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“Cheney’s Iraq Facts Are Still All Wrong”: Factual Errors, Misleading Statements, A Continuation Of His Eight Years As Vice President

Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s September 10, 2014 speech at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) was particularly bad from both a timing and protocol perspective given that the President was going to lay out his strategy to confront ISIS that same day. But more importantly, the many factual errors and misleading statements about the Obama administration in his speech did not contribute to a “fair and balanced” debate about the foreign policy challenges facing this country. The abundant factual errors and misleading statements in Cheney’s speech are very serious. Jarring to the ear, they should remind us of Cheney’s lack of foreign policy skill and his poisonous decisions over the past decades. Let me mention but a few.

The most obvious was Cheney’s praise of President’s Nixon for making the tough choice of “standing by Israel in the Six Day War,” and implying that Obama was not doing so. Unfortunately for Cheney, the Six Day War actually occurred two years before Nixon took office, in 1967. Nixon was president during the Yom Kippur War between Israel and Egypt in 1973, but Cheney’s recollection of staunch support for Israel is mistaken. Nixon’s National Security advisor, Henry Kissinger, persuaded Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir not to launch a preemptive strike against the Egyptian forces massing on Israelis’ border, as well as slowing our resupply of Israel during the battle. By contrast, Obama rushed extra funds to Israel for its Iron Dome anti-missile system during its recent conflict with Gaza.

Cheney is also wrong in trying to blame Obama for his “arbitrary and hasty withdrawal of residual forces from Iraq.” It was President Bush and Vice President Cheney himself, who in December 2008 signed the Framework Agreement with the Iraqi government, requiring all American troops to be out of Iraq by the end of 2011. Since this original agreement was ratified by the Iraqi Parliament, any modifications to the Bush-Cheney agreement would also have to be ratified by the Iraqi Parliament — something US military lawyers also insisted on. Obama was willing to leave 10,000 troops in Iraq. But when Maliki told Obama that there were not enough votes in the Iraqi Parliament, all the troops had to leave.

Cheney is also wrong to blame Obama for the establishment of the Islamic State’s self-styled caliphate in Iraq. It is Malikis dictatorial and narrow-minded governing style and politicization of the Iraqi security forces that created distrust among the Sunnis and weakened the Iraqi Army, allowing ISIL to seize the territory they now control. Maliki was Bush and Cheney’s handpicked candidate for Prime Minister.

Cheney’s comments about the defense budget are also way off the mark. According to him, the Nation’s Armed services constantly are being “subjected to irrational budget cuts having nothing to do with strategy.” However, this has nothing to do with Obama. The caps on the defense budget are mandated by the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, pushed by the Republicans after they took control of the House in 2010 in order to reduce the deficit. In fact for the past two years, Obama has sought to mitigate the impact of the cuts by proposing over $115 billion in additions to the regular defense budget over the next five years, and used the Overseas Contingency Budget (OCO) to fund about $30 billion in regular budget items.

But Cheney’s most egregious mistake is to ignore the fact that the chaos in the Middle East is a direct result of the mindless, needless, senseless invasion and occupation of Iraq that he helped engineer. He seems to forget that there was no Al Qaeda in Iraq before the U.S. invasion in 2003 he pushed for. There would be no ISIS without the U.S. invasion. Baghdadi, the head of ISIS, was a nobody until we imprisoned and tortured him.

Cheney is also wrong in arguing that Obama has a distrust of American power. I guess he missed the hundreds of drone strikes and Special Forces troops that Obama has launched against Al Qaeda and terrorist leaders throughout the Middle East and North Africa. In addition to Osama bin Laden, Obama’s use of American power and the American military took out the head of the Al-Shabab terrorist group behind the Kenyan mall shootings.

Cheney’s hypocrisy is best summed up in his comments about our Armed Forces. He credits them with maintaining the structure of our security that has been in place and defended by the United States since World War II. However, Cheney’s public support rings hollow. During the war in Vietnam — which claimed the lives of over 60,000 young Americans — Cheney dodged the draft, racking up five deferments. His praise for the armed forces now stands in contrast to his actions then.

Cheney’s factual errors, misleading statements and hypocrisy are a continuation of his eight years as vice president. Blaming Obama for everything that is not right in the world does not help this country deal with the challenges it faces in the Middle East. As a starting point, Cheney should have acknowledged his own errors in the Middle East that destabilized the region in the first place.


