Dick Cheney: Wrong All Along

One of the most mind-boggling things I’ve ever witnessed politically is Dick Cheney’s current desire to tell the world “I told you so” on Iraq. He was welcomed as a hero at the American Enterprise Institute to make that argument and the Wall Street Journal dutifully tagged along, saying:

They saw how the early mistakes in Iraq led to chaos until the 2007 surge saved the day and left Mr. Obama with an opportunity he squandered … one way to start undoing the damage [around the world] would be to concede that Dick Cheney was right all along.

My former colleague Dave Weigel lets out a well-justified guffaw:

Boy, the phrase “all along” is asked to do some heavy from-the-knees lifting there. All along? The timer starts four years after the start of the Iraq war, and two years after Cheney insisted, pre-surge, that Iraqi insurgent groups were in their “last throes”?

Yes, that’s the new rule. We are to analyze the situation of 2014 by crediting the Bush administration not for the Iraq war, but for post-surge Iraq.

And ignore the fact that Obama had little choice but to honor the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq that Bush and Cheney negotiated and signed before he took office, which demanded that we withdraw our troops by the end of 2011. And ignore the fact that the ones who actually were right all along were those who said, before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, that it would lead to massive sectarian strife and civil war once we withdrew, leaving us in the untenable position of either staying there forever or watching the country descend into worse violence after we left.

In fact, you know who predicted that exact result? Dick Cheney himself, while defending the first President Bush’s decision not to invade Iraq after the first Gulf War:

What kind of government? Should it be a Sunni government or Shi’i government or a Kurdish government or Ba’athist regime? Or maybe we want to bring in some of the Islamic fundamentalists? How long would we have had to stay in Baghdad to keep that government in place? What would happen to the government once U.S. forces withdrew? How many casualties should the United States accept in that effort to try to create clarity and stability in a situation that is inherently unstable? I think it is vitally important for a President to know when to use military force. I think it is also very important for him to know when not to commit U.S. military force. And it’s my view that the President got it right both times, that it would have been a mistake for us to get bogged down in the quagmire inside Iraq.

Cheney was right in 1991. After that, he was wrong about pretty much everything.

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  • raven

    Cheney = Evil

    What is astonishing isn’t that he was wrong on Iraq all through the 21st century.

    It’s that he got something right in 1991. This is an unexplained anomaly right up there with the Loch Ness monster, Bush getting into Yale, and Bigfoot.

    I’m guessing that he is just reading a cue card with the old GOP party line on it and whoever wrote that had a functioning mind.

  • D. C. Sessions

    I’m guessing that he is just reading a cue card with the old GOP party line on it and whoever wrote that had a functioning mind.

    Pretty much. Bear in mind that unlike in 2001, Cheney wasn’t in position to make policy then and the dude in the White House actually knew what he was doing.

    If it makes you feel any better, Cheney played a key role in making voodoo economics a foundational Republican dogma all the way back in the 70s.

  • http://en.uncyclopedia.co/wiki/User:Modusoperandi Modusoperandi

    Look, we had it won. Then Obama comes in and immediately starts messing things up, starting a full five years before he was even president! You know, I’m no fan of “our” “president”, but the way he managed to invade the wrong country for weapons that weren’t there, fire their military and blackball most of the bureaucracy, ignored the ensuing insurgency for 18 months, spend a year planning against it, then react to it once the street-scale cleansing had started to burn itself out, in addition to spending years training their new army and police which immediately dissolve in any conflict, only to hand this mess over to the next president, handcuffing him with a steadily-more-paranoid Iraqi president and an agreement that our troops would leave promptly…and Obama did this all before he was even president, handing the mess to himself. That takes talent.

  • laurentweppe

    Cheney was right in 1991

    Cheney was right all along: he just never gave a shit about the people who had to face dreadful consequences of his decisions.

  • matty1

    I wonder if his rightness had any connection with this?

  • Pierce R. Butler

    … Obama had little choice but to honor the Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq that Bush and Cheney negotiated and signed before he took office, which demanded that we withdraw our troops by the end of 2011.

    He did have other choices, such as withdrawing US troops in 2009. Or 2010. Or earlier in 2011.

    But apparently the last Democrat who actually could choose not to follow Republican foreign-policy recipes for disaster was John F. Kennedy, and even he made that call (look up Bay of Pigs, whippersnappers) much too late.

  • katzenklavier

    @#6

    “But apparently the last Democrat who actually could choose not to follow Republican foreign-policy recipes for disaster was John F. Kennedy, and even he made that call (look up Bay of Pigs, whippersnappers) much too late.”

    A couple of points:

    1) LBJ was, like most of his contemporaries on both sides of the aisle, frightened of communism beyond any cogent thought, so he little needed Republicans to force his hand.

