Vice, BBC 2, BBC iPlayer, Writer and Director Adam McKay.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m0011p18/vice

Described as comedy-drama, a biographical film about former US vice-president Dick Cheney. Christian Bale won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of the most powerful vice-president in modern history. There is a contemporary joke that nobody is ever called Dick, but that’s about it.

There is nothing funny about Vice. At a push, I could probably name most of the President since the first wold war since it mostly involves saying Roosevelt over and over.

Vice President can become Presidents. General Eisenhower and Harry Truman spring to mind. And if you take a circular route, Republican, Vice President Richard Nixon finally got his feet under the desk at the Oval Office. Most were in agreement Vice was no more than a token job. A bit like being the President’s wife. Good for photoshoots and opening fetes.

Kamala Harris’s power, in contrast, lies her ability to cast a tie-breaking vote in a split Senate. But really, she’s waiting for Joe Biden to die so she can step into a real job.

Robert A. Caro shows how Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) spiralled into depression when his attempts to control the Senate were rebuffed and his attempt to manipulate the new American President, and darling of the media, John F. Kennedy were swatted aside with a smile. The man that had once controlled Congress and Senate reduced to a comic figure that was left out of briefings in the new Camelot.

Vice follows the path of an American boy made good. Lynne Cheney (Amy Adams) telling him after a couple of drink driving convictions and barroom fights he was on the road to nowhere. He better ship up or ship out. He did both, while staying out of Vietnam and the armed forces on deferments.

Like LBJ, Cheney had a talent for politics. In one scene, he asks another intern what party  guest-speaker Donald Rumsfeld (Steve Carell) belongs to. When told he’s a Republican, he says he’s a Republican too.

When working for Rumsfeld as an intern he asks him Cheney what he believes in. Here’s the joke part of the film. Rumsfeld slaps him on the back and laughs so long and hard, the viewer knows it’s a joke. The purpose of power is power.

Realpolitik. Rumsfeld points to a closed door. He tells Cheney behind it is Nixon and Defense Secretary Henry Kissinger are having an unofficial meeting. When the meeting was finished tens of thousands of Vietnamese would die. Subtext. They are plotting mass murderer.

Drawing a line in the sand, Cheney gave his support to gay marriages since one of his two daughters, Mary (Alison Pill) came out as gay.  

There were other shifting lines in the sand. He was a hawkish Secretary of Defense (1989–1993) following the precepts of the Eisenhower Doctrine—any (oil rich) Middle Eastern country could request American economic assistance or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression. 1st August 1990, Iraqi President Saddam Hussein sent Iraqi forces into neighbouring oil-rich Kuwait.

President George W Bush (senior) unleashed coalition (mainly US) forces in Desert Storm under the command of General Norman Schwarzkopf. February 24. Within 100 hours, Iraqi forces had been expelled from Kuwait in the ground war. With aerial dominance, they were sitting ducks.

[Not in the film, but worth quoting Cheney’s perceptive response to the invasion of Baghdad, in the first Gulf War: how many American dead is Saddam worth?]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dick_Cheney

 ‘Because if we’d gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn’t have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq. Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it – eastern Iraq – the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq. The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families – it wasn’t a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth? Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.’

Vice Presidency (2001–2009).

We all know about what’s now called 9/11.

But if you asked me who the Vice President was at the time, I couldn’t have answered. The tone of the film is set early. George W. Bush (junior) (Sam Rockwell) is in the air metaphorically and literally when the planes hit The Twin Towers. Dick Cheney takes charge of the 9/11 fallout.  

But Dick Cheney had always been—more of less—in charge. The coup that LBJ had attempted had failed, but Cheney was the real power in American politics. The dithering George W Bush President, but the Vice President pulling the strings. Ironically, the power grab going in the other direction. The American President grabbing more executive power as the Twin Towers fell. Extra-ordinary rendition. Repealing the Geneva Convension. Spying on American citizens.

The invasion of Afghanistan was payback for 9/11.

Payback for his old bosses at Halliburton Corporation by adding billions of dollars to shareholder value. The invasion of Iraq’s oil-rich fields with evidence from a list drawn up before Saddam Hussein was found to have mass weapons of destruction—he didn’t have and links to Osama Bin Laden’s al-Qaida hidden network in the paperwork with the weapons of mass destruction.  

