Amnesty Activists Surprise Cheney at His 'Today Show' Appearance

August 31, 2011

Closing shot after Cheney's Today Show interview

By Stephanie Velasco, Field Organizing Assistant for the Northeast Region

(New York, 8/30/11) I feel a bit like I’m wading through a dream world today. Maybe it’s because I—like several others who accompanied me at the Today Show—have been awake since around 3am. Or maybe it’s because I really am drifting into my own dream world where the idea of accountability for torture seems like an utterly simple task. After all, people are tweeting and blogging about it, so a concrete resolution must be soon to follow, right? Somebody pinch me, please.

Unfortunately, here’s the pinch (or the “kick” for all you Inception-ites out there): Former Vice President Dick Cheney and former President George W. Bush have both stated that they endorsed the use of waterboarding as an “enhanced interrogation technique”. They have both openly admitted to authorizing these practices, and yet neither one of them has been brought to a court room for committing these crimes.

And as with any worthwhile dream, there’s another layer: When I stood at the Today Show and held up my sign, I was soon approached by a brusque NBC staff person. The other activists’ signs were snatched out of view (caught on camera), and we were ordered—in no uncertain terms—to leave the premises. While we weren’t expecting a warm welcome from the Today Show, we certainly didn’t anticipate such an abrasive reception. The truth of the matter is, the Today Show people were just doing their jobs. It’s the brash animosity from Cheney supporters online that has been most unnerving.

As the adrenaline high from being on television starts to wear off, I look back at what was really accomplished that morning. Yes, it’s great that Amnesty’s message of accountability for torture was spread to a national audience. And yes, I’m thrilled that the buzz around Cheney’s involvement in war crimes continues to build. There’s no doubt I’ll go to sleep tonight feeling like I helped the good guys chalk up a victory.

But when we wake up, we’ll all still face the same dark reality that injustice is not just a shadow cowering on the edges. In fact it is the proud, unapologetic tenors of men like Cheney that strengthen and embolden the bogeyman of impunity. Unless we keep up our momentum and ensure the elevated voices are the ones for justice, we could face a new nightmarish reality in which torture is legitimized and even commended.

So for today, thank you to everyone who helped speak out against torture. It’s not every day that we get a chance like this to make our voices heard. We’ve got our work cut out for us tomorrow.