Dick Cheney on War & Peace
Vice President of the United States; Former Republican Representative (WY)
Kissinger supported the Iraq war, but increasingly saw it through the prism of the Vietnam War. For Kissinger, the overriding lesson of Vietnam is to stick it out. He claimed that the US had essentially won the war in 1972, only to lose it because of the weakened resolve of the public and Congress. In The Washington Post on 8/12/05, Kissinger wrote, " Victory over the insurgency is the only meaningful exit strategy." [A few months later], the administration issued a "National Strategy for Victory in Iraq." It was right out of the Kissinger playbook. The only meaningful exit strategy would be victory.
FACT CHECK: Cheney repeatedly said Edwards had voted "for the war" and "to commit the troops," when in fact the Iraq resolution that both Kerry and Edwards supported left the decision to the president and called for intensified diplomacy. The resolution for which Edwards and Kerry voted said, "The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate." And Edwards made clear in a statement at the time of his vote that he hoped to avoid war by enlisting broad support from the United Nations and US allies: In fact, not even Bush himself characterized the resolution as a vote "for war" at the time.
CHENEY: The 90% figure is just dead wrong. When you include the Iraqi security forces that have suffered casualties, as well a the allies, they've taken almost 50% of the casualties in operations in Iraq , which leaves the US with 50%, not 90%.
FACT CHECK: Both men have a point here, but Edwards is closer to the mark. Edwards is correct counting only "coalition" forces-those of the US, Britain and the other countries that took part in the invasion and occupation of Iraq. 1,066 US service men and women had died from hostile action and other causes during the Iraq operation as of Oct. 5, of a total 1,205 for all coalition countries. That's just over 88% of the coalition deaths. For Iraqi security forces, estimates put the figure at 750, producing a total of 1,955. Of that, the Iraqi portion is 38% (not "almost 50%" as Cheney claimed) and the US total amounts to 55%.
FACT CHECK: The Washington Post reported Oct. 6 that Cheney often "skated close to the line in ways that may have certainly left that impression on viewers," especially by repeatedly citing the possibility that hijacker Mohamed Atta met with an Iraqi official, a theory disputed by the 9/11 Commission.
CHENEY: What we did in Iraq was exactly the right thing to do. If I had it to recommend all over again, I would recommend exactly the same course of action.
A: Saddam Hussein had been, for years, listed on the state sponsor of terror, they he had established relationships with Abu Nidal, who operated out of Baghdad; he paid $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers; and he had an established relationship with Al Qaida. Specifically, look at George Tenet, the CIA director's testimony before the Committee on Foreign Relations two years ago when he talked about a 10-year relationship. The effort that we've mounted with respect to Iraq focused specifically on the possibility that this was the most likely nexus between the terrorists and weapons of mass destruction. The biggest threat we faced today is the possibility of terrorists smuggling a nuclear weapon or a biological agent into one of our own cities and threatening the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans.
CHENEY: I have not suggested there's a connection between Iraq and 9/11, but there's clearly an established Iraqi track record with terror. And the point is that that's the place where you're most likely to see the terrorists come together with weapons of mass destruction, the deadly technologies that Saddam Hussein had developed and used over the years. Edwards and Kerry have got a very limited view about how to use US military forces to defend America.
CHENEY: We've made significant progress in Iraq. We've stood up a new government that's been in power now only 90 days. The notion of additional troops is talked about frequently, but the point of success in Iraq will be reached when we have turned governance over to the Iraqi people; they have been able to establish a democratic government. They're well on their way to doing that. They will have free elections next January for the first time in history. We also are actively, rapidly training Iraqis to take on the security responsibility.
Sept. 11th, 2001, made clear the challenges we face. On that day we saw the harm that could be done by 19 men armed with knives and boarding passes. America also awakened to a possibility even more lethal: this enemy, whose hatred of us is limitless, armed with chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons.
Just as surely as the Nazis during World War Two and the Soviet communists during the Cold War, the enemy we face today is bent on our destruction. As in other times, we are in a war we did not start, and have no choice but to win. Firm in our resolve, focused on our mission, and led by a superb commander in chief, we will prevail.
Cheney described Churchill as the first author to have had a profound impact on him. Churchill's six-volume history of World War II impressed upon Cheney the point that leadership in world affairs is about recognizing dangers and confronting them rather than wishing them away. "The reason that the twentieth century ended with the forces of communism and fascism defeated and with capitalism and democracy increasing as the political and economic models people aspire to," Cheney would say, "is due in no small part to US leadership backed by military force.
After Sept. 11, it was clear to Cheney that the threat from terrorism had grown enormously. First, the standard of proof would have to be lowered-irrefutable smoking-gun evidence would not have to be required for the US to defend itself. Second, defense alone wasn't enough. They needed an offense.
The most serious threat now facing the US was a nuclear weapon or a biological or chemical agent in the hands of a terrorist inside the country's borders. And everything, in his view, had to be done to stop it. "The vice president, after 9/11, clearly saw Saddam Hussein as a threat to peace," Bush said. "And was unwavering in his view that Saddam was a real danger."
"There is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction [and] there is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies and against us," including "an aggressive nuclear weapons program." Ten days earlier, the president himself had said only that Hussein "desires" these weapons. Neither Bush nor the CIA had made any assertion comparable to Cheney's.
Cheney also said that these weapons in the hands of a "murderous dictator" are "as great a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action." These remarks, just short of a declaration of war, were widely interpreted as administration policy.
