Cheney's defense of Iraq Policy - successful or desperate?

Vice President Dick Cheney addressed the Heritage Foundation on Friday October 10th. A significant portion of his speech addressed the administration’s policy on Iraq specifically, but also the Bush Doctrine generally (Transcript).

The Washington Post article described the speech as a “blistering rebuttal” to critics of the administration’s foreign policy.

Was it, or was it simply more of the same spin that failed to address the core objections of the critics?

As expected, like any political speech, it was a one sided representation of the issues. That’s understandable. But did it refute the substance of the criticism aimed at the current administration?

I suggest that it did not, and I will lay out a few of the reasons I think that it failed to do anything besides making the administration look desperate.

Interesting choice of words to lead off this particular address. Consistent with a core criticism of this adminitration, cheney continues conflagrate Iraq and terrorism. Iraq is guilty of terrorism through guilt by association - not because those associations are clearly established, but because the administration continues to associate them with every available opportunity. Second, Cheney suggests here the crucial importance of enforcing UNSC resolutions. That’s all good and fine, but as you will see, he contradicts the assertion with later statements. Stay tuned. And finally, how many Iraqi’s feel liberated? How many feel conquered?

Draw your own conclusions. That’s what he’s hoping you will do.

So that’s where our CBW intelligence came from!

With at least one notable exception…

But the criticism isn’t so much this stated policy, it is the unequal application of the term “terrorists” that is used so selectively.

Afghanistan is still in shambles, and hardly any attention or resources are being devoted to rebuilding the country. The above statement could barely be applied to Kabul, much less the whole country.

Murderous dictator, sure. Does that fall into the definition of terrorist? And where is the evidence that Saddam Hussein represented a “menace to our future peace and security”? (emphasis added)

Ah, to the heart of the matter. Did Saddam cultivate ties to terror? Did Saddam host Abu Nidal any more than the US hosted Zacarias Moussoui (or any of the other 9/11 hijackers)? Are families of suicide bombers terrorists themselves? Did Saddam establish relationships with Al Qaida? While I agree that some evidence supports each assertion, tying it neatly altogether is tenuous at best. But more importantly, if these are the criteria for war, we attacked the wrong country. The evidence against Saudi Arabia is much more daming on these same points.

No doubt, at least prior to the 1991 Gulf War. Since 9/11, we have no evidence to support these assertions.

Absolutely false. Zero evidence suggests that Iraq failed to comply with the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire (which only included the condition that they withdraw from Kuwait, and literally, cease firing).

Absolutely false. Last October, the US Congress authorized the President to work with the UNSC to enforce UNSC resolutions, and to take every step necessary to protect the national security interests of the US. While that authorization could be interpreted to authorize the use of force, it could only be interpreted in that manner if the US’ national security was threatened - something the administration has asserted, but that critics continue to question.

Absolutely correct, but entirely misleading. “Serious consequences”, in UNSC parlance, is not an authorization to use force. And the use of force by “our coalition” was in direct violation of the UN Charter and the wishes of the UNSC.

Such “grave dangers” are totally unsubstantiated.

Shifting the burden of proof, which used to be “grave danger” posed by WoMD, to one of “weapons programs”. Cheney goes on an on about Kay’s report, but leaves a very misleading impression of the net result of the report - not a single WoMD found. Further, a clear statement that weapons inspections under the UN appear to have been entirely successful in hampering Saddam’s CBW programs.

Cheney goes through a litany of details form the Kay report, implying a preponderance of evidence. However, he fails to acknowledge, bottom line, that the Kay report exonerates the UNSC and France of the positions they took. And it fails to show how Iraq posed an imminent threat to the national security of the US.

What a load of hooey. The first sentence is a factual error. Even if the programs and activities were banned by the UNSC (of which some are in doubt, see the Post story), Iraq would only have been in material breach if they refused to abandon the programs and destroy any violations. They do not constitute a compelling case for the use of force, much less a direct violation of the UN charter (to use force without UNSC authorization and short of imminent threat to national security).

Gee, when haven’t they? Even earlier in this speech, Cheney acknowledged that Osama Bin Laden declared war on the US (although he failed to note that the declaration preceeded 9/11).

Strawman. No one has suggested that the US must wait until the terrorists strike. But we should be confident the threat even exists, otherwise, we are just international bullies.

Another strawman. Please show me where any critic has suggested that the US should not act unilaterally when its security is threatened.

False dilemma. No one is espousing inaction. The arguments are over which actions to take.

OK. I’ll stop here, even though he continues to misrepresent the positions of the critics in order to support the administration’s activities.

So I ask: Was his speech a compelling defense, or an act of desperation, continuing the same course that the critics assail? What do you think?

The Heritage Foundation? Any chance he could have found a more sympathetic venue anywhere, outside of a Cheney family reunion?

Are they desperate? Not yet. Nobody really knows how far the poll numbers will drop. There is a hard core of immovable Bushiviks in this country, trouble is, they don’t know how many. My wild-ass-guess is about 33%, based on no reliable evidence whatsoever. You could likely identify such a person by a positive response to the question “Is it disloyal and/or unpatriotic to criticize the Commander in Chief in times of war?”

If this latest round of propaganda blitz doesn’t do the job, and the numbers keep drooping, they may very well get desperate. How will we know? When they shift thier emphasis from justifying the war to waving the bloody shirt and squeeling in porcine rage about the disloyalty of thier critics, how any “real American” would back them up without question.

Then you’ll know.

Woke up yesterday morning, flipped on the TV, and through the sleep haze heard that Cheney was blaming Clinton for not stopping Saddam’s WMD program (really? So where the hell are they?) and not doing anything about his (non-existent) ties to terrorists.
Laughed uproariously. The man does not inhabit Planet Earth. Nor does the rest of this Administration.

3,595 words in that speech (approx), not one of which was ‘oil’.

I’d guess that’s about all I need to know about his “blistering rebuttal” and the obedient Washington Post.

One of your better posts there Monsieur Luci. Witty and yet scathing concurrently. Prescient and yet cynical. Kudos.