Thursday, July 31, 2014


By Ronald T. Fox

NOTE:  An anonymous reader commenting on my original Cheney post (Does Dick Cheney Have Amnesia, or Is He a Hypocrite, Ideological Delusionalist, or Shameless Liar?) said I went too easy on Obama and also should have offered an opinion as to how best to characterize Cheney.  On reflection, I think these criticisms have merit.  So I have re-worked the original post, incorporating changes I think make the piece clearer and more balanced and nuanced.  Most of this new post repeats the original.  I wanted it to be inclusive for any first-time readers.    
Dick Chaney
One would think the current disintegration of Iraq would have a sobering effect on any lingering neoconservative fantasies about building a stable democracy, friendly to the U.S., through a forced regime change and occupation. No so. Judging by recent public statements the extremist insurgency that has reached the very outskirts of Baghdad has reinforced the commitment of the community of neo-conservatives, hawks, and other inhabitants of the American war machine to use military force. Their lesson, as always when military adventures fail, is that we haven’t been forceful enough. For them, the deteriorating Iraq situation presents a too-good-to-be-true opportunity for a U.S. military re-engagement and escalation. Their calls for a stronger military response to the Syrian and Ukrainian crises were thwarted. Iraq, however, presents a much better opportunity. After all, American blood was spilled there.  

The Beltway war coalition is seizing the opportunity, telling us a strong military response is necessary to vindicate shock and awe and restore U.S. credibility in the world, issues that have arisen they say because of President Obama’s weak response to emerging threats. The crisis also offers a wonderful opportunity to blame Obama for the bloody mess in Iraq and Syria, which will divert attention from their own failings and make for good politics in the November election. The “Obama lost Iraq” mantra is already a Fox News loop.

There’s something terribly wrong with this narrative, though it shouldn’t be surprising since its being communicated by the same crowd that pushed us into war in 2003. To be sure, the political and security situations in Iraq are deteriorating, but while the Obama Administration has made decisions that have helped inflame the insurgency, the lion share of blame rests with the Bush Administration's hair-brained neo-con scheme to change the Iraqi regime and then conduct a violent occupation that fomented not only Sunni, but also Shiite sectarian anger and hatred.  We are now witnessing the blowback many saw coming.   
The sickest thing about the spectacle of the unrepentant neo-cons ramping up the war rhetoric is that the mainstream media seems to be going along for the ride. Yes the same media culprits who regurgitated a network of lies about aluminum tubes, yellow cake, mobile chemical labs, mushroom clouds, smoking guns, and Saddam Hussein’s alleged connection to al-Qaeda and 9/11, which helped ramp up public support for the Iraq war. How many times does the Beltway hawks have to be wrong before the media figures out they have no idea what they’re talking about? And, how gullible can we Americans be? We surely should know better.

War cries from the right now appear almost daily. Some hawks have shamelessly taken to evoking America’s war dead to justify a third Iraq war. Others hypocritically cite the suffering of the Iraq people as a reason for re-engagement. Warnings of the extreme danger we face are rampant. Senator Lindsay Graham has warned about another 9/11 coming from Iraq and Syria. But of all the prophets of doom and self-serving Orwellian re-writers of history, former Vice-President Dick Cheney takes the cake.
Cheney Heart
Dick and Liz Cheney

In an opinion piece, Cheney wrote with his chip-off-the-old-bloc daughter Liz in the neocon- pimping Wall Street Journal, the two amnesiacs wrote: “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many. Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is "ending" the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan--as though wishing made it so. His rhetoric has now come crashing into reality. Watching the black-clad ISIS jihadists take territory once secured by American blood is final proof, if any were needed, that America's enemies are not "decimated." They are emboldened and on the march.” Later in the op-ed they added: “American freedom will not be secured by empty threats, meaningless red lines, leading from behind, appeasing our enemies, abandoning our allies, or apologizing for our great nation--all hallmarks to date of the Obama doctrine. Our security, and the security of our friends around the world, can only be guaranteed with a fundamental reversal of the policies of the past six years.” Such a distortion of reality would have made George Orwell, who famously said “he who controls the present controls the past,” proud. Let us look at the historical distortions:

