Cheney guilty of war crimes - says Colin Powell's chief of staff.
Vice-president Dick Cheney's burden on the Bush administration grew heavier yesterday after a former senior US state department official said he could be guilty of a war crime over the abuse of prisoners.
Lawrence Wilkerson, who served as chief of staff to secretary of state Colin Powell from 2002 to 2005, singled out Mr Cheney in a wide-ranging political assault on the BBC's Today programme.
Mr Wilkerson said that in an internal administration debate over whether to abide by the Geneva conventions in the treatment of detainees, Mr Cheney led the argument "that essentially wanted to do away with all restrictions".
Asked whether the vice-president was guilty of a war crime, Mr Wilkerson replied: "Well, that's an interesting question - it was certainly a domestic crime to advocate terror and I would suspect that it is ... an international crime as well." In the context of other remarks it appeared he was using the word "terror" to apply to the systematic abuse of prisoners.
The Washington Post last month called Mr Cheney the "vice-president for torture" for his demand that the CIA be exempted from a ban on "cruel, inhuman and degrading" treatment of detainees.
Mr Wilkerson, a former army colonel, also said he had seen increasing evidence that the White House had manipulated pre-war intelligence on Iraq to make its case for the invasion. He said: "You begin to wonder was this intelligence spun? Was it politicised? Was it cherry-picked? Did, in fact, the American people get fooled? I am beginning to have my concerns."
Mr Cheney has been under fire for his role in assembling evidence of weapons of mass destruction. Mr Wilkerson told the Associated Press that the vice-president must have sincerely believed Iraq could be a spawning ground for terrorism because "otherwise I have to declare him a moron, an idiot or a nefarious bastard".
Such charges have kept the Bush administration on the defensive for several months. Mr Bush yesterday repeated his earlier assertion that the US "does not torture and that's important for people around the world to realise".
You know that there's either some people who have been badly treated by the Bush administration or that it's in deep trouble when you get such a senior figure as Lawrence Wilkerson saying that Cheney is ultimately responsible and is very likely guilty of war crimes. While Colin Powell was by no means the liberal that he was made out to be (he had a chief role in writing the original neo-con defence strategy back in 92) he was certainly a restraining role on the President for a while. He was gradually side-lined by the likes of Cheney and Rumsfeld, resulting in his eventual departure from the administration following Bush's re-election. It seems unlikely that Wilkerson would be saying such things unless he has at least something of Powell's approval. Is this then Powell's revenge, or a case of someone having a change of heart when faced with the disaster that Iraq has become? It's obviously impossible to tell, but this continues to confirm that it was the men at the very top who said that torture type techniques could be authorised. They blamed lower-level officers and misunderstandings for the Abu Ghraib scandal. Now that more and more proof is coming to light, it seems unlikely that anyone will stop digging until they find the proof for what many have thought from the beginning - that torture or the tearing up of the Geneva conventions was condoned or even authorised by those at the very top of the Bush administration.
The full transcript of the interview with Wilkerson is here.