The situation in Iraq is truly worrisome, as militants threaten to tear the country asunder and disrupt the fragile, short-lived period absent all-out war there. The United States has strategic interests in preventing Iraq from unravelling, not least of which is that it doesn't need the country to become a haven for terrorists, particularly those who might see America as a target.
And of course, there is the uneasy subject of oil: Volatility in the region has already sent global oil prices soaring. The militants are said to have taken control of Iraq's largest oil refinery.
The United States must tread carefully here. There are no saints to be seen in this situation. Everyone's hands are bloody. And, we the Americans don't want to again get mired in a conflict in a country from which we have only recently extricated ourselves. As we weigh our response, one of the last people who should say anything on the subject is a man who is partly responsible for the problem. But former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was in the administration that deceived the United States into a nine-year war in Iraq, just can't seem to keep his peace.
In an Op-Ed published with his daughter, Liz, in The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday, the Cheneys write: "Rarely has a US president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many."
This, from the man who helped lead us into this trumped-up war, searching for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, a war in which some 4,500 members of the American military were killed, many thousands more injured, and that is running a tab of trillions of dollars.
During the lead-up to the war, Cheney said to Tim Russert: "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators." Nothing could have been further from the truth.
Even if it were indeed rare to be "so wrong," as Cheney puts it, he was vice president in an administration that was much more tragically wrong. His whole legacy is wrapped in wrong.
At one point in the article, the Cheneys state: "Iraq is at risk of falling to a radical Islamic terror group and Obama is talking climate change. Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing." Cheney must think that we have all forgotten the scene from "Fahrenheit 9/11," Michael Moore's 2004 documentary, in which President George W. Bush, brandishing a club on a golf course, looks into the camera and says,"I call upon all nations to do everything they can to stop these terrorist killers. Thank you."
That is quickly followed by, "Now, watch this drive," and a shot of Bush swinging at the ball.
In fact, on one of the rare occasions that Cheney was actually right, in 1994, he warned about the problems that would be created by deposing Saddam Hussein.
"Once you got to Iraq and took it over, and 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 can easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off. Part of it the Syrians would like to have to the west. Part of eastern Iraq, the Iranians would like to claim, fought over 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."
That was quite prescient. And yet, the Bush administration pushed us into the Iraq war anyway, and the quagmire we now confront.
That's why it's so galling to read Cheney chastising this administration for its handling of the disaster that Cheney himself foresaw, but ignored. I know that we as Americans have short attention spans, but most of us don't suffer from amnesia. The Bush administration created this mess, and the Obama administration now has to clean it up. The Cheneys wrote: "This president is wilfully blind to the impact of his policies," Cheney seemingly oblivious to the irony.
George W. Bush may well have been a disaster of a president (in a 2010 Siena College Research Institute survey, 238 presidential scholars ranked Bush among the five "worst ever" presidents in American history), but at least he has the dignity and grace — or shame and humility — to recede from public life with his family and his painting, and not chide and meddle with the current administration as it tries to right his wrong. Cheney, meanwhile, is still trying to bend history toward an exoneration of his guilt and an expunging of his record.
But history, on this, is stiff, and his record is written in blood.
The New York Times News Service