Tuesday, March 29, 2011

2007: Dick Cheney's Strategy

As I mentioned, pacifists (and near-pacifists) are often put in the position of noting there are a few things we could have done differently in the years leading up to the latest inevitable breakout of hostilities. In the case of Libya, the list of things we could have done stretches back to before the Qadaffy years. But we don't need to look that far back to find a record of hideous, counter-productive screw-ups....

Like a regular geyser of that Beltway euphemism, “hogwash,” Dick Cheney can be counted on to spew invective at those who dare to point out the disaster he’s created. Most recently (at this writing), he accuses Speaker Pelosi of “validating al-Qaeda’s strategy” by trying to find ways to extricate our troops from the Iraqi quagmire.

This is the only argument they have, which is why they can’t stop using it. It’s really the only thing the gets their approval ratings from the low 30s to the high 30s (that is, the approval ratings of Regent Cheney’s sock puppet the “Decider”). A certain number of Republican voters will salivate like Pavlov’s dogs when they hear this sort of thing, then eventually sink back into sullen contempt of what they have wrought.

But more than anything, it’s a reminder about how spectacularly wrong Dick Cheney can be – on everything from whether it’s a good idea to let Nelson Mandela rot in jail, to whether the dissolution of the Soviet Union was some kind of trick, to whether or not Saddam had “in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons,” to whether the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last throes” two years ago. So Dick seems to think that Al-Qaeda’s strategy is to trick us into leaving Iraq.

As anybody who knows anything about al-Qaeda can tell you, their fondest dream was that we would respond to 9-11 by invading an oil-rich Muslim country and getting bogged down there for years to come– a dream that came true, thanks to Uncle Dick. This has “validated” al-Qaeda’s rhetoric about how America is trying to re-colonize the Muslim world and exploit their resources.

You could easily lose count of the many ways Dick Cheney has weakened our national security. But maybe it’s worth a review, for the next time some GOP dead-ender repeats Fox News talking points to you about how it’s treason to do anything other than follow the Dear Leader unquestioningly:

• Botched the Afghan War – to the point where the Taliban have become serious contenders for power again, al-Qaeda leaders have safe haven along the Pakistani border, and we have to go begging our exasperated allies for more troops because we’ve got all of ours tied down trying to secure the Green Zone. After all, what could validate al-Qaeda’s strategy more than letting their leader get away?

• Botched the Iraq War. Failed to secure arms caches, undermanned the occupation forces, disbanded the Iraqi Army instead of buying them off, siphoned off reconstruction funds to cronies, created new enemies with every civilian casualty, prevented early elections, held elections that empowered pro-Iranian theocrats, wrote a constitution that alienated the Sunnis, ignored the potential for civil war, spent years refusing to consider any new strategy and claiming everything was going great. And, not incidentally, removing one of al-Qaeda’s biggest enemies from power, then boosting their brand name by publicly blaming them for a home-grown insurgency in the one Muslim country where they previously had the smallest presence.

• Broke our military. Pulled special forces and translators out of Afghanistan, sent undermanned, under-equipped troops into Iraq, forced parents to hold bake sales to buy body armor for their sons and daughters, loosened recruiting standards to let more dropouts and criminals in the ranks, lengthened tours of duty and shortened retraining schedules, left New Orleans undefended while national guard troops were pressed into missions they had never trained for, cut veterans benefits and let Walter Reed Hospital deteriorate into a rat-infested hellhole, lost hundreds of personnel to IEDs in unarmored vehicles, and got bogged down to the point where the insurgents learned how to shoot down helicopters and use chlorine trucks in suicide bombings. All of this, one might add, while pouring trillions into the defense budget for outdated high-tech weaponry designed to counter the USSR and enrich Cheney’s corporate cronies.

• Destroyed our credibility. Mounted an invasion based on easily refutable lies about WMDs, claims that were being undercut by weapons inspectors on the ground before the invasion. Cried wolf to the extent that allies must distance themselves from us, adversaries regard us as a paper tiger, and the US public will be rightly skeptical of any future call to arms, no matter how legitimate the cause. Moreover, given how bogged down and stretched thin our forces are, we have no credibility for saber-rattling against North Korea, Syria, or Iran.

