Concluding our trilogy of Republicans who we shouldn’t take seriously on Iraq, patient zero in the series has to be former Vice President Dick Cheney. His total lack of credibility in this issue notwithstanding, The Wall Street Journal published an editorial by Cheney, titled “The Collapsing Obama Doctrine: Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” in which he blasted the Obama administration’s handling of Iraq. It’s an article so completely loaded with irony, contradictions and hypocrisy that it’ll be difficult to unpack without bloating this post into a novel-length volume.
Right off the bat in the first paragraph, Cheney — Dick Cheney of all people — accuses President Obama of making three false statements about terrorism in the context of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).
1) Obama: “If a JV team puts on Lakers uniforms that doesn’t make them Kobe Bryant.” Obama wasn’t referring to ISIS when he said this. He was referring to small jihadist cells with little or no affiliation with al-Qaeda.
2) Obama: “[C]ore al-Qaeda is on its heels, has been decimated.” This is mostly true, at least in terms of what Obama has accomplished since Cheney and Former President Bush left office (see also Osama Bin Laden). He specifically said “core al-Qaeda,” not branch affiliates or other groups. Furthermore, Cheney recently praised Obama’s drone policy against terrorists. Among others killed by the Obama administration in drone and other attacks include: “Atiyah Abd al-Rahman, the No. 2 to current leader Ayman al Zawahiri; Sayeed al-Masri, No. 3 in the hierarchy; and Abu Ayyub al Masri, the leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq.”
3) Obama: “So, let there be no doubt: The tide of war is receding.” This is also empirically true. The small deployment to Baghdad this week aside, the broader Iraq War ended in 2011, and the Afghanistan War is quickly wrapping up.
Worse yet, Cheney in his very first sentence exaggerates the number of Iraqi soldiers executed by ISIS. Cheney said “thousands,” plural, implying two thousand or more. The best estimate is actually 1,700. “More than a thousand” or “just under 2,000” would’ve been more accurate in a paragraph intended to nitpick the allegedly inaccurate statements of the president.
And what about Cheney’s demonstrably false statements about Iraq alone?
“Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.”
“We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s.”
“[Hussein] also had an established relationship with al Qaeda, providing training to al Qaeda members in the areas of poisons, gases, making conventional bombs.”
“There’s overwhelming evidence there was a connection between Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government.”
“My belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. I think it will go relatively quickly, weeks rather than months.”
“I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency.”
According to one study, top Bush administration officials made 935 false statements about Iraq. 48 of those were attributed to Vice President Pants-On-Fire.
Okay, so that was the first paragraph. Here’s another interesting line from a man who was wrong about nearly everything (try not to punch your computer screen):
Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.
It’d be funny if it wasn’t for the fact that 32,223 American soldiers were wounded and 4,487 were killed in Cheney’s ill-advised and horrendously botched Iraq War. Do we want to get into the list of Iraqi civilians and U.S. contractors who were killed? More than 100,000. Yet he’s actually lecturing Obama about the “expense” of being wrong.
The fall of the Iraqi cities of Fallujah, Tikrit, Mosul and Tel Afar, and the establishment of terrorist safe havens across a large swath of the Arab world, present a strategic threat to the security of the United States.
None of this would’ve occurred had Cheney urged the president to continue George H.W. Bush’s policy of containing Saddam rather than overthrowing him. Saddam, contrary to what Cheney said prior to and even during the Iraq War, was an enemy of al-Qaeda and never would’ve allowed ISIS or any other al-Qaeda affiliate to operate inside Iraq. Indeed, ISIS is formerly al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), a terrorist organization that didn’t exist until after Cheney decided to foolishly invade Iraq and overthrow Saddam.
Moving on. Cheney tosses in some anecdotal quotes from random people he bumped into (probably made up):
On a trip to the Middle East this spring, we heard a constant refrain in capitals from the Persian Gulf to Israel, “Can you please explain what your president is doing?” “Why is he walking away?” “Why is he so blithely sacrificing the hard fought gains you secured in Iraq?” “Why is he abandoning your friends?” “Why is he doing deals with your enemies?”
Later he revisits the theme:
Weakness and retreat are provocative.
The answer to all of those questions, as well as the “retreat” remark, can be covered with four words: Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). The SOFA treaty with Iraq set a specific deadline for the last American combat troops to withdraw from Iraq, and it was signed in November, 2008 by President George W. Bush. Cheney appears to argue that Obama should’ve defied the will of the Iraqi government and its people, not to mention Cheney’s former boss, and remained in Iraq in perpetuity. He also mentioned something about negotiating with Iraq to allow us to leave a residual force to keep the peace. But such an idea was unlikely to be approved by the Iraqi parliament.
Okay, this one is almost too easy:
Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing.
Cheney, you magnificent bastard. You’re giving me no choice but to post this again:
Next, Cheney wheels out some alarming statistics.
According to a recent Rand study, between 2010 and 2013, there was a 58% increase in the number of Salafi-jihadist terror groups around the world. During that same period, the number of terrorists doubled.
What Cheney doesn’t write is that this had little or nothing to do with the Obama administration’s counterterrorism policy. The RAND study noted: “The biggest reason for the Salafist jihadist “surge” is the increasing weakness of North African and Middle Eastern governments.” What does Cheney expect the U.S. to do about this, short of invading and overthrowing those governments all at once somehow? By the way, I wonder why there’s a weak government in Iraq. Hmm.
This next sentence is a doozy:
Al Qaeda and its affiliates are resurgent and they present a security threat not seen since the Cold War.
Cheney expects us to believe that al-Qaeda is stronger now than it was when it attacked New York City and Washington, DC (on his watch)? That’s rich. He also indicts his hero Ronald Reagan, who is quoted favorably at the end of the op/ed, by suggesting al-Qaeda was even stronger during the Cold War.
Overall, Cheney’s post should’ve been titled, “Why Hasn’t Obama Cleaned Up My Huge Fucking Mess?” We can’t repeat this often enough: the reason why Iraq is in turmoil right now and why 1,700 Iraqi soldiers were killed by ISIS wasn’t because of anything Obama did or didn’t do, it’s because Cheney and his neocon pals totally upended the region with an invasion and occupation that has now tossed Iraq into further chaos. Regardless of whether Bush signed SOFA or if it was President Of The Future X, what we’re seeing now would’ve happened anyway. If you forcibly remove a secular anti-al-Qaeda strongman (however despotic he might be) and replace him with a weaker, western-dependent government, yes, terrorism and instability will ensue. And in the case of Iraq and Saddam, the blame belongs entirely to Cheney and his administration.
And finally, let’s always remember that whenever we’re lectured by Cheney about vulnerability in the face of the terrorist threat that it was under his vice presidency that nearly 3,000 Americans were murdered in the most spectacularly awful terrorist attack in the history of the world.
Paraphrasing Kevin Spacey in American Beauty: “No, no. You don’t get to tell us what to do. Ever. Again.”