Cheney, a hawk abroad, and conservative at home. No surprise with his fortune coming from a fossil fuel, Times 500 Company, he helped in the pushback for the ideas of global warming. He helped reframe the debate, through think-tanks sponsored by Times 500 companies as simply climate change, which sound much more palatable and less threatening. The kind of idea picked up the moron’s moron.

Cheney endorsed Trump in the 2016 Presidential election, but didn’t shut his eyes to how he got elected. Russian interference, or what he moron’s moron would call Russian help from their cyber networks, Cheney classified as ‘an act of war’. But he’d also have to have declared war on that American institution Facebook that cashed the cyber cheques made in Russia and created the images of hate that polluted politics (from a very low base which Cheney’s think-tanks helped fuel) and still does.

The film ends with the viewer finding out the narrator of the film is the man that provided Cheney with a new heart after his failed. I guess they should have saved it and given it to someone more deserving. But money talks loudest. Worth a look, but don’t expect to giggle.  

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9/11: Inside the President’s War Room, BBC 1, BBC iPlayer, produced and directed by Adam Wishart.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/m000z8p5/911-inside-the-presidents-war-room

Hagiography (Literary & Literary Critical Terms) any biography that idealizes or idolizes its subject

Around 3000 United States citizens were killed in what has become known as 9/11. This is A Day in the Life of President George W. Bush.

A ticking clock. The rest is a history of good guys and bad guys, when 9/11 became shorthand for President George W. Bush can-do and holding a poster of Osman Bin Laden with a ‘Wanted: Dead or Alive’. it. BBC and Apple take us back to that day with archive footage and all the Republican big hitters that were talking heads paying lip service to their former boss: Vice-President Dick Cheney, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice, Senior Advisor and Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Ironically, Inside the President’s War Room was bookmarked by BBC 1, News at 10 and the chaotic scenes of US troops evacuating Afghanistan citizens ringing Kabul airport. In the twenty year war over $2 trillion had been spent, around 16 500 members of the US armed forces had been killed (and around 500 members of the British armed forces) with approximately ten times that numbered severally injured. With the average cost of one soldier stationed in Afghanistan estimated at around $1 million a year. Taliban spokesmen on New at 10 said they’d made more territorial gains than twenty years ago.

Civilian casualties are more difficult to estimate. Women and children figuring highly in any estimates of 171 000 to 360 000 dead. Multiply by ten for those injured.  Multiply by whatever figure you like to take into account the casualty rate in Iraq.

11th September 2001. 9.03am, President George W. Bush, is in Florida, (he was once Governor).  If you’d asked him what 9/11 was, he’d have looked bemused. He has that innate ability. But he was smiling as he listened to a teacher going through a presentation in front of seven-year-old schoolchildren. An aide whispers in the President’s ear.

Anyone that has read Robert A. Caro’s account of the ascent of Lyndon B. Johnston to the Presidency knows what happens after 9/11 was predictable. An algorithmic version of George W. Bush—even with the wonky technology of 2001, with Air Force One, for example frequently losing contact with ground signals and having to swoop over cities to pick up satellite signals and news footage—would have saved time. It would have been difficult for even a charismatic genius of John F. Kennedy standing to do any different, not go to war, even though in the Cuban Missile Crisis with nuclear Armageddon at stake, he cut a deal. But that was with bigger fry. This was just men in robes with boxcutters.  Caro argued, ‘power corrupts, but it also reveals.’ In the case of the moron’s moron, Trump, for example, it reveals a malignant evil that has diminished, but not gone away. Trump would have loved a war. Caro’s advice stands good then as it does now. ‘Turn every page and do the maths.’ Going to war in Afghanistan and Iraq was the easy part. No US President could afford not to. We’re still counting the cost.

‘I’m comfortable with the decision I made,’ former President George W. Bush tells the camera.

(Greg Palast documents how Democrat Presidential candidate, Al Gore, won the 2000-1 election, but another unfamiliar word, like ‘9/11’, entered the lexicon – ‘chad’. Let’s not confuse this with the scare tactics of the moron’s moron Trump. An appeal to the Supreme Court called for a recount of the votes in Florida.

