January 10, 2019 at 5:09 pm Leave a comment

I saw the movie ‘Vice’ about Vice-President Dick Cheney.  It was an impressive and disturbing movie.  Impressive because of its insight into the influence of the man and the way it was done which included some clever humour.  Disturbing in that the outcome of his influence affects the way US democracy functions today and the greater executive power the President is able to use.


The title ‘Vice’ was obviously chosen to reflect the ambiguous use of the word in the movie: vice in the sense of the Vice-President and vice in the sense of wicked behaviour.  The movie was a true story of a quiet man who came to be the power behind George W. Bush when he was President and in particular in regard to the response to the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001.  The wars initiated on Afghanistan and then Iraq were largely due to Cheney’s influence.  Related to this was the interpretation of the executive power of the President which meant the President could act with independence in the interests of national security.  This included wire-tapping people and the use of torture for the so called ‘war on terror.’  Cheney also enabled the turn to the right in the USA by changing the laws to allow right wing news stations to function without having to give fair coverage or even to provide facts.  Wealthy people and organisations were given reduced tax which naturally meant them contributing to the Republican party.  Cheney was very conservative which was evident in opposing measures in regard to climate change, gun control and welfare.  How such a man came to hold high positions in the US government culminating in his role as Vice-President which he manipulated to have influence like no other Vice-President was revealing and concerning.  The movie obviously also had an eye to the current President Trump and how he functions which would not have been possible without the changes Cheney brought in.


While the movie’s title ‘Vice’ was chosen because Dick Cheney was the Vice-President, the other meaning of vice in terms of immoral and wicked behaviour is what is most significant.  Cheney was challenged by his ambitious wife to make something of himself.  She wanted power and position achieved through him and gave him significant support.  He sought political power and saw his opportunity to exercise it especially as Vice-President to the unimpressive George W. Bush. How that power was used was vice for it was wicked in the way it disregarded usual procedures and led to immoral outcomes, most notably the deaths of over 600,000 civilians in Iraq not to mention the deaths of US military in Afghanistan and Iraq who carried out the wars there.


Vice in the case of Cheney was not a matter of open evil.  It was more a matter of asserting his own very conservative views and getting his way by gathering other like-minded people around him.  He believed it was in the best interests of the nation.  His approach was more dictatorial in nature than democratic but he had to be subtle to achieve his ends.


Vice is not a word in common usage any more.  Usually it refers to immoral activity in regard to sex, drugs and personal habits.  People joke about their vices in regard to indulging in certain foods or activities.  Vice as opposed to virtue is serious.  Virtue is another word not in common usage.  It is often taken to mean a strict approach to life that fails to enjoy what life has to offer.  Being virtuous implies not indulging in alcohol or sex or sugary food for example.  It is a pity in my view that this attitude to vice and virtue has become common.  When vice leads to a disregard for the truth and asserting one’s own biases the outcome is never good.  Cheney in convincing George W. Bush to invade Iraq had to fabricate the justifications of Iraq supporting terrorists and having weapons of mass destruction.  Despite no credible evidence these made up justifications were regarded as enough to invade Iraq without UN support.  Unfortunately, Tony Blair in the UK and John Howard in Australia readily joined the US led wars on Afghanistan and Iraq.  No weapons of mass destruction were found in Iraq and the invasions of these nations fostered rather than defeated terrorist groups.  Terrorist groups could appeal to the need to act against the West for its military invasions which caused so much death and destruction.  The world is a less safe place as a result.


From my Christian perspective Jesus calls us to follow him which is the way of truth, compassion and justice.    This involves giving consideration to those who will be affected by one’s actions, not only one’s own people but all people.  Jesus had a particular concern for the least and wanted those in power to act with justice and consideration.  Cheney believed he was acting to keep Americans safe.  He had no regard for the Iraqi people.  He fostered right wing news organisations with their opinion-based reporting.  This has led to President Trump’s negative approach to the news media that question him by speaking of ‘fake news’ and ‘alternative facts.’ He enjoys rallies in which he can assert his views to his own supporters.  Jesus tells us we are accountable not just to our own people but to God who will finally judge us. We are called to be people of virtue and character who follow the way of Jesus.  God’s Spirit is given to assist us to make good choices and keep them.  We do so as part of a Christian community that needs to be open to the guidance of God’s Spirit, that listens to various voices before coming to decisions.  From our character flows our moral behaviour.  Our character is formed by the choices we make, the habits we develop and the people we look to.  May we primarily look to Jesus and those who demonstrate they are close to his way.





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Peacemaking Conference Statement Australia Day 2019

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