I Asked the Cheneys About Bush Torture Whistleblower John Kiriakou

Originally published by Cassandra Rules on May 26, 2014, at firedoglake.com

On May 19th, I attended a lecture and book-signing event, featuring former Vice President, Dick Cheney, and his wife, Lynne, at the Nixon Library in Yorba Linda, CA. The pair were present to promote Lynne’s new book, James Madison: A Life Reconsidered. A friend had sent me an event listing from Code Pink who was calling for Dick’s symbolic citizens arrest (there wasn’t one, unfortunately). I immediately bought a ticket and started trying to figure out what to wear to hide my tattoos so I could blend in. I was especially concerned about the drunken peace sign on my leg, since we know how these people feel about peace.

My intention was to talk about John Kiriakou and the fact that this courageous whistleblower is the only person sitting in prison for Cheney and his cronies’ torture program. I didn’t have any idea how I was going to go about it, or what exactly I would say, but I was determined to rain on her parade, even if only a little.

When I arrived (over an hour early in hopes of catching the goblin to question him up close) I didn’t see any protestors, although they were definitely there. The crowd was much older than me. I assumed I was going to stand out like a sore thumb. Thankfully Andrew Emett of We Are Change showed up looking perfect for the part. I felt slightly more hopeful, until I noticed the only visible and obvious cop in the crowd was positioned at the end of my aisle. I thought maybe they were on to me, but I just kept clapping when everyone else did while cringing and dying a little inside.

When Lynne gushed (about 7 minutes in) “I think he was a genius… he was able to break through conventional thinking, when everyone else was thinking one way Madison didn’t necessarily accept it… he would think of other possibilities… and he did that in the case of the constitution… he thought the danger in a republic is that one faction will dominate and oppress everyone else…” I had to stifle my laughter and asked Andrew if I should just interrupt her and start shouting about how insanely hypocritical this is. I thought about how much people preach about the founding fathers while imprisoning those dissidents the constitution was designed to protect. I thought of Chelsea Manning, John Kiriakou, and Edward Snowden… and I was mad. A few minutes later she happily spoke about how Madison would say “a government without opposition is little more than a monarchy” and yes, my head nearly exploded.

Finally, Dick opened the floor to take questions from the audience. Even though there were a million thoughts running through my brain, my hand shot up. There were two men going around asking people what their questions were to pre-screen and make sure it wasn’t offensive. I had to come up with something quick so I went with “What do you think is the most damage the Obama Administration has done to our Constitution?” they loved it, and handed me the mic.

What you cant see in the We Are Change video is that when she told me to finish what I was saying the security had already snatched my mic. People were whispering about me supporting terrorists, I think someone called me a liberal (I am NOT, and would happily call out Obama as well, if given the opportunity), and if looks could kill- I would most certainly be a goner. I had looked around the room and saw lots of people wearing pink and was crossing my fingers for allies who would follow up, but no such luck.

When she deflected my Kiriakou question by talking about Snowden, an obviously more polarizing name, and called him a traitor, I didn’t know whether to laugh or scream. I had just listened to this crazy duo talk about how great the constitution is for an hour. Who is the real traitor, the person who pretends to champion it or the person who risked everything to defend it?

As tempting as it was to defend Snowden though, I had promised a friend I would try to bring up Omar Khadr, the 27 year old who was only 15 when US soldiers tried to murder him before illegally imprisoning him in Bagram Prison- followed by Guantanamo Bay where they got a false confession through 8 years of torture.

“The torture of Omar included prolonged sleep deprivation, beating, suspension from his wrists while his wounds were still fresh, threats of gang rape, hooding, intimidation by dogs, forced nakedness, body cavity searches, forced feeding, short-shackling in stress positions, prolonged solitary confinement, cell conditions of extreme cold, noise, constant light and withholding of medical treatment.” He was a child.

Lynne didn’t let me get that far. If someone would be so kind as to follow up at the next event Dick speaks at, I will make you cookies. War criminals should not be allowed to parade around receiving a heroes welcome on book tours while the real heroes are in prison or facing imprisonment. If mainstream media isn’t willing to put these people on the spot with real questions, we have to.

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