The fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq and the 4,000th US soldier death have elicited a string of outrageous comments from Vice President Dick Cheney that clearly illustrate how the major decision makers on the war have little regard for logic, reality, public opinion and our men and women in uniform.
Reporter: Let me go back to the Americans. Two-thirds of Americans say it’s not worth fighting, and they’re looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.
Reporter: So — you don’t care what the American people think?
Cheney: No, I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls. Think about what would have happened if Abraham Lincoln had paid attention to polls, if they had had polls during the Civil War. He never would have succeeded if he hadn’t had a clear objective, a vision for where he wanted to go, and he was willing to withstand the slings and arrows of the political wars in order to get there. And this President has been very courageous, very consistent, very determined to continue down the course we were on and to achieve our objective. And that’s victory in Iraq, that’s the establishment of a democracy where there’s never been a democracy, it’s the establishment of a regime that respects the rights and liberties of their people, as an ally for the United States in the war against terror, and as a positive force for change in the Middle East. That’s a huge accomplishment.
I’m not sure what “fluctuations” he’s referring to since American public opinion has not wavered, despite the administration’s attempts to paint the surge as a success. The majority still thinks the war was a mistake and we should withdraw US troops.
He continued with an offensive assessment of who pays the price for this war:
Cheney: The president carries the biggest burden, obviously. He’s the one who has to make the decision to commit young Americans, but we are fortunate to have a group of men and women, the all-volunteer force, who voluntarily put on the uniform and go in harm’s way for the rest of us.
Reporter: When you talk about an all-volunteer force, some of these soldiers, airmen, Marines have been on two, three, four, some of them more than that, deployments. Do you think when they volunteered they had any idea that there would be so many deployments or stop-loss? Some of those who want to get out can’t because of stop-loss?
Cheney: lot of men and women sign up because sometimes they will see developments. For example, 9/11 stimulated a lot of folks to volunteer for the military because they wanted to be involved in defending the country.
I had the experience, for example, of working for Jerry Ford, and I’ve never forgotten the travails he went through after he had been president for 30 days when he issued the pardon of former president Nixon. And there was consternation coast to coast.
The president had to go up — chose to go up before the Judiciary Committee of the House and testify in order to put down the rumors that somehow there had been a deal between he and President Nixon, that if he would pardon Nixon, then he would get to be president himself. I rode up there with him that day and sat in the hearing room while he answered all those questions. I know how much grief he took for that decision, and it may well have cost him the presidency in ’76.
Thirty years later, nearly everybody would say it is exactly the right thing to do, that if he’d paid attention at the time to the polls he never would have done that. But he demonstrated, I think, great courage and great foresight, and the country was better off for what Jerry Ford did that day. And 30 years later, everybody recognized it.
And I have the same strong conviction the issues we’re dealing with today — the global war on terror, the war in Afghanistan and Iraq — that all of the tough calls the president has had to make, that 30 years from now it will be clear that he made the right decisions, and that the effort we mounted was the right one, and that if we had listened to the polls, we would have gotten it wrong.
It is difficult to imagine what is going on in Dick Cheney’s head, but the arrogance and disregard for what the public wants and the sacrifice US soldiers are making demonstrates that the leadership in the US government does not have the best interests of the American and Iraqi people in mind in making these life and death decisions. Cheney inspired other gems from people like White House Press Secretary Dana Perino, who defended Cheney by saying we missed our chance to express opposition to the war: “You had input. The American people have input every four years, and that’s the way our system is set up.” Republican Presidential nominee John McCain followed up with his assessment: “We’re succeeding. I don’t care what anybody says.”
To get a real sense of who is bearing the burden of this war and why our work to end the occupation and implement political solutions is still so urgent, I recommend checking out the testimony from Iraq Veterans Against the War’s Winter Soldier event held earlier this month. They provide testimony from US soldiers and Iraqi civilians about the real situation on the ground in Iraq, information that we need to make a realistic assessment about next steps in Iraq.
Photo courtesy of Iran Press Service.