1. The Cheneys wrote in the WSJ op-ed piece that “when Mr. Obama came into office in 2009, al- Qaeda in Iraq had been largely defeated.” Largely defeated? The fact of the matter is that al-Qaeda in Iraq didn’t exist before the Bush administration 2003 invasion and wasn’t much of a factor until the latter part of the Bush presidency.  We can thank Ambassador Paul Bremer’s top-down “de-Baathification,” our wholesale destruction of Sunni cities like Fallujah, the shame of Abu Ghraib, and our man Nouri al-Maliki’s incompetent and self-serving rule, especially his purges of Sunni officials and systematic repression of the Sunni Muslim population, which included the use of detentions, torture and sometime executions, for creating conditions that facilitated the rise of al-Qaeda when it later made its move in Iraq. ISIS, al-Qaeda and other Sunni insurgents taped into a large pool of angry, revenge-seeking Sunni young men who were ready to fight.

2. The Cheneys went on to blast Obama for enabling greater Iranian influence in Iraq and chided the President derisively for now toying “with the idea of ushering Iran into Iraq.” What a whopper! It’s certainly true that the influence of Iranian Shiite clerics is much greater in Iraq today than in the Saddam Hussein days, but this was again a result of short-sighted Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Bremer, et. al. decisions. By implanting a corrupt and dysfunctional government heavily weighted toward sectarian Shiites with close ties to Iran’s Shiite government, we not only ensured a greater Iranian influence in Iraqi politics, but also sowed the seeds for a Sunni insurgency. Doesn’t it make sense now to try to work with Iran to bring some semblance of stability and order to Iraq? Of course not, it might succeed, thus short-circuiting the case for a military re-engagement.
3. Cheney later had the audacity to tell Sean Hannity on Fox News: “When we left, Iraq was in pretty good shape, we had the situation pretty well squared away when we departed.” Good shape? Squared away? Utter nonsense! Cheney and company left Iraq a splintered basket case with a failed economy, dysfunctional government, destroyed central institutions, including the army, police, and the Baath party, widespread corruption, sectarian and criminal violence, shattered infrastructure, thousands of displaced persons, and countless dead and injured, conditions hardly conducive to stability and order, let alone the democracy and improved lives the Bushies promised. We left in our wake an unimaginable humanitarian nightmare; to be sure, far worse off than during the Saddam era.
4. In the Hannity interview, Cheney bemoaned the collapse of the Iraqi military in the face of the ISIS insurgency, which he said was “primarily because of both Maliki and Obama.” The amnesia runs deep. It was Cheney and Bremer that insisted on disbanding the Iraqi military in the wake of Shock and Awe, against the wishes of the U.S. military, which generally advocated keeping the Iraqi forces relatively intact since it had structure, discipline and credibility in Iraq. They preferred instead to create a New Iraqi Army, essentially from scratch.  This led to delays in establishing order and suppressing various militias. It also compromised putting an Iraqi face on security and lessening the burden on the coalition military.  At the same time it created a core of idle, discontented, and well trained fighting men that predictably turned on the US.
The Iraqi army has never measured up as an effective fighting force.  Their inadequate training, lack of discipline and esprit de corp helps explain why they can’t stand up to ISIS fighters.  Our man Maliki's de-professionalization of the army, replacing it with Shiite loyalists and his own hand-picked generals, accelerated the breakdown of the army as a fighting force.  Low morale is also a factor.  It appears many Shiites in the Iraqi army are simply unwilling to put their lives on the line to protect the much-despised Maliki regime. Someone needs to remind Cheney of the ill winds our man in Baghdad has caused. So now some 900,000 Iraqi soldiers cannot measure up to an estimated 17,000 ISIS fighters, up from the initial 4,000 that took the fight to Iraq.
5. Cheney insinuated that Obama withdrew our troops before the job was completed. He is thus responsible for “losing Iraq.” The fact is the decision to withdraw from Iraq by 2011 was signed in Baghdad by President Bush in 2008. Obama was willing to allow some troops to remain after 2011, but he wasn't enthusiastic.  His insistence that Iraq bestow legal immunity on any remaining American troops--a high priority for conservatives-- scuttled any potential agreement with the Maliki government,  It should be noted, however, that violent opposition to the American occupation was growing and it is extremely unlikely the Iraqi parliament would have approved any significant troop presence after 2011 even if Obama had made a more serious convincing effort.

