To get beneath the surface of the headlines to find out, I am re-posting a roundup of Cheney's background which I first published in February 2006 (slightly updated).
Most people know that Vice President Dick Cheney is former CEO of Halliburton, which makes billions of dollars a year from oil and primarily defense-related construction contracts (and that war and chaos increase Halliburton's profits, which in turn increase the value of Cheney's stock options). Most people also know that Cheney was secretary of Defense under George H. W. Bush.
Well-read people may know that Cheney was a congressman from Wyoming. Some even know that he was one of the founders of the Neocon think tank, Project for a New American Century.
But even well-informed people probably don't know that -- in the 70's -- Cheney was instrumental in generating fake intelligence exaggerating the Soviet threat in order to undermine coexistence between the U.S. and Soviet Union, which conveniently justified huge amounts of cold war spending. See also this article.
Have you heard that Cheney has been perhaps the leading advocate for strengthening the powers of the White House to the point of monarchy for at least 20 years?
And did you know that Cheney has been instrumental in creating and practicing Continuity of Government measures for the last 20 years or so. "COG" measures were actually implemented on 9/11.
Or that newly-released documents show that Cheney was involved in debates concerning illegal wiretaps 30 years ago?
Did you catch that Cheney is the guy who pushed for torture? Or that he was the guy who pressured the Justice Department lawyers to write memos saying torture was legal? Or that Or that Cheney's the one who actually led the briefings of lawmakers to defend torture? Or that the former director of the CIA accused Cheney of overseeing American torture policies ? Or that Colin Powell's former chief of staff stated that Dick Cheney is guilty of war crimes for his role in facilitating torture?
And you may have heard that the Energy Task Force chaired by Cheney prior to 9/11 collected maps of Iraqi oil fields and potential suitors for that oil. But did you know that a secret document written by the National Security Council on February 3, 2001 directed the N.S.C. staff to cooperate fully with the Energy Task Force as it considered the “melding” of two seemingly unrelated areas of policy: “the review of operational policies towards rogue states,” such as Iraq, and “actions regarding the capture of new and existing oil and gas fields”? In other words, it is difficult to brush off Cheney's Energy Task Force's examination of Iraqi oil maps as a harmless comparison of American energy policy with known oil reserves because the N.S.C. explicitly linked the Task Force, oil, and regime change. Indeed, a former senior director for Russian, Ukrainian, and Eurasian affairs at the N.S.C. said “if this little group was discussing geostrategic plans for oil, it puts the issue of war in the context of the captains of the oil industry sitting down with Cheney and laying grand, global plans” (see also this essay).
And guess who was largely responsible for generating fake intelligence about Iraq in order to justify the war?
And guess which American politician called the shots in the failed Iraq war according to the former British Defense Secretary?
And guess who was was probably responsible for outing CIA agent Valerie Plame?
According to to the Pulitzer prize-winning reporter who uncovered the Iraq prison torture scandal and the massacre against Vietnamese civilians - Seymour Hersh - Cheney was also the main guy helping to fund groups which the U.S. claims are terrorists (see confirming articles here and here)
Hersh also says that the military ran an "Executive Assassination Ring" throughout the Bush years which reported directly to Cheney.
And guess who is the prime architect of efforts to bomb Iran? (And see this).
A top official at the State Department stated there was a secret "cabal" involving Cheney, and that Cheney and a handful of others had hijacked the country's foreign policy.
Oh, and Cheney was apparently in charge of ALL 5 of the war games which occurred on 9/11 and coordinated the government's "response" to the attacks. See this CNN article; this essay; and this.
And Cheney is the one who monitored flight 77 for many miles as it approached the Pentagon and -- when a military man asked "do the orders still stand?" -- Cheney responded affirmatively:
"The plane is 50 miles out. The plane is 30 miles out." And when it got down to, "The plane is 10 miles out," the young man also said to the vice president, "Do the orders still stand?" And the vice president turned and whipped his neck around and said, "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?"Watch the video for yourself (and see this essay).
Heck of a job, Dick.
Postscript: Of course, Cheney has not acted alone in his actions. But he's been an important player in many different arenas and is, perhaps, the most widely-known figure who has had a hand in all of the above-described events. Cheney might not be the ultimate Mr. Big in these crimes, but he appears to have gotten his hands dirtier -- and to be closer to the true seat of power -- even than Mr. Bush.
In addition, while Cheney was not solely responsible for the above-listed actions, he hired many of the people who caused the mischief, such as the chief architect of the Iraq war - Paul Wolfowitz.
See also this round-up of Cheney's actions.