Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Friday, February 23, 2007

  Cheney embraces the quagmire

For perhaps the first time since he helped to engineer the invasion of Iraq, Dick Cheney was asked by a reporter about his statement in 1991 that invading Iraq would inevitably lead to a 'quagmire'. And Cheney declared that he was right in 1991, and that advocating an invasion of Iraq in 2003 was right as well.

Reading between the lines, it appears that US policy in 1991 was anti-quagmire, but by 2003 it had become pro-quagmire.

Today's interview with Jonathan Karl of ABC News is a rich tapestry of characteristic Cheney colors...that manic optimism about failed policies, the grim determination to avoid inconvenient facts, the perversely inflated satisfaction with himself, the full-bore moderation of a Manichean, the ideologue's misjudged sense of humor. To see or read any interview with Dick Cheney is to encounter with brutal clarity the limitations of human self-knowledge.

Yet the obtuseness of Cheney's comments on the quagmire in Iraq is so severe that I'd reckon all Americans ought to become acquainted with it. Here is the section I'm talking about. Highlights are my own:

Q What do you say to those who look at some of your recent comments on Iraq of signs of significant progress, and they look and they see the violence. The last four months have been the deadliest on record for U.S. troops. Sectarian violence has obviously been rising steadily. People look at that. They look at your comments, and they say that you're out of touch. You don't understand how bad it is in Iraq.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we have made significant progress in Iraq. I look at what's happened politically. I look at the size of the Iraqi forces that we've got trained now. I think the President made a good decision in terms of surging additional forces into Baghdad. I think the key to the issue right now is the security situation in Baghdad. I think the Maliki government is off to a pretty good start. Only time will tell. I'm fairly optimistic that going forward with this strategy will, in fact, work.

You don't get to quit just because it's hard. This is important work. It's very important that we get it right in Iraq.

Q You're fairly optimistic. What do we do if it doesn't work?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we keep trying until we get it right. I don't think we can afford to lose in Iraq. Think of what that would mean. Think about all the people out there in that part of the world from Presidents like Karzai in Afghanistan and Musharraf in Pakistan, down to the guy who is toting a rifle in the Afghan Security Forces. They have signed on in this global conflict against the extremist element of Islam, signed on with the United States.

Karzai and Musharraf every day they go to work put their lives on the line. There have been assassination attempts against both of them. Hundreds of thousands of people have signed to the security forces to fight alongside Americans. Millions have gone to the polls and voted because they believe in freedom and democracy and what it offers.

And then the United States suddenly decides, okay, this is too tough. We're going to go home from Iraq. We're not going to stick it out and get the job done. What happens to somebody like President Musharraf in Pakistan? Or to all those people in the streets out there who've been willing to bet on the United States? We don't get to quit just because it's tough.

And we learned on 9/11 that we can't retreat behind our oceans, not worry about what's going on in that part of the globe and be safe and secure here at home. We lost 3,000 people that morning to 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters. And the next time we end up with a group of them in one of our cities, they may have a far deadlier weapon -- a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind. So what goes on in that part of the globe is absolutely vital for our security. Getting it right in Iraq is absolutely vital. The best thing we can do in terms of enhancing our security in the long term and dealing with the problem out there is to see that the Iraqis succeed in terms of getting a viable, self-governing democracy that they're equipped and trained with the forces they need to be able to deal with their own security situation. We don't want to stay there a day longer than necessary. But we can do it. I think we have the capacity to do it. I think we've got the right strategy. We've got a good commander in Dave Petraeus who is in charge now in Iraq. And I think we need to do whatever it takes to prevail. You don't just get to quit.

Q 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 --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I stand by what I said in '91. But look what's happened since then -- we had 9/11. 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.

In Iraq, what we've done now is we've taken down Saddam Hussein. He's dead. His sons are dead. His government is gone. There's a democratically elected government in place. We've had three national elections in Iraq with higher turnout that we have in the United States. They've got a good constitution. They've got a couple hundred thousand men in arms now, trained and equipped to fight the good fight. They're now fighting alongside Americans in Baghdad and elsewhere. There are -- lots of the country that are in pretty good shape. We've got to get right in Baghdad. That's the task at hand. I think we can do it.

Q But hasn't our strategy been failing? Isn't that why the President has had to come out with a new strategy?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: A failed strategy? Let's see, we didn't fail when we got rid of Saddam. We didn't fail when we held elections. We didn't fail when we got a constitution written. Those are all success stories.

Q But didn't we fail when 3,000 American soldiers are killed?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: You wish there was never a single --

Q When a virtual civil war is --

THE VICE PRESIDENT: You wish there was never a casualty, Jonathan. Always regret when you have casualties, but we are at war. And we have to succeed where we've begun this venture. And we can. There's no reason in the world why the United States of America, along with our allies cannot get it right in Iraq. I think we will.


There is of course no evidence that the US has indeed finally identified the "right" strategy and will "get it right in Iraq", after all the wrong strategies and getting it wrong for so long. As for the ideas that the US has made "significant progress" in Iraq, and that Maliki's government is "off to a pretty good start", these are flatly contradicted by any number of official government reports and memos.

