways, it’s the early scenes in Vice, the movie about former US President – I mean Vice-President – Dick Cheney, that are the most interesting to me. It was how Cheney (played with eerie physical precision by Christian Bale) went from being a Yale dropout to one of the most significant political power players in recent history.

It is the equally brilliant transformation of Amy Adams, a performer who I’ve seen in a number of films, that really wowed me. She disappears into the role of Lynne Cheney, motivating Dick before they got married. Also strong were Steve Carell as Cheney’s early mentor Donald Rumsfeld, and Sam Rockwell as George W. Bush, whose own youthful lack of self-control parallels that of Cheney.

One finds out only late in the proceedings why Kurt (Jesse Plemons) is our narrator, and that was a useful device. Even those characters with little to say – LisaGay Hamilton as Condoleezza Rice, e.g. – had the right look.

For me, one of the best laughs came with the fake credits midway through the movie. Oh, if only THAT narrative had actually played out. Since my disdain for Cheney has been quite high for years, not much of the parts after that point were particularly surprising to me. To be honest, I was feeling a bit of confirmation bias. Cleverly, the last scene, which some theatergoers missed because they left too early, addresses that issue.

I enjoyed Adam McKay’s previous movie The Big Short quite a bit more. Maybe it was because I had a lesser understanding of the topic, the market manipulation that helped bring about the Great Recession of 2008. I definitely found the earlier film to be flat out funnier, even as it ticked me off. Dark humor is a tricky thing thing, which is why the critics are so divided over Vice.

Still, despite these qualifiers, I recommend the film for its amazing ability to transform these people, via acting and makeup, into their roles in our recent history which resonate even to this day. For example, just this month, Dick and Lynne’s daughter Liz Cheney rips progressives in preview of House GOP attack plan.

I’m glad my wife and I got to see Vice at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany a couple weeks ago.

Only somewhat off topic: I Was A Cable Guy. I Saw The Worst Of America. A glimpse of the suburban grotesque, featuring Russian mobsters, Fox News rage addicts, a caged man in a sex dungeon, and Dick Cheney.

The torture report

Antonin Scalia believes in the ‘24’ Effect to rationalize torture.

From Tom Tomorrow
From Tom Tomorrow

While I’ve had the intention of writing about the disturbing report that the Senate Democrats recently released about the United States and torture, circumstances have not allowed that. So here’s a bunch of links, with brief observations:

From The Implications of the Torture Report by Mike Lofgren, Truthout:

The present writer will take as a given the veracity of its three main findings: that the United States engaged in practices both legally and commonly definable as torture; that the actionable intelligence these practices produced was negligible; and that the practices tainted the moral prestige of the United States government in a manner that damaged its foreign policy. These assertions may be taken as true both because of the abundant evidence presented in the report itself and because of the flailing and hysterical reaction by our country’s national security elites…

[Secretary of State] Kerry: “Lots of things going on in the world; not a good time for disclosure.” But when is there ever not a lot of things going on in the world?

That would be my general view as well.

Another fair representation of my position: 5 Things to Understand About the Torture Report from the Weekly Sift.

I’m particularly intrigued by the Truth and reconciliation section, which almost certainly will not happen because America is AWESOME! and we’re a “let’s move on” people.

The Rank, Reeking Horror of Torturing Some Folks from Truthout:

“In my name. In your name. In our names.” The narrative was that, in the days after 9/11, the “American people” wanted the government to do “anything” to prevent of another one. Instead, the torture and imprisonment have eventually led to the hate-filled ISIS. That may be true, since a majority of Americans say the CIA tactics were justified, which makes me all sorts of sad.

CIA Lied About Torture, Senate Report Suggests from Newsmax:

All sorts of discomforting items therein.

What torture sounds like from BoingBoing.
Karl Rove Says Bush Knew About CIA Interrogation Program, Defends Rectal Feeding from the Huffington Post:

“Appearing on ‘Fox News Sunday,’ [former GW Bush adviser] Rove claimed the brutal forced rectal feedings — which the report said were not medically necessary — were used out of medical necessity.”