    2) JFK made his call during the Bay of Pigs invasion, by refusing air support for which the CIA was importuning. So, one could argue whether “during” was indeed “too late,” but his refusal to allow further escalation (and his later actions) has been assessed favorably by historians, not to mention by this scared trooper who spent those two weeks bivouacked in a hangar at McGuire AFB waiting to be flown south.

  • katzenklavier

    @#6

    Re #7, let me clear up confusion of my own making: I, of course, conflated the events of the Missile Crisis of October 1962 (whereupon I was indeed sitting in that hangar), but stand by my remarks as to the earlier Bay of Pigs invasion.

    (I may be an addled old fart, but decidedly no “whippersnapper.” :-))

  • Pierce R. Butler

    katzenklavier @ # 7 – I hope that was a typo in your point 1: please don’t get me started on LBJ, but sfaik he had little say-so in his first year as veep (certainly compared to VP Cheney).

    What’s to argue about “too late”? JFK would have done much better to have aborted the project he inherited from DDE while it was still just a training camp in rural south Florida, so nobody would have known about it except as historians’ footnotes, and you would never have seen the inside of that hangar.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    katzenklavier @ # 8 – thanks for the clarification. I hadn’t thought the US had troops ready to debark from Florida to back up the Cuban counterrevolutionaries, and was wondering whether I needed to go review some history books…

  • Reginald Selkirk

    They saw how the early mistakes in Iraq led to chaos …

    And who the fuck made those early mistakes?

  • http://www.ranum.com Marcus Ranum

    It must sting, to be a vain man like Cheney, and to know that history is going to record you as being somewhat less competent than Robert McNamara and a worse human being than Henry Kissinger. Such a legacy for such a little bureaucrat chickenhawk.

  • eddiejones

    “The timer starts four years after the start of the Iraq war, and two years after Cheney insisted, pre-surge, that Iraqi insurgent groups were in their “last throes”?”

    Hell, that’s four years after Dubya said the war was won! Yeah, “right all along” would have just stayed the hell out. But then how much MONEY did Darth Cheney make off the war??

  • Trebuchet

    This is an unexplained anomaly right up there with the Loch Ness monster, Bush getting into Yale, and Bigfoot.

    Nitpick, I guess: Bush getting into Yale is not an anomaly, it was a certainty. A spot was reserved for him from the day he was born. He’s a legacy, the son and grandson of prominent, wealthy, and powerful alumni. And once in, they made damn sure he graduated, whether he did the work or not.

  • tfkreference

    @14 …and someone has to be in the bottom half of the class.

  • colnago80

    Re Trebuchet @ #14

    A perfect example of hypocrisy is conservatives screaming about affirmative action while at the same time being silent on legacy admissions.

  • katzenklavier

    @Pierce R. Butler re #9

    In post #7 my “point 1” you challenge was in response to your declaration that “But apparently the last Democrat who actually could choose not to follow Republican foreign-policy recipes for disaster was John F. Kennedy …”

    My citation of LBJ was not in reference to Bay of Pigs when he was VP; it was meant as a refutation of the statement you made (that JFK was the last. LBJ, as president, did not, in my opinion, need Republican warmongering to force his hand — his visceral fear of communism and vapid acceptance of the Domino Theory were quite enough).

    Side note: It wouldn’t hurt if freethoughtblogs were to institute a Reply function, would it?

  • robertfoster

    I seem to recall the the Republican Party was first created in January 2009. Anything that happened prior to that date was the fault of the Democratic Party and the communists.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    katzenklavier @ # 17 – According to memoirs and interviews long after the US war on Vietnam, LBJ, McNamara, Rusk et al knew clearly that the war was militarily unwinnable, but realized even more clearly that not escalating would have the Repubs, the media, and eventually the voters all over their butts as “soft on communism”, and so proceeded to sacrifice 50K+ US troops (and at least 2M Vietnamese) to protect their own careers.

    However, I had intended a more limited point, about Democratic presidents following the bad policies of their immediate Republican predecessors. Note Clinton continuing the lethal Iraq sanctions imposed by Dubya Daddy, and Carter backing the Indonesian war against East Timor signed off on by Ford & Kissinger, as well as Obama’s bloody misadventures.

    Poke around (Richard Carrier, Heina Dadabhoy, others), and you’ll see that some FtB blogs do use a “Reply” function. The trade-offs of that (e.g., it’s really rough to follow a dialog while it’s on-going, compared to just picking up where you left off at last visit) are left to individual bloggers. IMHO, the great deficiency in the software here is inability to edit one’s own comments, even for a 5-minute window after posting; many of us snivel about that a lot, but so far to no result.