'Quagmire'; 'disaster'; 'civil war'; 'head-banging failures'. These kinds of things shouldn't give anybody pause. They're mere distractions tossed around by people who just can't stomach hard work. I imagine you're familiar with the administration's crazy talk by now.

But how about the other ideas embedded in this interview? Cheney admits that bin Laden struck on September 11 in the expectation of changing US policy. In the next breath, he explains that US policy changed after the attack, and that is why we invaded Iraq. The man is either a master of irony, or he's an idiot.

As if to drive the point of this paradox home more firmly, Cheney helpfully acknowledges here that it was already well understood by 1991 that an invasion of Iraq by the US would lead to a quagmire, which evidently became desirable after 9/11. You see, we weren't in Iraq when al Qaeda attacked us. Therefore, because bin Laden expected to get the US to change its policies, we decided to go into Iraq. It seems that changing our policy and occupying Iraq was key all along to discouraging al Qaeda from attacking Americans abroad or here at home.

The reason, when you boil it all down, amounts to this: There were extremists "in that part of the globe". We should naturally have wanted to get entangled in a quagmire with those extremists "in that part of the globe", and if only we'd entered the quagmire earlier, it appears that we would have avoided all our troubles.

What part of the globe Cheney means is far from clear, though it looks like he intends something like "east of the Mediterranean Sea". Already in Xenophon's era, around 400 BC, that kind of lack of specificity could get an invading force into trouble. In this day and age, with aerial satellites and maps and what not, you'd have thought that the leaders of large country like the US could have looked a little more closely into the question of where the terrorist extremists actually were located.

The best I can make out, Cheney has confused Iraq with perhaps Saudi Arabia (a nearby, but distinct, country), or perhaps Iran (ditto) or Pakistan (ditto). All of them are in that part of the globe...just as Cuba is in the same part of the globe as the US and Canada. I shudder to think of the harm that could have been done if the Cheney administration had invaded, say, Canada (or the US) because it became aware that communists were running amok in Cuba.

Anyway, there are still some Americans who will be surprised to learn that the US will keep its forces in Iraq even if, or rather especially if, our strategy there "doesn't work". That is because, as Cheney states again and again, we cannot afford to fail. Therefore we will be obliged to go right on failing if we find that we are continuing to fail, at least until we "get it right". Apparently, when we finally get it right then we will stop doing whatever "it" is.

And when might that be?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't think you can put a timetable on it. I think to some extent it clearly will be determined by conditions on the ground. I think it's -- I've heard the argument made that the terrorists will give up when they become convinced that the rest of us aren't going to quit, that in fact, we're not talking about a situation in which there's no violence. That's unrealistic, but I think we do need to make enough progress so that the level of violence is less than what it has been in recent months.


I have the uneasy sense that this admission contradicts virtually every position Cheney has ever taken on al Qaeda's strategy of wearing down the will of Americans to fight in Iraq; the necessity of showing them that the US will not be pushed out of Iraq until it achieves 'victory'; the need to fight 'em over there so we don't have to fight them in the streets of Elko, Nevada. Now it turns out that the "terrorists" really aren't going to be put down at all. But Cheney will be happy if the situation returns to the level of violence of a mere few months ago, when, you'll recall, things looked rather peachy for Iraq.

Crossposted from Unbossed

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2 Comments:

  • Here is what Cheney had to say in 1991 about what an invasion of Iraq would entail:

    "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."

    It's good to know that he stands by that statement. It is perhaps the one thing Cheney has ever gotten right in his lifetime, so he'd better hang onto it.

    Anyway, this part of the interview with Jonathan Karl is worth wading through Cheney's ravings about Iraq:

    >>>Q I want to ask you about another issue that's been a subject of controversy here in Australia, global warming. Did you get a chance to see Al Gore's movie?

    THE VICE PRESIDENT: I have not seen Al Gore's movie.

    Q Doesn't surprise me.

    THE VICE PRESIDENT: He didn't invite me to the showing.

    Q The premier, huh?

    THE VICE PRESIDENT: Not that I wanted to go anyway.<<<

    What a supreme twit.

    By Blogger : smintheus ::, at 12:10 AM  

  • Re US Invasion of Canada:

    "I shudder to think of the harm that could have been done if the Cheney administration had invaded, say, Canada..."

    If America's future actions in IRAN trigger a global oil debacle, Canada will be invaded and absorbed.

    Our General Rick Hillier - who admires the US's 'cultural values' in defence of 'democracy' and revels in 'killing the scum in Afghanistan' - and some of our own neo-con politicians might even co-operate, since we are already a branch plant economy.

    My US INVASION OF CANADA AND ITS ABSORPTION -
    ISBN 978-0-9739622-2-2] covers this subject. But the invasion started off as an accident.

    Those who describe Cheney as an 'idiot' overlook that he and his group, including Bush, are guilty of genocide and other War Crimes.

    Best,

    John Ishmael
    Canada

    By Anonymous ishmael, at 6:51 AM  

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