• Alarmed our allies. Voters in Spain, Italy, South Korea, Turkey, Japan and elsewhere have turned pro-Bush leaders out of office (only Germany and Australia, for domestic reasons, bucked the trend). Tony Blair will slink from office humiliated and emasculated, his party demoralized, his legacy in tatters, forced by his generals to withdraw from the untenable quagmire of Basra. More ominously, fair-weather friends like Russia, China and India have noted the foul weather, and are holding meetings on military cooperation as a counterbalance to US hegemony.

• Emboldened our adversaries. We have shown the world that a ragtag band of insurgents can tie us down for years and grow in strength while doing so. The theocratic thugs in Iran can thank us for helping them to undermine their own domestic opposition, killing their longtime enemy Saddam, and handing his government to their Shiite allies. After Kim Jong Il successfully deterred us by getting his own nuke while we chased Saddam’s shadow, what message has been sent to any potential enemy? Proliferate while you can, and don’t worry about Washington’s threats. Bloodstained autocrats from Uzbekistan to Zimbabwe can rest easier at night with Cheney’s hapless neocons degrading our military capabilities.

• Ceded the moral high ground. By authorizing torture, “extraordinary rendition” to foreign gulags, kidnappings of other countries’ citizens, and indefinite detention without charges, Cheney has given every dictator in the world the right to laugh in our face when we bring up human rights. By winking at Abu Ghraib, murdered prisoners, rapes and cover-ups, and checkpoint massacres, he has created endless enemies for us among ordinary Iraqis. By abandoning habeas corpus and the Geneva conventions, he has put our own soldiers at greater risk.

• Blocked our energy independence. It’s worth remembering that Cheney’s secret energy “task force” of Enronesque corporate leaders included detailed plans for exploiting Iraq’s oil resources, well before the sales campaign for the 2003 invasion had begun. Cheney, of course, is the guy who sneers at conservation as merely a “personal virtue” while the US wastes more energy per capita than any nation on earth. And Cheney, of course, limits any moves towards alternative energy sources to the lip service the sock puppet gives every year at State of the Union time. Thus we continue to fund Islamic radicalism at the gas pump while paying the Pentagon to tamp it down (to the extent possible).

• Distorted our economy. Economist Joseph Stiglitz has estimated that the eventual cost of the Iraq War will be over $2 trillion, and that’s not even counting Cheney’s pension. The amount of good will that even a fraction of that total could buy is heartbreaking to contemplate: a Marshall Plan for the Third World, a crash program to combat global warming, a campaign to eradicate easily preventable diseases–pick your favorite, and have money left over to double teacher pay or halve classroom sizes. In the meantime, we’ll continue to drop $2 billion a week into the Iraqi hellhole, and a half trillion annually for the actual military budget (aside from the wars Cheney started).

• And last but not least, increased the threat of terrorism. The National Intelligence Estimate (a consensus view of all 16 intelligence agencies) says the Iraq War has made us less safe. The Iraq Study Group says the situation is “dire and deteriorating.” And a recent study found that terror attacks worldwide have increased sevenfold–not since 9/11, but since 3/19/03, the day the Iraq War began. Cheney has tossed all those warnings in the trash. Hosni Mubarak warned that invading Iraq would “create a hundred bin Ladens.” Before it’s over, that may look like a conservative estimate.

And that’s where we’re stuck now, cursed with leadership that can’t admit or even recognize their own mistakes. It doesn’t matter to them how unpopular or isolated they become, because they think history will vindicate them, eventually. The voters did everything they could to get our government to reverse course, but gerrymanders and Senate rules leave the new Congress unable to thwart the escalation. This war will not end until we can elect a new vice-president.

In the meantime, Jack Murtha has a neat piece of political jiu-jitsu in the works. He plans to introduce legislation that denies funding for additional troops unless they’re fully equipped, trained and adequately rotated in line with standard military practice. Since there’s not enough troops to do the surge without under-equipping, exhausting and overextending them, this essentially denies funding for any escalation. The American people want this to happen; large majorities believe the war was a mistake and want it to end.

This approach terrifies the Republicans, since what Murtha is doing is the exact definition of “supporting the troops.” Predictably, they are attacking him as a traitor with a plan to “slow-bleed” the troops. But just a few short months ago, Murtha shocked Washington with a plan for a phased redeployment. They called him a traitor then; now it’s Tony Blair’s strategy.

The only thing left for them to try is to have Dick Cheney attack Murtha for “doing bin Laden’s bidding.” But just remember that when he does, Cheney will be validating al-Qaeda’s strategy.

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