It was about the worst charge that Powell could make about the vice president. But there it was. Cheney would take an intercept and say it shows something was happening. No, no, no, Powell or another would say, it shows that somebody talked to somebody else who said something might be happening. A conversation would suggest something might be happening, and Cheney would convert that into a "We know." Well, Powell concluded, we didn't know. No one knew.
Cheney replied, "Prince Bandar, once we start, Saddam is toast."
After Bandar had left, Rumsfeld voiced some concern about the "toast" remark. "What was that all about, Dick?"
"I didn't want to leave any doubt in his mind what we're planning to do," Cheney said.
[The next day, to Bush], Bandar said, "People are not going to shed tears over Saddam Hussein, but if he's attacked one more time by America and he stays in power after you've finished this, yes, everybody will follow his word." The problem would be if Hussein survived. The Saudis needed assurance that Hussein was going to be toast. Bush said, "The message [from Cheney that] you're taking is mine, Bandar."
To his hawkish eyes, a lone pair of souped-up flatbed trucks are "conclusive evidence" of Saddam's WMD, and a memo that the Pentagon has labeled "inaccurate" provides, according to Cheney, "overwhelming evidence" that the former Butcher of Baghdad and Osama bin Laden had an "established relationship."
He even persists in serving up that thoroughly moldy chestnut about head-hijacker Mohammed Atta hooking up with an Iraqi spy in Prague, despite the fact that the FBI has long since concluded that Atta was actually tooling around Florida in a rental car at the time of the alleged meeting.
Freedom still has enemies in Iraq. These terrorists are targeting the very success and the freedom that we're providing for the Iraqi people.
Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. And we are rolling back the terrorist threat at the heart of its power. We are striking aggressively at the terrorists in Iraq, defeating them there, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities.
We are calling on other nations to help Iraqis build a free country, which will make all of us more secure. We are standing with the Iraqi people as they assume more responsibilities for their own security and self-government. These are not easy tasks, but they are absolutely essential. We will finish what we have begun, and we will win this essential victory in the war on terror.
Of all the president's advisers, Cheney has consistently taken the most dire view of the terrorist threat. On Iraq, Bush was the decision maker. But more than any adviser, Cheney was the one to make the case to the president that war against Iraq was an urgent necessity. Beginning in Aug. 2002, he persistently warned that Saddam was stocking up on chemical and biological weapons, and in March 2003, on the eve of the invasion, he declared that "we believe that he Saddam Hussein has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons." (Cheney later said that he meant "program," not "weapons." He also said, a bit optimistically, "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.") After seven months, investigators are still looking for that arsenal of WMD.
Rice agreed. The UN had become too much like the post-World War I League of Nations-a debating society with no teeth. They all agreed that the president should not go to the UN to ask for a declaration of war.
Cheney argued that to ask for a new resolution would put them back in the soup of the UN process-hopeless, endless & irresolute. All the president should say is that Hussein is bad, has willfully violated, ignored and stomped on the UN resolutions of the past, and the US reserves its right to act unilaterally.
LIEBERMAN: America has a national strategic and a principled interest in peace in the Middle East. Al Gore has played a critical role in advancing that process. These peoples have come centuries forward in the last seven years. I pray that the unrest in the last week will not make it hard for them to go back to the peace table. We’ve been on a very constructive course in the Middle East, played a unique role, and Al Gore and I will continue to do that.
CHENEY: We made significant breakthroughs at the end of the Bush administration because of the Gulf War. By virtue of the end of the Cold War, the Soviets were no longer a factor. My guess is that the next administration is going to have to come to grips with the current state of affairs. I think it’s very important that we have a president with firm leadership who has the kind of track record of dealing straight with people, so that friends respect us and adversaries fear us.
CHENEY: I hope it marks the end of Milosevic. It’s a victory for the Serbian people. This is a continuation of a process that began 10 years ago all across Eastern Europe, and it’s only now arrived in Serbia. We saw it in Germany, we saw it in Romania, we saw it in Czechoslovakia, as the people of Eastern Europe rose up and made their claim for freedom. We want to do everything we can to support Milosevic’s departure. Certainly, though, that would not involve committing U.S. troops. Governor Bush suggested that we ought to try to get the Russians involved to exercise some leverage over the Serbians and Al Gore pooh-poohed it. But now it’s clear from the press that in fact that’s exactly what they were doing. This is an opportunity for the U.S. to test President Putin of Russia, whether or not he’s willing to support the forces of freedom in the area of Eastern Europe.
Saddam Hussein’s offensive military capability, his capacity to threaten his neighbors, has been virtually eliminated. This is a very significant development.
Israel, I think, from a military standpoint is more secure today than she’s been at any time in the recent past because of the elimination of Iraq’s offensive military threat. A very significant development.
I think would-be aggressors, not only in the Middle East but elsewhere around the world, have to pause and reflect before they contemplate the possibility that aggression is a course that holds rewards for them. A significant development.
Cheney noted that he has tried to listen to all sides involved in the Arab-Israeli conflict. During one month, he met with [leaders of Israel, Jordan, & Egypt]. Cheney vows to “argue as persuasively as I know how” with his former colleagues on Capitol Hill to adopt a “more balanced policy” in terms of improving relations with Arab nations.
Cheney, whose prognosis then has proven to be correct, is scarcely less pessimistic about the Middle East seven years later. “You’re talking about animosities that go back centuries,” Cheney said recently in Wyoming. “It’s not an area where you can anticipate that overnight there’s going to be some solution and everybody’s going to say, ‘Great, peace has arrived.’ This requires tough, hard, day-to-day efforts to maintain momentum for peaceful resolution of the conflicts in that part of the world. You cannot expect, given the track record, any quick and easy results.”
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George W. Bush
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