Dick Cheney: Portrait of a Sadist

What kind of person seems to insist on torturing other people for political purposes and on blowing the heads of off animals for seemingly no reason at all?

So far, we still don’t really know why Dick Cheney and his minions insisted on torturing prisoners, except that it wasn’t about ticking bombs and no serious intelligence professional thinks that it was about getting good information. Maybe it was for political purposes — to “prove” the Iraq-Al Qaeda link.

Or maybe it was just for the hell of it.

Remember, this is a man who relishes driving up to a pen in a limousine and blowing the heads off of defenseless animals.

I’m not necessarily against hunting if done in a sustainable way. Many hunters are genuine environmentalists. Many hunt for food, and there are those who hunt as a serious sporting venture. That is genuine hunting.

And then there is what Cheney does:

[U]nlike most of his fellow hunters across America, [Cheney] didn’t have to spend hours or even days tramping the fields and hedgerows in hopes of bagging a brace of birds for the dinner table. . . .

Upon his arrival at the exclusive Rolling Rock Club in Ligonier Township, gamekeepers released 500 pen-raised pheasants from nets for the benefit of him and his party. . . .

Bird-shooting operations offer pheasants, quail, partridges, and mallard ducks, often dizzying the birds and planting them in front of hunters or tossing them from towers toward waiting shotguns. There are, perhaps, more than 3,000 such operations in the United States, according to outdoor writer Ted Williams.

For canned hunts involving mammals, hunters can shoot animals native to given continents—everything from Addax to Zebra—within the confines of a fenced area, assuring the animals have no opportunity to escape. . . .

Farm-raised pheasants are about as wary as urban pigeons and shooting them is nothing more than live target practice, especially when they are released from a hill in front of 10 gunners hidden below in blinds—as Cheney and his party were.

Is this description accurate? I don’t know, and certainly the source — the Humane Society — has an axe to grind (I was about to say “has a dog in the fight,” but that didn’t seem appropriate.). But that doesn’t mean that their descriptions are inaccurate. If faced with assessing the credibility of Dick Cheney versus the Humane Society, it’s not a close call.

There is a pattern here. This is a man who seems at the very least to have little compunction in inflicting pain on other living creatures. Yes, I know: that doesn’t make him a “sadist.” Indeed, since Cheney was too cowardly ever to observe any of the torture sessions or even debate someone in public about it, it can’t be said that he actually gets pleasure out of watching suffering.

But what kind of person insists on torturing people for political purposes and on blowing the heads off defenseless animals for seemingly no reason at all?

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.