Wednesday, August 15, 2007

A Different Perspective on the Mineta Claims

Is offered by Stephen Hayes, who's writing a book on Vice President Cheney.

A little more than an hour later, Mr. Cheney was seated below the presidential seal at a long conference table in the Presidential Emergency Operations Center, better known as the bunker. When an aide told Mr. Cheney that another passenger airplane was rapidly approaching the White House, the vice president gave the order to shoot it down. The young man was so surprised at Mr. Cheney's immediate response that he asked again. Mr. Cheney reiterated the order. Thinking that Mr. Cheney must have misunderstood the question, the military aide asked him a third time.

The vice president responded evenly. "I said yes."

Obviously this clashes a bit with Norman Mineta's testimony, not on substance, but on style. Mineta and Hayes agree that the question was asked three times, and that the order was a shoot-down order (although Mineta was not aware of that fact at the time. But Cheney's "even" response clashes a bit with Mineta remembering him having "whipped his neck around" and saying "Of course the orders still stand. Have you heard anything to the contrary?"

Maybe it's because we're so familiar with the Mineta testimony, and maybe because the scene as described by him is more dramatic, but I confess that I find Mineta's version more likely, even given that we know his timeframe is off.

Update: I want to explain my thoughts a little better. Mineta's testimony is more believable on the emotions and the discussion than on the time for the obvious reason that Mineta's times are the only ones off. I can absolutely believe that a young military man would want to confirm as often as is feasible the astonishing orders he was receiving: to shoot down an America civilian passenger plane. And I can absolutely believe that Cheney, suddenly in a crisis situation and forced to make split-second decisions would get furious if those decisions were not immediately acted upon. It's hard enough to make those decisions without wondering if they're being relayed no questions asked, especially by what is by all accounts a junior military man.

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