I’m not suggesting President Obama is guiltless in the recent events in Iraq. His silence in the face of Maliki's sectarian maneuvering to repress Sunni Muslims and consolidate Shiite control of the country essentially gave a green light to the Iraqi president.  Maliki's heavy repressive hand no doubt added fuel to the ISIS insurgent fire.  Its hard to figure, however, what Obama might have done to dissuade the determined Maliki.

Also, with our partners the Saudis and various European friends, we have been pushing an insurgency in Syria against the Assad regime that has enabled the rise of ISIS.  Obama’s decision to help fund and provide weapons (primarily through the Saudi-created Southern Front based in Jordan) to so-called moderate rebel elements to fight against the Assad government as well as Islamist extremists clearly backfired.  Weapons provided have found there way into the hands of the ISIS insurgency.  Iraqi officials have recently confirmed that they have found weapons originally delivered to forces considered anti-al Qaeda in the possession of  ISIS fighters.

The wars in Syria and Iraq have essentially merged into one. We are in effect abetting ISIS in Syria (though we maintain the fiction that we are aiding only “moderate” rebels) while opposing it in Iraq. And, John McCain and his fellow Beltway hawks want to provide more military support to the rebels in Syria, which will ultimately necessitate more assistance to the Iraqi  government fighting ISIS. Brilliant! Either the hawk addiction to military power has clouded their capacity for logical reasoning, or they are simply trying to establish a Middle East version of Catch-22: you arm, fund and support two sides fighting each other; that way you can’t lose. Joseph Heller would be impressed. Only this time, everyone loses.
Dick Cheney tells us “President Obama is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom,” an absurd statement for which I have nominated him for a July Bonehead Absurdity of the Month Award. If any legacy has been secured, it is certainly Chaney’s as a delusional crackpot, armchair warmonger who helped mislead our country into war and was a leading figure, along with his crony Donald Rumsfeld, in planning and directing a disastrous occupation that extracted a heavy toll on both Iraqis and the American people (for us, 4500 dead, thousands wounded both physically and mentally, and $2 trillion in total expenditures). If this weren’t enough, Cheney's and his fellow hawk's policies set the table for a bloody sectarian civil war now unfolding in Iraq and for violent insurrections spreading throughout the Middle East.  Who knows where events may lead?
Years ago I saw an excellent film about a group of German judges being tried after World War II for non-combatant crimes against a civilian population. It was called The Judgment at Nuremberg. I recall it had an outstanding and memorable cast: Spencer Tracy, Burt Lancaster, Richard Widmark, Montgomery Clift, Maximilian Schell and Judy Garland. Schell, who played the defense attorney, won an Oscar for Best Actor. In the movie, the judges were convicted of war crimes.
Maybe someone should make a movie in which the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Bremer cabal (I'd throw in Chalabi)  is tried for crimes against humanity for their prosecution of the war on Iraq and wider “war on terrorism.” How many civilian lives have been lost because of decisions they made? Though I of course don’t equate what they did to the Nazi extermination of Jews, I do think their actions warrant serious consideration as crimes against humanity under international law.
A war crime involves a serious violation of laws and customs of war in which an individual or individuals are criminally responsible. The international legal principles were codified at the Hague Convention and later the Geneva Convention, Nuremberg Trials, and other tribunals. Examples of war crimes include such offenses as:  
Does the shoe fit for the Bush Administration? Let’s see. They attacked a country that was not involved in 9/11, had no weapons of mass destruction, and posed no direct threat to the United States. They authorized the well-documented use of torture and extraordinary renditions. They retained prisoners of war without respecting their Geneva rights, including their right to a trial. And, they destroyed many towns and villages, causing a high civilian loss of life (Fallujah was twice besieged and largely destroyed, then abandoned, by US troops during the occupation years). These actions would seem to fit the legal definition of a war crime. You be the judge.
Of course, such a trial isn’t going to happen, at least not to our cast of characters. The mere suggestion of a plausible justification for one is likely to draw outrage and condemnation from many American circles. Still, it sickens me that the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Feith chicken hawks have so far essentially escaped public blame for their dirty deeds.  Worse yet, they are not only seemingly succeeding in their blame-avoidance-blame-Obama campaign, their neo-con advice is again being taken seriously as a guide for future U.S. global foreign and security policies. Unbelievable! Responsibility for the disintegration of Iraq rests squarely on their shoulders. When you combine hubris with gross ignorance of the complex forces at play in Iraq and the wider Middle East region a seemingly endless human tragedy is what you get. This is a legacy they will have to live with.  They may escape blame for the present, but they won't escape the judgment of history.

