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Is Dick Cheney President Obamas political doppelganger?

Long, long ago, when I were a mere university undergrad, they used to talk a lot in my English Lit department about “doubles” and doppelgängers. I was always reading essays called “Doubles in the longer tales of Edgar Allen Poe” or “Mirroring as metaphor in Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter”. Happy days.

Not coming from a family of literature professors, this will have been when I first came across the word doppelgänger, one of those words you know you’re going to love for life. It’s a Germanic term for ghostly double or lookalike. Perfect.

So, leaving aside the (considerable) physical differences, I want to ask: is Dick Cheney Barack Obama’s doppelgänger? He certainly appears to be mirroring and haunting the US president these days.

When Obama gave his big the-future-of-Guantánamo speech last month, who should have a counterposing “Je ne regrette rien” speech at almost exactly the same time on the same day? You guessed it. (In point of fact, as I was saying in a post yesterday, it was actually Obama who moved his speech to go head-to-head with Cheney, but I don’t want to ruin a good metaphor).

Anyway, with today’s papers full of write-ups of Obama’s “carefully crafted” (Times) / “pitch-perfect” (Independent) / “brave” (Guardian) speech in Egypt, what do I find on the cover of today’s Spectator? This: a picture of Cheney bashing Obama beneath the headline: “Apologise for torture? ‘That’s not appropriate’”.

In an “exclusive” interview with the great duck hunter himself, Cheney takes several pot shots at the new guy in the White House. He’s relentless! As it happens, he doesn’t say much about torture, but implies that Obama is wrong to be in Europe and the Middle East “apologising” for anything.  (Not even Abu Ghraib?)

Staying with the (faint) German theme, Obama’s meeting with Angela Merkel today has apparently brought no clear commitment from Germany over whether it can offer human rights protection to Guantánamo prisoners who are “cleared for release” but can’t go back to home countries for safety reasons.

Yesterday, meanwhile, there was news that the EU has come to an arrangement with the US over GITMO prisoner re-settlement. So, it could be that the log-jam is moving at last (Amnesty, for its part, is saying that the USA should also be taking prisoners into the USA: ie it shouldn’t be a case of getting EU countries to do what it will not).

But to double back to doppelgängers! I’m beginning to think there’s something to this Cheney haunting Obama thing. Perhaps International Relations courses are already setting essay questions like “Is Dick Cheney President Obama’s political doppelgänger?” If they’re not, they ought to be. Discuss! 

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Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
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