By Robert Scheer
The unctuous owl has hooted again. Only this time, Dick Cheney’s cave has been invaded by the sudden sunlight of judicial and congressional revelations, making him appear more pathetic than intimidating as he once again charges critics of the Iraq war with giving aid and comfort to the enemy.
“A full validation of the al-Qaida strategy” are the shameless, slandering words the most powerful vice president in American history flung Monday at congressional critics of the war—including those from his own party.
While he is still as dangerous as any cornered animal, Cheney stands brightly revealed as the main culprit in cherry-picking the evidence to make the case for a stupid, failed war. He has been exposed as a vindictive, inflexible ideologue, who attempts to destroy all who publicly disagree with him, such as former Ambassador Joseph Wilson and Wilson’s CIA agent wife, Valerie Plame Wilson. His extensive ties and loyal political service to energy and defense companies such as Halliburton (which now, in a burst of honesty, is moving its headquarters to Dubai), reveal him to be a man of deep corruption.
Like Nixon during Watergate, Cheney is now shrilly on the defensive. “National security made me do it!” he insists, clinging to pseudo-patriotism, that last refuge of scoundrels. But it is an argument that no longer flies with a public that has caught on to the rhythm of his screechy lies. After all, this is the leader, dominating a weak president, who pushed so hard for a complete occupation of a Muslim country not linked to 9/11. A man who hung his arguments for adventuristic war on known falsehoods, such as the attempted purchase of yellowcake uranium in Niger.
In fact, the recent terrorist bombing in Afghanistan that came too close to ending the vice president’s life aptly underscored just how reckless the decision was to direct our policy away from the religious fanatics of al-Qaida, based in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and instead pour our resources into overthrowing Osama bin Laden’s sworn enemy, Saddam Hussein.
Of course, things have changed quite a bit since then for formerly secular Iraq. Ironically, Cheney’s remarks on Monday correctly evoke the nightmare world of religious fratricide that is the Bush administration’s legacy to Iraq. If the United States withdraws, “Shiite extremists backed by Iran could be in all-out war with Sunni extremists, led by al-Qaida and remnants of the old Saddam regime,” Cheney told the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the leading pro-Israel lobbying organization.
What he neglected to mention is that those Shiite extremists are militias associated with the very pro-Iran political parties that the Bush administration brought to power and sustains in the surreally isolated Green Zone, or that our presence in Iraq is the main recruitment tool for the Sunni militants who oppose the Shiite majority.
The argument for troop withdrawal is that, after four years of occupation, the presence of U.S. troops on every street corner in Baghdad is part of the problem, not the solution. As the French learned in Algeria, the Russians in Afghanistan and the Israelis in the Palestinian territories, foreign occupation is the mother’s milk of terrorism.
It is thus Cheney who has played right into al-Qaida’s plans, heightening tension between the U.S. and the Arab and Muslim worlds by evoking an image of U.S. imperial conquest of Mideast oil resources. His palpable disdain for civil liberties, bald-faced lies and support for torture have even tarnished the reputation of democracy itself, which has to please tyrants and theocrats everywhere.
As if we needed more evidence, the conviction last week of Cheney’s former chief of staff, Lewis “Scooter” Libby, provided ample evidence of the vice president’s bottomless cynicism. Surely congressional investigators will now ask Cheney, among other awkward questions, what he meant in that note he wrote to himself prior to the conviction stating, “Not going to . . . sacrifice the guy who was asked to stick his neck in the meat grinder because of the incompetence of others.” Who could have ordered Libby to break the law, other than his boss?
If the occupation had gone well, of course, Cheney wouldn’t be under fire. But as it heads into its fifth year, the only winners in this war are the aforementioned radical Shiites, Iran, mercenaries, al-Qaida, oil companies and military contractors such as Halliburton, which has scooped up $27 billion in contracts paid with our taxes. Now Halliburton is making its home in an undemocratic oil-garchy so distasteful to Americans that we wouldn’t let a company from there manage our ports.
Perhaps Cheney, in disgrace, can build his retirement cave there.
AP Photo / Manuel Balce Ceneta
Vice President Dick Cheney speaking before the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Washington, D.C., last week.