Cheney Flip-Flopped on Iraq

Here’s an interesting CSPAN interview with Dick Cheney from 1994. It’s amazing how accurate Dick’s analysis of the Iraq situation was in 1994 when justifying the decision to merely destroy Saddam’s army in Kuwait and not try to occupy Iraq or catpure Saddam. It’s a pity that he didn’t stick to that idea.

Since the old CSPAN interview became popular the MSNBC show Countdown with Keith Olbermann covered it (youtube link). Keith initially said some ridiculous things about heart surgery affecting people’s emotions (that was the medical opinion about 2000 years ago, doctors have learned a lot since and Keith should learn from them). Then John Nichols of The Beat blog and author of Dick: The Man Who is President (Dick Cheney) makes some interesting comments. John interviewed the professors who taught Dick at university and their opinion of him matches the current observations – that he believes that the US government can do whatever it wants with no consequences.

7 comments to Cheney Flip-Flopped on Iraq

  • […] Cheney Flip-Flopped on Iraq » This Summary is from an article posted at etbe on Thursday, August 23, 2007 Here’s an […]

  • M. Grégoire

    I listened to the interview on the radio the other night, so I`m going off memory…

    The concerns that Cheney had in the early 90s were real, and in that light it`s especially shocking that the current Administration still did such a bad job with the post-war. Still, by the late 90s things had changed, and there was a wide-spread sense in the Clinton Administration and in Congress that the US had made a mistake in not overthrowing Saddam while they had a chance.

    The first Bush Administration had assumed that Saddam`s days in power would be numbered after his crushing defeat. The Shi`ites would rise up and oust him, or there would be a military coup. In fact, Saddam managed crush the Shiìte rebellion, hold on to government power, oust the UN weapons inspectors, and erode the sanctions regime. He was like a bear that had been wounded, but one that was gaining strength, not one slowly succumbing to his wounds.

    The other important reason that they hadn`t pushed on to Baghdad, the one that Cheney couldn`t admit to at the time, had to do with the Coalition. Bush and Baker had succeeded not just in getting the Security Council`s authorization for the liberation of Kuwait, but had the support of the Saudis, the Syrians, and other Arab nations as well. But the locals just wanted to restore the status quo ante, not the serious shake-up of the neighbourhood that regime change in Iraq implied. The first Bush Administration allowed the Coalition to dictate their war aims, rather than using their war aims to assemble the Coalition. Hence a markedly different strategy by George W. Bush.

    The current Bush Administration had, even from its first days, a desire to grasp the nettle and do something about Saddam Hussein. In the aftermath of 9/11, when they realised the deep malaise of the Arab world, they decided to invade.

    To quote Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind — what do you do, sir?”

  • etbe

    M. Gregoire: The problem with your analysis is that everything Cheney predicted in regard to the problems with invading Iraq seems to be coming true. The Kurds want to separate and there is already trouble in Turkey related to this (the Turkish army has been shelling Kurdish positions and is on the streets in Turkey against the local Kurds). In the non-Kurdish parts of Iraq there are a variety of insurgent groups who kill Americans whenever they get a chance, parts of Baghdad are not even safe for Abrams battle tanks! The death toll for US soldiers is high.

    Saddam was not rebuilding his strength, UN weapons inspectors found no evidence of WMD and all the post-war effort has not been able to turn up any evidence to the contrary.

  • M. Grégoire

    Leaving aside the issue of WMDs, surely you will agree that — even if he was right about the problems resulting from a US invasion — Defense Secretary Cheney was wrong in thinking that Saddam`s days as dictator were numbered. The regime change policy adopted under Clinton and implemented under Bush in 2003 was a response to earlier faulty predictions.

  • etbe

    M. Gregoire: Changing a regime is a bad idea unless you can replace it with something better. It seems quite obvious that the current situation is worse than having Saddam in power by all possible metrics (in terms of threat to the US, support of Al Qaeda, destabilising the region, and the deaths of innocent civilians).

  • M. Grégoire

    It`s hard to believe that, bad as Saddam was, the lives of most Iraqis have actually gotten worse. But sadly, you`re right, that`s exactly what`s happened.

    Still, I don`t think it was obvious back in 2003; attacks against American troops (and by American troops against civilians) were foreseeable, but personally I didn`t expect Al-Qaeda to be planting massive bombs to blow up Shi`ite markets and mosques, or for Shi`ite militias to be slaughtering ordinary Sunnis. After all, there was no single group that had a majority, intermarriage was not uncommon, and even Ba`athism was originally secularist. I don`t remember any pundits predicting this either, but maybe I just didn`t read enough Fisk.

    Of course the regime change plan was always going to cause short term suffering, with the intention that metrics would be better in the longer term. Even now, it`s still possible that things will improve. The US did establish a democratic government in Iraq, and perhaps their new army will eventually be able to provide security to Iraqi citizens. For the good of the Iraqis, let`s hope so; it could also get much worse.

  • etbe

    M. Gregoire: I regret that I didn’t start blogging years ago. I was many people who predicted that things would happen much the way that they did, it’s a pity that I don’t have a public record of my predictions to point to. When an invasion of Iraq was first suggested my predictions were surprisingly similar to Dick Cheney’s 1994 comments (even though I didn’t learn of them until very recently). I think that when something gets widely predicted by many people of vastly different background and mind-set then it’s not unreasonable to consider it to be obvious.

    According to the best reports I have read about the British colonisation of India, before independence and partition there was no real trouble between Hindus and Muslims. But once these things start they can gain a life of their own.

    If the invaders had considered the possibility for things to go wrong (remember that no military plan ever survives contact with the enemy) and planned ahead the bad things could have been greatly mitigated.

    Problems that are currently faced in Iraq are the lack of legitimacy of the government (they are considered as Quislings by much of the population) and the fact that army and police units have been subverted by subversive (terrorist) organisations.

    I don’t think that there was ever a chance of having a democratic Iraq with the current borders. The first thing that the Kurds in the north want is independence (which they have effectively achieved), and then the Kurds in the south of Turkey want to secede to join them (which is why the Turkish military is active in the north of “Iraq”), and things just have to get worse from there.