On the 15th anniversary of the September 11 attacks Dick Cheney marked the solemn occasion by urging us to remember the 3,000 lives lost that day, while calling for peace and understanding around the world.
Just kidding. He renewed his hysterical attacks on President Obama.
Like a Herpes simplex-1 cold sore, Cheney’s resurfacing is particularly ill-timed. On a day where the settling of scores is best set aside by politicians, Cheney — the erstwhile curmudgeonly old man yelling at clouds — took to the Wall Street Journal with his daughter Liz to once again explain how Obama has weakened America on the world stage.
Cheney has been one of Obama’s harshest critics, which is infuriatingly ironic considering that, A) 9/11 happened on his and George W. Bush’s watch; B) Bush and Cheney authored the biggest U.S. foreign policy disaster since Vietnam — one that saw more than 100,000 Iraqis and 4,500 Americans killed to the tune of $2 trillion; and C) upon his leaving office the global reputation of the U.S. was staggeringly low.
“Since taking office,” writes Cheney, “the president has recklessly pursued his objective of closing the detention facility at Guantanamo by releasing current detainees—regardless of the likelihood they will return to the field of battle against us.”
It’s true that two days after taking office, Obama ordered Gitmo closed within a year. It’s nearly seven years later and the prison is up and running. That doesn’t seem like a very enthusiastic pursuit, and it’s one that the president’s fellow liberals have chastised him for.
As for Cheney’s claim that Obama has released Gitmo detainees, that is laughably hypocritical.
During the Bush years, more than 500 detainees were released from Gitmo. Some were freed outright, while others were returned to their countries of origin under various levels of supervision and restriction. This Bush-era policy has remained under the Obama administration.
Darth Warmonger went on, “As he released terrorists to return to the field of battle, Mr. Obama was simultaneously withdrawing American forces from Iraq and Afghanistan. He calls this policy ‘ending wars.’ Most reasonable people recognize this approach as losing wars.”
This is a favorite talking point of neoconservatives, who have long had raging hard-ons for empire and the wars of choice required to achieve it. The problem is that it was Bush in 2008 who signed the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq, which called for the withdrawal of U.S. troops by December 2011. For his part, Obama did in fact try to convince Iraq to extend the withdrawal deadline, but the Iraqi government would only agree to do so if U.S. soldiers there were subjected to Iraqi law. For Obama, this proposal was a non-starter, just as it surely would’ve have been for the Bush administration. As a sovereign country, Iraq could not be forced by the U.S. to extend the agreement.
Cheney’s claim that at this time Obama was pulling out of Afghanistan is just flat out false. One of the harshest criticisms of Obama from the left during his first term was his decision to drastically increase the number of soldiers in Afghanistan. In addition to authorizing the strike that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan, Obama, increased U.S. deployments to levels unheard of during the Bush years. Even as late as 2014, Afghanistan had more U.S. soldiers in it that at any point during the Bush administration:
Afghanistan is still a mess, and one wonders had Cheney and company not decided to invade Iraq, whether the U.S. could have allocated more resources to fighting terrorists instead of an admittedly brutal dictator who nonetheless was keeping a lid on sectarian tensions that have since been exploding into an Islamist supernova.
We see a similar story playing out on a smaller scale in Libya, which is also a disaster in its post-dictator era. After Obama and a coalition of Western nations decided to hasten the ousting of Mommar Gaddafi, a predictable power vacuum ensued which has since been filled by two rival governments and Islamist terror groups such as ISIS. Likewise in Syria, the rebellion against Bashar al-Assad’s regime has yielded complete chaos, with ISIS controlling swaths of territory in that country and Iraq.
At this point neoconservaties like Cheney argue that the problem in these instances is that the U.S. did not commit ground troops to stabilize the regions. But as we learned in Iraq, the presence of U.S. soldiers does not guarantee stability. And even if it did, how long should we plan to leave American men and women to babysit in places whose inhabitants are trying to kill them?
For Cheney the answer is “indefinitely.” That’s because it won’t be him over there, just like it wasn’t him over in Vietnam thanks to his five draft deferments. As the Chickenhawk-in-Chief once explained, “I had other priorities in the sixties than military service.”
So it won’t be Cheney fighting and dying under the pretense of some bizarre conception of strengthening America by getting bogged down in quagmire after quagmire. And it sure as hell won’t be anyone close to him.
For all of George W. Bush’s faults — and there were many — one thing you can say in his favor is that post-presidency he’s for the most part had the decency to stay above the fray. The same cannot be said for Cheney, who continuously uses his discredited boneheaded policy prescriptions in a lame attempt to tear down a president doing an admirable job in cleaning up the mess he made and restoring America’s image in the world.
On this day of “never forget,” it is important to remember the ones lost on September 11, 2001, as well as the political and religious motivations that came together to make that day happen. But let’s also never forget the calamities that ensued after that day, and the people responsible for them.