I've read maybe hundreds of stories trying to figure out how the US slid into torturing-nation status, what motivated people at the top to do what they did, etc. The picture is still coming into focus. One clarifying point that Lawrence Wilkerson really drove home on Rachel Maddow a couple of nights ago, though, was that Cheney is a "fearful" man. Wilkerson was practically challenging Cheney to a street fight, saying that his five deferments during Vietnam were a result of Cheney's fear of service, or you know, getting anywhere close to one of those "war" things he's so fond of advocating. The charge seems to fit, and not just because I think Cheney is a bad guy (although I do).
Think about the scenario after the 2001 terrorist attacks as Hubie Brown might recount it (hat tip to Bill Simmons here): "You're Dick Cheney. According to everything we know, you're one of the best-prepared men in the world to face a disaster or attack. You were doing end-of-the-world preparedness drills at secret locations in the desert before a lot of us were born."
Sticking with the Hubie voice: "Now a major attack happens. Boom! This is what you're supposed to be prepared for. This is what George Bush is counting on you to deal with. But you know something no one else realizes - all your training was geared toward a threat from the Soviets. They're gone now. Your training is all totally irrelevant. But George and the rest of the team still think you know what's up."
"So what do you do? You're scared. You missed the signs that an attack was coming and now Americans are dead. You start grasping at straws. A friend of a friend of your dentist's golf partner's aunt told you that Mohammed Atta met with Iraqi agents in Prague. So you go with that. Richard Clarke and others tell you there's no way that happened, but that's all you've got. You're supposed to be the tough guy, the guy who knows everything, and that's all you've got."
"Your instinct is to bomb something - these terrorists have to have a base, right? - but Rumsfeld says there are no targets in Afghanistan. You're still panicking. Iraq. The targets have got to be in Iraq. But there's no proof. So now what? Do you torture this Zubaydah guy hoping he can give you something? If you're Dick Cheney in this situation, you go with that play every time."
The Hubie explanation resonates for me. Anybody else?