Today in False Promises
MR. RUSSERT: During the 2000 campaign you were on the program when we were talking about the Persian Gulf War and looking back and I asked whether you had any regrets about taking Saddam out at that time. And you said no. And then you added this, and I want to talk about it. Let’s watch:
(Videotape, August 27, 2000):
MR. CHENEY: Conversations I had with leaders in the region afterwards, they all supported the decision that was made not to go to Baghdad. They were concerned that we not get into a position where we shifted, instead of being the leader of an international coalition to roll back Iraqi aggression, to one in which we were an imperialist power willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world taking down governments.
MR. RUSSERT: “Imperialist power,” “moving willy-nilly,” “taking down governments.” Is that how we’re going to be perceived this time?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I hope not, Tim. Of course, in ’91, there was a general consensus that we’d gone as far as we should...
We’re now faced with a situation, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, where the threat to the United States is increasing. And over time, given Saddam’s posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons. And in light of that, we have to be prepared, I think, to take the action that is being contemplated. Doesn’t insist that he be disarmed and if the U.N. won’t do it, then the United States and other partners of the coalition will have to do that.
Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators...
MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.
Dick Cheney promised that the cost of the war would be relatively low, and that hundreds of thousands of troops would not be tied down for years in Iraq.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I don’t want to convey to the American people the idea that this is a cost-free operation. Nobody can say that. I do think there’s no doubt about the outcome. There’s no question about who is going to prevail if there is military action. And there’s no question but what it is going to be cheaper and less costly to do it now than it will be to wait a year or two years or three years until he’s developed even more deadly weapons, perhaps nuclear weapons. And the consequences then of having to deal with him would be far more costly than will be the circumstances today. Delay does not help.
MR. RUSSERT: The army’s top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and we’ve deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement...
MR. RUSSERT: Every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion, recovery of Baghdad, perhaps of Iraq, about $10 billion per year. We should expect as American citizens that this would cost at least $100 billion for a two-year involvement.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I can’t say that, Tim. There are estimates out there. It’s important, though, to recognize that we’ve got a different set of circumstances than we’ve had in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan you’ve got a nation without significant resources. In Iraq you’ve got a nation that’s got the second-largest oil reserves in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia. It will generate billions of dollars a year in cash flow if they get back to their production of roughly three million barrels of oil a day, in the relatively near future.
Dick Cheney promised that Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds could work together in a liberated Iraq:
MR. RUSSERT: And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: They have so far. One of the things that many people forget is that the Kurds in the north have been operating now for over 10 years under a sort of U.S.-provided umbrella with respect to the no-fly zone, and they have established a very strong, viable society with elements of democracy an important part of it. They’ve had significant successes in that regard and they’re eager to work with the rest of Iraq, that portion of it that still governs Saddam Hussein. And if you look at the opposition, they’ve come together, I think, very effectively, with representatives from Shia, Sunni and Kurdish elements in the population. They understand the importance of preserving and building on an Iraqi national identity.
Dick Cheney promised that America's allies would come to see the wisdom of invading Iraq:
MR. RUSSERT: Brent Scowcroft, a man you know well, the national security adviser to former President Bush, when you were secretary of defense, talked to the National Journal and said this, and let me lay it out: “I’m puzzled as to where President Bush stands on the issue of our traditional alliances such as NATO, because during the campaign he made some strong statements about putting more stock in them. Clearly, that hasn’t happened. Part of the Bush administration clearly believes that as a uperpower, we must take advantage of this opportunity to change the world for the better, and we don’t need to go out of our way to accommodate alliances, partnerships or friends in the process, because that would too constraining.
”[This doctrine of continually letting each mission to define the coalition and relying almost solely on ad hoc] coalitions of the willing is fundamentally fatally flawed. As we’ve seen in the debate about Iraq, it’s already given us an image of arrogance and unilateralism, and we’re paying a very high price for that image. If we get to the point where everyone secretly hopes the United States gets a black eye because we’re so obnoxious, then we’ll be totally hamstrung in the war on terror. We’ll be like Gulliver with the Lilliputians.”
Brent Scowcroft, arrogance, black eye. Eighty-five percent of Spain, 86 percent of Germans, 91 percent of Russians, all against this war. What happened? How did we lose a PR battle against Saddam Hussein in the world, and why would Brent Scowcroft say those kinds of things?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I have great affection for Brent. We’ve been friends for a long time. He is occasionally wrong, and this is one of those occasions...
MR. RUSSERT: But a lot of countries, Mr. Vice President, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the neighbors of Saddam, other than Kuwait, are not supportive.
VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think we will find, Tim, that if in fact we have to do this with military force that there will be sighs of relief in many quarters in the Middle East that the United States finally followed through and deal effectively with what they all perceive to be a major threat, but they’re all reluctant to stand up if Saddam’s still in power and if there’s a possibility he will survive once again to threaten them and to threaten their region. So for the United States to follow through here, be determined, be decisive, do exactly what we said we were going to do, I think we’ll find we’ve got far more friends out there than many people think.
But American troops were not greeted as liberators.
Today in Iraq 3, 988 American soldiers and marines, 308 coalition soldiers, and untold hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians, are dead as a result of the invasion. There continue to be nearly 160,000 American troops stationed in Iraq. The war has already cost more than $400 billion, and the eventual costs will rise into the trillions of dollars. Iraqi oil production continues to be well below pre-war levels. There is no end in sight to the civil war between Shia, Sunnis, and Kurds. America's allies are even less impressed now with the wisdom of invading Iraq. American politicians, even those who talk of "progress in Iraq", dare to visit the country only under the strictest secrecy.
This has been another Today-in-False-Promises bulletin.