In the Woods With Dick Cheney and a Gun


And then Dick Cheney shot someone. It was Saturday, February 11. He didn’t do it on purpose. He thought he was shooting at quail. But there wasn’t any quail, there was just a 78-year-old lawyer in a bright orange vest. Dick Cheney shot him in the face.

They were on a 50,000-acre ranch, one of the largest private properties in Texas. Katharine Armstrong, who owns the ranch, said Harry Whittington, who was shot in the face, did not announce, did not say, “Hey, it’s me, I’m coming up.” Which is protocol. So as the lawyer stepped out of the brush the birds flew and Dick Cheney turned and fired. There was no time for diplomacy, no time to wait, take a good look at the vest, colored by blood lust and spackled in sunlight. Because if you wait too long you don’t get the bird. There are consequences for not firing your weapons; those tasty little beasts might fly away.

If Cheney is right, and he shoots the bird, there are feathers and pieces of beak and the stringy innards caught in the branches, but that’s not what happened. He did not achieve his objective.

Here’s the weird thing. Katharine Armstrong is presenting the evidence that Harry Whittington didn’t follow protocol. But how the hell would she know? Who told Katharine that Harry didn’t announce? Who is complicit in this narrative? Why would we take her at her word without knowing where she received her information? Harry leaves the group. He is between the other hunters and the vice president. Maybe Cheney hears him, maybe he doesn’t. Only Harry knows whether he announced or did not. It seems unlikely that he didn’t.

There was an ambulance there and medical technicians. They were with the vice president. They always are. Harry was airlifted to the Christus Spohn Memorial Hospital where he is listed in stable condition but housed in intensive care.

It’s scary and obvious how similar this is to America’s invasion of Iraq. We had to go into Iraq immediately because they could mobilize their nuclear weapons within hours and their secret programs were moments away from completing an arsenal of radioactive invasion deterrent. When it turned out there were no weapons of mass destruction it wasn’t our fault. After all, everybody thought Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. After all, Harry didn’t follow protocol. We had to go in right away. There was no time to let the weapons inspectors finish their work. Guide those missiles into Baghdad, burn down the sky, turn quickly and fire or you will miss the bird. And when tens of thousands of people die because of a mistake don’t ever take responsibility for it. After all, he didn’t follow protocol. How were we to know Saddam didn’t have weapons of mass destruction? Saddam was not cooperating. Harry brought it on himself.

Let’s say you are responsible for more than 2,000 American casualties; should you be allowed to walk armed through the woods? At what point do you lose your hunting license? The worst thing is that a person who has responsibility for a blunder that has already caused so much death is allowed to carry a shotgun. A shotgun! I don’t believe that Harry didn’t follow protocol. I see no reason why I should. I won’t accuse Harry of not following protocol. But I will accuse him of not reading the news. Did he have any idea the danger he was in? He was wearing a bright orange vest. He was in the woods with Dick Cheney and Dick Cheney had a gun.

Stephen Elliott lives online at