Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Cheney in 1994

Many people are linking to this clip of an April 15 1994 American Enterprise Institute interview with then ex-Defense Secretary Dick Cheney about what a war in Iraq would wreak.

Editor and Publisher, gives this transcript (but you should also see the clip if you have not done so):

Q: Do you think the U.S., or U.N. forces, should have moved into Baghdad?

A: No.

Q: Why not?

A: Because if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.

It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families -- it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?

Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.

People have wondered - what could have happened to Cheney. If he was 100% correct back then, why was he a moron now? Some have suggested that he changed; either 9/11 profoundly shook up his mental state, making bold irrational moves seem acceptable, or its a physical change - parts of his brain have been destroyed through micro-strokes.

Both answers are possible but I think overstate the case. I don't think he has changed at all. His speech pattern is the same in 1994 as it was in the 2000/2004 VP debates and this great interview from Nov 4 1976 when he was Chief of Staff to Pres. Ford and was beaten by (gag) Jim E. Carter.

I claim that Cheney, the unhinged greed-hound hasn't changed at all. What changed from 1994 and 2000-2007 are two things:

1. In 1994 he was defending a decision he already had made. He was trying to explain the war policies of his employer, Bush Sr. That administration didn't go into Iraq, so he'll do his Cheney Act - using his calm, reasonable, authoritative voice and his steadfast gaze - to defend his behavior as the only smart rational thing to do. I believe that had Bush Sr. decided to attack Iraq then Cheney would say the same things he's saying today.

2. However, one still needs to ask why Bush Sr. didn't go into Iraq and why Cheney in 1994 was saying things that we now know are correct. My theory is that the fact that Bush Sr. was a major loser (proof: Quayle), his war staff was obviously talented. The decision to not go into Iraq was probably made by smart people (like Powell) and Bush Sr. listened to them (possibly, also, since he himself had been in a war he didn't think it was all playtime cowboys and Indians unlike his draft-dodger son). Cheney was the same but the rationale was being provided by someone else.

As we know, nobody has made Bush Sr. look quite as good as his reprobate loser son George Jr. This is the opposite of effective parenting; my job is to make sure my kids have a better life than I have had. The Bushes take the other parenting view, I guess.

Cheney could very well have not been in charge of decisions back in 1991. Either that or his crackpot idiocy was being routinely shot down by smarter people. Or even that Bush Sr. was not quite as much a milquetoast pushover as his son. Or even that almost every human in history has more of an interest in what is done in his name than George W. Bush. He seems to allow the most horrible things to be done in his name whether it's torturing American citizens or shotgunning puppies.

In any case, Cheney hasn't changed. He's always defending his behavior: in 1976 it was to make Ford look good, in 1994 Bush Sr, and 2000-2007 Bush Jr.


Anonymous said...

They had good reason for halting and turning around in 1991. Iraq actually had chemical and biological weapons, and were prepared to use them, should foreign troops attempt to enter Baghdad. Weapon inspectors took over, steadily degrading Saddam’s capability. Cheney would have invaded in the late 1990s had the Democratic Party not become another obstacle.

JC said...

Mainly, I agree with you. However, I still believe that Cheney was correct in 1991 only because he was listening to somebody smart and he's wrong now because he's been listening to idiots.