Physicians: “Anal feeding” of prisoners is sexual assault, has no medical use, from BoingBoing:

“What a sad world we live in, when a coalition of medical professionals has to issue a press release announcing this most obvious of obvious observations…”

Dick Cheney: ‘I Haven’t Read’ CIA Torture Report but It’s ‘Full of Crap’ from Mediaite:

He doth describe himself instead, and rather well.

Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Antonin Scalia’s spirited defense of torture from MSNBC:

“We have never held that that’s contrary to the Constitution. And I don’t know what provision of the Constitution that would, that would contravene.

“Listen, I think it is very facile for people to say, ‘Oh, torture is terrible.’ You posit the situation where a person that you know for sure knows the location of a nuclear bomb that has been planted in Los Angeles and will kill millions of people. You think it’s an easy question? You think it’s clear that you cannot use extreme measures to get that information out of that person? I don’t think that’s so clear at all.”

OMG, OMG. (Facepalm) Scalia believes in The ‘24’ Effect: Did the TV drama convince us that torture really worked? from Matt Bai at Yahoo! News. I stopped watching this show regularly after the first episode of the second season because I decided it was torture porn.

But sometimes, you just need a cartoon to break it down for you:
Tortured logic, from Tom Tomorrow in the Daily Kos
An Illustrated A to Z of Torture from

Or satire:
Cheney calls for ban on publishing torture reports from the New Yorker

Cheney and Iraq

Megan Kelly to Dick Cheney: ‘Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir.’

Charlie Rose’s PBS show was on one night a couple of weeks ago, and Thomas Friedman was on, talking about this climate change movie he was involved with; I taped to watch the next night. One sentence jumped out at me. In the places where Arab Spring seemed to have worked, notably Tunisia, it involved an understanding that there needed to be a sharing of power.

Then I started watching the NBC Nightly News, and the foreign correspondent, Richard Engel, was back in Baghdad, Iraq. He explained that the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) was able to progress so quickly because the central Iraq government of Nouri al-Maliki failed to foster shared governance among his Shiites with the Sunnis and the Kurds. As a result, the country of Iraq is, for all intents and purposes, dead and has been replaced by three successor states, former CIA director Gen. Michael Hayden said.

It occurred to me that:
1. Friedman and Engel were saying the same thing: if you don’t play share the toys with each other, bad stuff will inevitably take place.
2. Maybe Joe Biden was right back in 2006 when he suggested essentially a trilateral government. It made sense to me at the time, but he was roundly criticized.

Given the usual predictable partisan rhetoric, I have been in shock of late:
Fox News’ Shep Smith Gives Iraq Hawks A History Lesson
Glenn Beck Admits “Liberals, You Were Right” On Iraq; so does Pat Robertson
*Andrew P. Napolitano’s A Libertarian View of the Iraq War is to stay out.

And maybe the biggest surprise:
FOX News’ Megan Kelly slams former Vice-President Dick Cheney:
“Quoting from Cheney’s Wall Street Journal op-ed, Kelly read, ‘Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,’ before adding, ‘Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir.’
She then proceeds to list some of his most blatant lies – [Weapons of Mass Destruction], liberator’s welcome, etc – before asking ‘what do you say to those who say you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?’”

In a rare consensus, Sunnis and Shiites tell Cheney to SHUT UP. Too bad that piece was satire.

Clearly, Cheney is hardly the only Iraq ‘expert’ who is always wrong about Iraq this century. The odd thing about Cheney, though, was that during and after the first Gulf War in the 1990s, he repeatedly said that invading Baghdad would create a quagmire. Despite the Mission Accomplished banner in May 2003, that’s what happened. And it was George W. Bush who signed the order for American troops to leave, not Barack Obama, after failing to get a different arrangement from the Iraqi government.

I do feel very sad for the American veterans of this war and their families. During the recent D-Day remembrances, those old soldiers got to go back to the places they liberated. The Iraq soldier who fought to win Tikrit, the military family whose son or daughter or spouse or parent died in Mosul must wonder about the value of their sacrifice. Unfortunately, a quote attributed to Herbert Hoover has long been true: “Older men declare war. But it is the youth that must fight and die.”

The roots of this conflict are very old, long before the clumsy partitioning of the Ottoman Empire, maybe going back to the origins of the Shiite-Sunni split.

The US reentry into Iraq is making me very nervous, but we’ll see how it plays out.

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