Sullivan sees both evil and incompetence. Can’t say I disagree.
There’s one semi-plausible/semi-joking theory on Cheney. I first read it in the New Republic a ways back in an article by Michelle Cottle. There’s a condition known as “pump head syndrome” that afflicts people who have undergone surgery where your circulation is taken over by machines and blood is pumped into your body with a different level of force than typical. Some people have very debilitating effects from this process. It’s possible that Cheney — and Bill Clinton for that matter — suffers from pump head, thereby explaining the gross incompetence, the evil and the outright lack of concern for anything beyond his narrow, narrow goals.
From the first link:
The torture of individuals whose guilt or innocence is unknown is the mark of barbarism. The treatment of human beings as sub-human is equally the mark of the forces of anti-civilization. From the beginning in this struggle against evil, Cheney has been, as he proudly declares, on the dark side. And operating from within.
His post was built on this quote from Lawrence Wilkerson:
The fourth unknown is the ad hoc intelligence philosophy that was developed to justify keeping many of these people, called the mosaic philosophy. Simply stated, this philosophy held that it did not matter if a detainee were innocent. Indeed, because he lived in Afghanistan and was captured on or near the battle area, he must know something of importance (this general philosophy, in an even cruder form, prevailed in Iraq as well, helping to produce the nightmare at Abu Ghraib). All that was necessary was to extract everything possible from him and others like him, assemble it all in a computer program, and then look for cross-connections and serendipitous incidentals–in short, to have sufficient information about a village, a region, or a group of individuals, that dots could be connected and terrorists or their plots could be identified.
Thus, as many people as possible had to be kept in detention for as long as possible to allow this philosophy of intelligence gathering to work. The detainees’ innocence was inconsequential. After all, they were ignorant peasants for the most part and mostly Muslim to boot.
Here’s more from the Wilkerson link:
Another unknown, a part of the fabric of the foregoing four, was the sheer incompetence involved in cataloging and maintaining the pertinent factors surrounding the detainees that might be relevant in any eventual legal proceedings, whether in an established court system or even in a kangaroo court that pretended to at least a few of the essentials, such as evidence.
Simply stated, even for those two dozen or so of the detainees who might well be hardcore terrorists, there was virtually no chain of custody, no disciplined handling of evidence, and no attention to the details that almost any court system would demand. Falling back on “sources and methods” and “intelligence secrets” became the Bush administration’s modus operandi to camouflage this grievous failing.
But their ultimate cover was that the struggle in which they were involved was war and in war those detained could be kept for the duration. And this war, by their own pronouncements, had no end. For political purposes, they knew it certainly had no end within their allotted four to eight years. Moreover, its not having an end, properly exploited, would help ensure their eight rather than four years in office.