Gaslighting -- a form of mental abuse in which information is twisted/spun, selectively omitted to favor the abuser, or false information is presented with the intent of making victims doubt their own memory, perception and sanity.
Once again our abusive ex-vice president, Dick Cheney has offered his insights on the supposedly lugubrious state of our country under President Obama. And once again, they bear no relation to reality. More than this, they are a shameless attempt to impart on Americans his warped version of events over the last 14 years. This is hardly surprising, of course. The Bushies always had a preternatural aversion to truth, which for eight years they viewed as the most malleable of substances, like putty to be contorted to fit wherever they needed it.
In an interview this week with Playboy, Cheney took aim at Obama and, as is his wont, misfired badly. For Cheney, the man tasked with building anew atop the ruins left by his scorched-earth politics hasn't adequately cleaned up the mess he left behind. By extension, Cheney is telling the country that by electing and reelecting Obama, we got it wrong and should pine for the days of the Bush administration because we never had it so good. Of course the truth is that by virtually every conceivable measure, the United States is far better off than it was when Cheney mercifully left office for good.
But that hasn't stopped him from frequently trying to gaslight us by showing up unannounced and unwelcome in an effort to convince us -- and maybe himself -- that he was right for us all along.
In his interview with James Rosen of Playboy, Cheney lamented what had become of Iraq, while omitting and manipulating key facts:
"I think with respect to the situation in Iraq, his precipitous withdrawal and refusal to leave any stay-behind forces, to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqis, was a huge mistake; we are paying a price for it now. He’s having to go back in now, and the guy who campaigned on the basis of bring the boys home and get out of Iraq is now redeploying forces to Iraq."
It's easy to be overwhelmed by the ironies here, which would be laughable were they not so maddening. It was after all Cheney who fervently supported the invasion of Iraq in 2003 based on bogus information, some of which was anonymously leaked to Judith Miller of The New York Times by his administration. The Times ran with the leaked "intelligence," according to which Saddam Hussein was trying to acquire aluminum tubes to build the centrifuges necessary for enriching uranium and building a nuclear weapon. That same day, Cheney went on Meet the Press and cited the Times' report. It was on this basis, as well as the Bushies' specious innuendos and exaggerated threat assessments, that the country entered into its biggest foreign policy blunder since the Vietnam war.
Regarding his howling over Obama's "refusal to leave any stay-behind forces [and] to negotiate a Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqis," Cheney has no one to blame but his own administration. Obama's withdrawal of U.S. soldiers from Iraq was done in accord with the Status of Forces Agreement that Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed -- an event that became infamous when an enraged Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush during the celebratory press conference. That agreement called for the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq by the end of 2011. So when Cheney says Obama refused negotiate a status of forces agreement, he's saying that Obama failed to negotiate another status of forces agreement to supersede the previous one negotiated by Cheney's administration, which Cheney apparently now finds lacking.
It should also be pointed out that Obama did in fact try to extend the withdrawal deadline, but was unable to do so because of Iraq's refusal to grant U.S. soldiers immunity from Iraqi law -- a condition which the Bush administration almost certainly wouldn't have agreed to either.
And let's not forget the human toll for which Cheney is responsible. Conservative estimates place the number of civilian casualties at more than 135,000 from the U.S. invasion and its aftermath. Meanwhile, the number of U.S. casualties was about 4,400. That's 135,000 Iraqis and 4,400 Americans who died because Dick Cheney and his neocon cohorts were itching for a war of choice.
"I think his apology tour, when he went to Cairo in the summer of 2009 and said the U.S. overreacted to the events of 9/11, was a huge mistake."
Contrary to conservative mythology (which has an unfailing tendency to become conservative orthodoxy), Obama never issued an "apology" for America in Cairo or anywhere. The president said in France in 2009 that America had "shown arrogance" toward Europe in what was quite an understatement. As Cheney left office, the international standing of the U.S. was in tatters after the Bushies squandered an unprecedented amount of global goodwill toward the country in the aftermath of 9/11, even among allies.
Turning to Syria's civil war, Cheney naturally expressed disappointment that Obama was poised to start bombing the country in 2013 only to change course after President Bashar al-Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons:
"That’s a classic example, where Obama got everybody ready to do something about Syria and then at the last minute pulled the plug."
Pulling the plug, of course, turned out to be the right thing to do. Further weakening of the Assad regime would've been a boon for ISIS, which is presently fighting the regime. Virtually any move that weakens the Assad regime, would most likely empower ISIS, considering it is probably the most formidable anti-Assad rebel faction in the country. And I would be remiss to omit that ISIS emerged from the group Al Qaeda in Iraq, which grew out of the Iraq war that Cheney and company started. Cheney noted in the interview that there's been a 58% rise in Salafist groups since 2010, and this development he pins squarely on Obama without entertaining the well-known fact that the number of terrorist attacks worldwide skyrocketed in the wake of the 2003 Iraq invasion.
Cheney then cited an anonymous proxy to heap additional scorn on the president:
"I had a prominent Mideast leader talk to me when I was there last spring. First time I’d ever heard him say this; he’s always been very self-confident and very much in command. He said, 'You assume there is no political price to be paid for those of us over here who support the United States—wrong assumption. It is sometimes a real question of leadership these days whether or not it’s smart, politically, for us, with our people, to be friendly to the United States.'"
With apologies to this "Mideast leader," there is virtually always a domestic political price to be paid for allying with the U.S., as demonstrated by America's longstanding and widespread unpopularity in the Middle East. In the last year of Cheney's vice presidency, a Zogby poll of more 4,000 people in six Middle East countries showed large majorities had an unfavorable opinion of the U.S.:
As Zogby explained, "When asked to account for the main factors determining their negative attitudes toward the U.S., the principle reasons given are the war in Iraq, developments in the Arab-Israeli front, and 'American treatment of Arabs and Muslims.'"
Because Cheney is perhaps the least introspective person on the planet, in his mind everything he has done was not only justified, but downright noble. This perfectly explains why he can't possibly fathom anti-American sentiment arising as a result of an overzealous foreign policy. Cheney is one of those who think the only thing that Arabs understand and respect is force, and so he acts accordingly. But when the inevitable blowback comes back around like a boomerang, Cheney sees it as yet more reason to keep up the strong-arm foreign policy, and the cycle repeats itself.
Except the cycle is getting old by now, as is Cheney's anti-Obama routine. He had eight years to implement his post-Cold War hegemonic wet dream as a model for a new American century after the collapse of the Soviet Union and he blew it spectacularly. Fundamentally this is because the world isn't something to be manipulated in accordance with his whims.
And neither are our perceptions of Dick Cheney's many failures.