Phantom of the Opera


There comes a time in every horror story where the true face of evil must make itself known. In fact, in every narrative, the revelation of the Man Behind the Curtain is a poignant moment. In Oz, the wizard is finally shown to be a tired old man in the corner manipulating machinery to create the impression of power. When Zod and his cohorts leveled the White House in Superman II, he saw through the stand-in for the President. 'No one who commands so many could capitulate so quickly.' The real president comes out from a washroom next to the Oval Office--maybe the one Bill and Monica made famous--who knows?--and says 'I'm the one they're protecting.' But what if the man in the corner is the actual Oz? What if the cover story is the bumbling fool, and when you pull back the curtain the actual embodiment of evil itself is staring you right in the face? This was the reaction I had when I saw just a glimpse of Dick Cheney during the Vice Presidential debate on television. The man breathes fire, as is well known, and is known to munch on a small child for breakfast each morning. His propensity for lying needs no help from hidden earpieces; he suffers no dry drunk anxiety, nor any lack of self-esteem from being misunderestimated or hated by most of the world. He is not out to please anyone, and has no stock of frat boy jokes to make reporters smile. He knows he has access to information most people are not privy to, and assumes he is beyond reproach in whatever he does. When he declined service in Vietnam , it was not because his daddy pulled strings to get him in the Texas Air National Guard; and there is no record, fuzzy or otherwise, of him being too coked-out to fly a plane. He simply 'had other priorities, and when the priority of not going to Vietnam demanded that he be a father, Lynne was in a family way right quick, and Dick got his 3A deferment in her first trimester. Thank God for other priorities. His is the patient, curdled scowl of the PNAC, the human face of the oiligarchy whose claws are now so tightly clutching to American power. Burdened by an arrogance even he can barely stand, his annoyance is permanently etched in the crooked smirk and the Lon Chaney tilt of his head. Poor John Edwards, whose momma raised him too well, just can't seem to bring himself to the awareness that you may have to break the rules when you find yourself face to face with Satan. With Halliburton Light Crude coursing through his veins, Dick needn't break a sweat even when he's repeating the same tired lies he's been pumping for most of his career. Naturally, he is unruffled when presented with the reality that nobody in the world buys it--he won't back down from hiss absurd insistence on some sort of link between 9/11 and Saddam Hussein. In the face of Cheney's exasperatingly criminal mind, Edwards is at a loss. When your biggest asset is your smile, it's hard to handle an opponent who thinks nothing of pissing you off. I waited in vain for Edwards to start channeling Dr. Seuss, and stand up and reveal to the world the depth of Cheney's mendacity: 'Your heart is full of unwashed socks, your soul is full of gunk, Mr. Griiiiiiiinch!' Alas, it was not to be. Not just because the format of these so-called debates--although they are marginally less straitjacketed than the presidential model--makes it impossible. If there were much to debate between the two major parties, the Commission on Presidential Debates has pretty much taken care of that. And there is also the handicap that so much of the imperial mission is common to both parties; so of course, when Cheney spat out his sideways snarl that Kerry and Edwards are 'not credible on Iraq,' Edwards dutifully responded by repeating Kerry's promise that they would 'find terrorists wherever they are and kill them, before they have the chance to do harm.' Yikes. But most of my disappointment stemmed from the growing realization that Edwards is neither Theodore Geisel nor Boris Karloff, and expecting him to come right out and say that Cheney is 'a three decker toadstool and sauerkraut sandwich with arsenic saauuuuuuce' may have been setting my sights too high. For the most part, Cheney got away with it all--again. And you couldn't help but see the outline of the script Bush was supposed to be following the other night: keep hinting at Saddam/Al Qaeda, keep bluffing about Iraq and Afghanistan going swimmingly, question your opponent's patriotism, say he's dishonoring the sacrifice of brave Iraqi soldiers, and on and on. So what if your own staff wrote the speech delivered by CIA stooge Allawi before Congress--throw that on the fire too, and accuse the other side of being tactless for not giving him a standing ovation. Cheney rarely bares his teeth on camera, and it is almost always off the Senate floor when he tells opponents to 'Go fuck yourself.' True, Cheney is not the entire Bush administration. Nor is any junta, not even the Bush cartel, capable of pulling all the strings necessary to keep the Empire humming. Still, ironically for the Bush crowd, cardiac patient-in-chief Cheney is its heart and soul. Americans got a glimpse inside the undisclosed location that is the mind of Dick Cheney, and a good whiff of the stench that hovers above his neocon fantasy view of the world. It should be enough to make people run for the exits. But then, it should have been enough a long time ago. Cue organ music?

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Daniel Patrick Welch's picture
Columns on STR: 15

Writer, singer, linguist and activist Daniel Patrick Welch lives and writes in Salem, Massachusetts, with his wife, Julia Nambalirwa-Lugudde. Together they run The Greenhouse School. His website is at