So does Dick Cheney have amnesia, or is he a hypocrite, ideological delusionalist, or just a shameless liar?  Or, perhaps, all of the above?   I can only speculate.
I don't think Cheney has amnesia, at least not in the clinical sense, but he certainly has a very selective memory.  A hypocrite?  Well, yes, there certainly is hypocrisy in his finger-pointing at Obama.  Shameless liar?  He surely is shameless, but to accuse him of being a liar assumes he has a grasp of truth and fiction.  I'm left to conclude that Dick Cheney is a dangerous delusional ideologue who is clueless about the horrific human cost of war.  Perhaps this is because he took five deferments to avoid serving in Vietnam and thus has no first-hand experience with the horror of war.  Now, apparently without even a twinge of conscience, he is blasting President Obama for his refusal to send more of our young men into the Sunni-Shiite cauldron in Iraq.  Mix ideological dogmatism with simple thinking and hubris and Dick Cheney is what you get.

All this is not to imply that the Bush-Cheney cabal, Maliki government, and President Obama are solely responsible for the rise and growing power of ISIS and steady disintegration of Iraq and Syria.  To the mix of culprits must be added our friend Saudi Arabia, the key driving force behind the effort to overthrow  President Assad, which also happens to be the policy of ISIS and other jihadis in Syria, and our other “friend,” Pakistan, or rather Pakistani military intelligence (ISI), which has parented al-Qaeda, the Taliban and jihadi movements in general.  This, however, is a matter for a future post.

1 comment:

  1. All the stuff you say about Dick Cheney's position on Iraq is on the money. He was the Master of Disaster and refuses to accept any responsibility. This is no surprise.
    What is frustrating is the culpability of the media in spreading his non-sense. To me there are two major issues.
    The first is why he has a platform for this non-sense to begin with. I think the reason is the rise of conservative talk radio and its small but loyal followers. Rush Limbaugh created a revolution which conservatives really wanted. However, this revolution wasn't possible without revoking the Fairness Doctrine. This doctrine was designed to ensure that the public airwaves be used at least some of the time in the public interest (report news, editorials, instead of all for profit activity) and that the news outlets covered both sides of controversial issues. This was to be enforced by the Federal Communications Commission. In 1987, the Chairman of the FCC (Mike Fowler, a Reagan appointee) led the repeal of this doctrine. This was done because it allegedly interfered with free speech. The unfortunate result has been the rise of very extreme media with little counter.
    For this reason, a person like Dick Cheney will always have a platform and, on that platform, his view will go largely unopposed.
    2. So, he has a platform... but why is he rarely challenged. This is a complex issue that is beyond the limited room here but I think it boils down to one big thing...the nature of for profit media and its pinch on resources. If news divisions have to turn a profit (or are a profit center) this places considerable burden on staffing / resources. Frankly it takes a lot of work to categorically refute someone point by point. Further, there is little incentive to do so. Doing so would likely quell some of the outrage and possibly hurt ratings while taking more effort / staff time.
    I don't think this is going to change at least on TV and commercial radio. These outlets are owned by fewer corporations each year who have greater profit demands. They want to do the minimum necessary to meet their public obligations and at the highest profit.
    So, I suggest that you will need to look for other sources of information to find the facts about the positions of Dick Cheney. Non corporate sources are probably best. Online news outlets like Vox Media and Buzzfeed might be good alternatives (at least until they are gobbled up by one of the corporate media giants!) Expand your sources and simply deal with the irritation of a guy like Dick Cheney going unchecked in the traditional media.


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