Years ago on these pages, I predicted that the invasion of Iraq would become the biggest foreign policy blunder in our history. But I never imagined that over a decade later Iraq would still haunt us. (For the record, the invasion was supported by 97.5 percent of GOP House and Senate legislators whereas 57.5 percent of Democratic legislators voted against it.)
Dick Cheney‚Äôs recent polemics blaming Obama for Iraq are beyond galling. For Republicans it‚Äôs akin to a Bill Clinton lecture on “Ethics and White House interns.”
During Vietnam, Cheney received 6 military deferments, not to mention two DUIs. To get a glimpse of his annoying certitude go to YouTube and type “Cheney 1994.” A CSPAN video will come up wherein Cheney asserts that an invasion of Iraq during the Gulf War would have caused a “quagmire” and “made Saddam a martyr.”
Cheney says that a march to Bagdad would have “Empowered Iran, totally upset the Middle East and wasn‚Äôt worth the loss of American lives.” Nine years later it‚Äôs a crime (literally) that Cheney didn‚Äôt heed his own words.
Of course it‚Äôs well documented that Bush wanted to invade Iraq long before 911. On 9/12, he ordered counter-terrorism czar, Richard Clarke, to “Find Iraq‚Äôs involvement.” When Clarke informed the president that that there was no connection Bush put his finger into Clarke‚Äôs chest and said, “Look again.”
More evidence of Bush‚Äôs obsession with war came in February, 2001 at his first National Security Council meeting. Treasury Secretary, Paul O‚ÄôNeil, was shocked that topic #1 was how to get rid of Saddam and divvy up Iraq‚Äôs oil.
O‚ÄôNeil thought perhaps it was just one of Bush‚Äôs legendary “sophomoric pranks.” Sadly, it wasn‚Äôt. In fact, Bush allegedly confided to friends that, “All great presidents have been wartime presidents.” (He proved they can be great failures as well.)
These days Bush continues to assert that we won‚Äôt know for 50 years if invading Iraq was the right decision. What a classic cop out.
Seemingly without remorse, W. has turned to painting, as a catharsis. And he seems to have some talent, if not odd choices of subjects. (Bush has painted the likeness of his own feet in the bathtub.)
Meanwhile the neo-cons shamelessly rewrite history. Lest we forget, it was Cheney who assured us that our troops would be “Greeted as liberators.” Donald Rumsfeld predicted the war would be over in “Six days, maybe six weeks but certainly not six months.”
Deputy Secretary of Defense, Paul Wolfowitz, predicted that the Iraq War would cost $50 billion. (More like $4 trillion!) He claimed Iraq was so oil-rich that they would pay for their own reconstruction. How did that work out?
Condoleezza Rice, whom Richard Clarke was convinced didn‚Äôt know who Al-Qaeda was, warned ominously of a “mushroom cloud.” She based her doomsday scenario on Saddam‚Äôs alleged purchase of enriched uranium in Niger. Except the documents she offered as evidence included signatures of Niger government officials who hadn‚Äôt been in office for 10 years.
A lifelong Republican, Ambassador Joe Wilson, was sent to Niger by the CIA to find the truth. When he revealed it was a sham he was “rewarded” by Cheney‚Äôs top deputy, “Scooter” Libby, outing Wilson‚Äôs wife, Valerie Plame, a CIA agent. How betraying a covert spy, and her front company, in a time of war wasn‚Äôt treason is still beyond me.
In addition to his infamous, “Mission Accomplished,” Bush was rightfully criticized for his tasteless joke about the missing WMDs. At the 2004 Radio and Television correspondent‚Äôs dinner W. thought it was clever to pretend to look for WMDs under the podium. “They‚Äôve got to be here somewhere,” he giggled. (Given our dead and wounded GIs, did he actually think that was funny? Good Lord.)
Another absurd quote came in 2003 but this was from John McCain, who‚Äôs apparently never met a war he doesn‚Äôt like. McCain claimed that the Sunnis and Shias had “no history of conflict.” As Jon Stewart pointed out on the “Daily Show,” the two factions did get along, once, back in the 50‚Äôs. The 950s! (950 A.D. being the last time they got along!)
Perhaps an even more embarrassing comment occurred when Bush was de-briefed about Sunni and Shia hatred. Exasperated, he reportedly whined, “I don‚Äôt get it, they‚Äôre all Muslims, aren‚Äôt they?”
The tragic legacy that is Iraq, or Vietnam before it, is that we invade countries where we know nothing of their history. In Vietnam we ignored that the Vietnamese and Chinese had been mortal enemies for centuries.
In Iraq, the interventionist neo-cons fabricated a set of reasons and the evidence to support it to justify an invasion that destabilized an entire region and bankrupted our country. Iraq was such a colossal failure that had the Bush administration governed in Japan, there wouldn‚Äôt have been enough hari-kari knives to go around.
But now, on Fox News, we are told that Iraq is all the fault of a “socialist,” Kenyan-born president who is a secret Muslim. This as Bush happily paints portraits of cats.
Jack is at facebook.com/jackneworth, twitter.com/jackneworth or firstname.lastname@example.org.