Sunday, February 25, 2007

The Totally Twisted Logic of Vice

Cheney debunks himself

Shortly after the first Gulf War, then-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney was a little sensitive to charges that he failed to “finish the job” against Iraq. More than a few hawks thought that Cheney and the other Bush administration dropped the ball when it had the opportunity to take out Saddam but chose not to.

In a 1991 speech, Cheney delivered a rather defensive speech on the subject, noting the intense sectarian rivalries that dominate Iraqi society and the likely inability to maintain stability in Baghdad. As for replacing Saddam with a democracy, Cheney asked his audience, “How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there? How long does the United States military have to stay to protect the people that sign on for the government, and what happens to it once we leave?”

Cheney also said:

“The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one in terms of what we’d have to do once we got there. You’d probably have to put some new government in place. It’s not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you’d have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who’s going to govern in Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire.”

The ‘91 Cheney sure was smart, wasn’t he?

To his credit, ABC News’ Jonathan Karl sat down with Cheney in Australia today for a fairly wide-ranging interview, and asked the Vice President about his remarks from 16 years ago.

Cheney’s response was not reassuring.

Karl: Back in 1991, you talked about how military action in Iraq would be the classic definition of a quagmire. Have you been disturbed to see how right you were? Or people certainly said that you were exactly on target in your analysis back in 1991 of what would happen if the U.S. tried to go in —

Cheney: Well, I stand by what I said in ‘91. But look what’s happened since then — we had 9/11.

(There it is again; freakin' 9/11; the cause of all stupidity, death and destruction in the world today!)

We’ve found ourselves in a situation where what was going on in that part of the globe and the growth and development of the extremists, the al Qaeda types that are prepared to strike the United States demonstrated that we weren’t safe and secure behind our own borders. We weren’t in Iraq when we got hit on 9/11. But we got hit in ‘93 at the World Trade Center, in ‘96 at Khobar Towers, or ‘98 in the East Africa embassy bombings, 2000, the USS Cole. And of course, finally 9/11 right here at home. They continued to hit us because we didn’t respond effectively, because they believed we were weak. They believed if they killed enough Americans, they could change our policy because they did on a number of occasions. That day has passed. That all ended with 9/11.

If someone can explain how and why this makes sense, I’m anxious to hear it. White House critics like to joke about the Bush gang overusing “9/11 changed everything” as a rationalization that justifies anything, but Cheney’s comments today seem to be unusually vapid.

He “stands by” what he said in 1991? Maybe Cheney is confused about what the phrase “stands by” means, but it suggests he still agrees with the remarks he made when he insisted that invading and occupying Iraq would be a “classic definition of a quagmire.” In the next breath, however, there’s 9/11.

It seems, in all sincerity, that Cheney was arguing that the 9/11 attacks justify the quagmire he predicted 16 years ago. Why? Just because.

If Cheney had said he was wrong in 1991, there would at least be something resembling coherence here. He thought Iraq would be a mess if we invaded, but we invaded, and lo and behold, everything is going great.

But that’s not what he said. Cheney argued that he was right before and right now, despite the fact that the two Cheneys appear to contradict each other.

I’m starting to think the Vice President isn’t well.

....and the truth shall set us free.

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