Fast forward, just as the US Supreme Court trashed women’s right to abortion in Texas and by extension, Jane Doe is dead. But that’s an aside for women’s rights not in Afghanistan were the bad guys are pictured with bulky robes and marked out as Muslim and, therefore, other, likely to take women’s rights back to the seventh-century.)

Ernest Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises: ‘How did you go bankrupt? Two ways. Gradually, then suddenly.’

Andrew O’Hagan (2015) The Illuminations.

I didn’t know Andrew O’Hagan had Scottish roots and writes about Scotland. That puts him in the fast-lane of must-read books. The plot for The Illuminations is simple. Anne, aged 82, is losing her marbles. She’s in a sheltered-housing complex in Saltcoats. Her neighbour Maureen, aged 68, keeps an eye out for her. They’re friends, but even Jackie, the warden admits there’s only so much they can do. They’ve taped off Anne’s cooker so she can’t use it, in case she burns herself, but she’ll need more care than they can give.

‘Anne was fine most days, but she was changing. The rules at Lochraza Court stated clearly that any resident incapable of working a kettle would have to be moved to a nursing home…

Anne used to read lots of books. Somebody said that she was a well-known photographer years ago and Maureen could believe it. You know by the way Anne arranged her lamps…She had the kind of rugs you couldn’t buy in Saltcoats.’

O’Hagan uses indirect narration and follows the voice of his character, the nosey neighbour, Maureen, and tells the reader her thoughts (look at those rugs, they’re really something) without the attributable phrase, she thought or felt. The omniscient narrator of nineteenth-century fiction is given short-shrift. Maureen mediates the action, and in a screen-play this would be indicated by a voice-over. But without the limitations of a first-person narrator, who is supposed to be telling the story, because the baton of narration can pass to other characters. The language they use will reflect who they are and what they are.

Captain Luke Campbell, aged 29, is serving with a Scottish regiment in Afghanistan, and he is Anne’s grandson. When the point of view shift to the douchebags he serves with such as teenagers Privates Dooley and Lennox a more humorous tone is adopted. Far from home, the boys don’t talk in complete sentence or use proper English. They talk about their fucken cars and their birds. I’m not sure how true the dialect is, but it seems authentic enough.

Maureen is trying to decipher the mystery that is Anne. And Captain Luke Campbell faces existential problems of what he’s doing with his life and what’s he’s doing in the army, especially since he’s got artistic tendencies and reads books like his gran. His father was an officer killed in Northern Ireland, and he’s not sure if he joined up to prove a point. But he’s little doubt that despite all the government rhetoric of winning hearts and minds, there’s something shameful about being part of an occupying army in Afghanistan. He quotes Kim and Rudyard Kipling’s The Great Game.  

What brings Luke Campbell home to take his gran for one final fling at the Blackpool Illuminations of the title is a war crime. Major Scullion, Luke’s commanding officer, had gone rogue and off-track. While delivering a water turbine he’s organised a trip to see the remains of one of the great ancient civilisations. He’d taken a few of the army boys and Captain Jamal Rashid of the affiliated Afghanistan army to help translate. They’d been stoned by some local kids while attending a wedding and responded by opening fire. Rashid was killed after killing an Ayrshire soldier.  Mass murder was committed.

But under the latest legislation proposed by the Tory government this wouldn’t be a crime. The Geneva Convention null and void. Luke wouldn’t have anything much to worry about. And Major Scullion needn’t face court martial or need to commit suicide.

The commanding officer of C-Company, and his troops, an American Division of the United States army which entered the hamlet of My Lai in Vietnam on the 16th March 1968, on a ‘search and destroy’ mission which killed an estimated 500 women, children and old men, would not be prosecuted for murder. But since they also raped women and girls—before they murdered them—they could be prosecuted for that.  

Fact can be stranger than fiction. Luke, obviously, not a Tory, resigns from the army, as it’s the only honourable thing to do. He helps peace together his gran’s fractured past and bring closure. I must admit dementia scares me more that death. And I have been more forgetful than normal. If I ever say anything good about the Tory Party and the little Trump, Johnson—shoot me. Poor people don’t count.