By: Lawrence Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress; The Huffington Post Blog, September 12, 2014

September 13, 2014 Posted by | Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, Middle East | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Syria And The Return Of Dissent”: Liberating The Country From The Shackles Imposed During The Bush Years On Open Discussion

The debate over Syria is a jumble of metaphors, proof that every discussion of military action involves an argument about the last war. Yet beneath the surface, the fight in Congress over President Obama’s proposed strike against Bashar al-Assad’s regime is a struggle to break free from earlier syndromes to set a new course.

Obama himself is using the imperative that he back up his “red line” against chemical weapons as an occasion to revisit his Syrian strategy. And both of our political parties are emerging from a post-9/11 period of frozen foreign policy thinking to a more natural and intellectually honest exchange over America’s long-term role in the world.

The mood of the public and of many in Congress is summarized easily: “No more Iraqs.” It’s a sensible impulse because the Iraq war never delivered on the promises of those who urged the country to battle. Especially among Democrats who initially endorsed the war, there is a lingering guilt that they never asked the Bush administration the questions that needed to be posed. Belatedly, those queries — about what the intelligence shows and what our goals are — are now being directed to Obama on Syria.

Still, there is another reaction among Democrats and liberals, including Obama. It is a return to a pre-Iraq view that shaped the Clinton administration’s policies in Bosnia and Kosovo after it failed to stop the Rwandan genocide: There are times when American power can be used to keep local wars from flying out of control, to prevent or limit humanitarian catastrophes and, yes, to advance the country’s interests.

Many Democrats supported Bush on Iraq because they mistakenly placed the war in the context of a humanitarian intervention. Yet this guardedly interventionist wing of the party also includes people such as House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who opposed the commitment in Iraq but never stopped believing in the positive uses of American military power. These Democrats are swinging Obama’s way on Syria not for partisan reasons but because he shares their position in the quarrel inside the party.

Nonetheless, Obama faces substantial resistance among Democrats because Vietnam and Iraq turned a large section of the party into principled noninterventionists who set an extremely high bar to any use of America’s armed forces. The same can be said of libertarian Republicans such as Sen. Rand Paul and Rep. Justin Amash. This left-right anti-war coalition has a long American pedigree, going back to the periods before both World War I and World War II.

But that only begins to describe the complexity of the argument on the Republican side. Many in the party instinctively skeptical of foreign entanglements suppressed their doubts during the Bush years. With a Democrat in the White House and 9/11 more than a decade behind us, they now feel they can express them again. This group overlaps with a GOP faction whose one driving ideology involves standing against anything Obama is for.

Republican interventionists, in the meantime, are divided among themselves. Neoconservatives such as Sen. John McCain have an expansive attitude toward deploying American forces and still believe in the Iraq war. Realists such as Sen. Bob Corker do not want a repeat of Iraq but are willing to give Obama a limited mandate to act in Syria. House Speaker John Boehner rather bravely urged passage of a resolution on Syria, knowing that inaction there would undermine a tough approach toward Iran. He finds himself somewhere between these two camps.

Ultimately, after intricate negotiations, the balance of power among all these factions will almost certainly give the president the congressional victory he needs to take action — in part because majorities in both houses know that an Obama defeat on Syria would be devastating to American foreign policy. Wednesday’s 10 to 7 Senate Foreign Relations Committee vote for a resolution was a sign of things to come.

And by forcing this necessary vote in Congress, Obama has forced himself to recalibrate a Syrian strategy that had reached a dead end and to clarify his goals. He is stepping up support for more moderate Syrian opposition elements and his plans to “degrade” Assad’s military are more extensive than simply a warning shot. But he remains deeply wary of committing American troops on the ground.

With luck, Obama will get by this crisis while sending a strong message of American determination to uphold international norms. In the longer run, despite the repeated references to the recent past, the Syria debate signals that the country is finally liberating itself from the shackles imposed during the Bush years on an open discussion of our country’s interests and purposes. Democracy is often slow, but it eventually works.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, September 4, 2013

September 6, 2013 Posted by | Syria | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“With Gratitude”: The New Greatest Generation Is Right Here Among Us

For nearly a decade I have had the privilege of teaching veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, though they have taught me more.

Most of them were Army captains and majors who had done three or four tours of duty. And here’s the most remarkable thing: Not one of these men and women complained about what we asked of them.

They have, however, occasionally objected to the shameful fact that after the first few years of hostilities, these became largely invisible conflicts. In the final stages of the Iraq war and for a long time now in Afghanistan, there has been something close to media silence even as our fellow Americans continue to fight and die.

The ongoing war barely impinges on our daily discussions, and we don’t bother to argue much about our Afghanistan policy. Mostly, we hope that President Obama can keep his promise to bring our troops home.

My Thanksgiving thoughts have often turned toward my military students at Georgetown University’s Public Policy Institute and to the thousands like them who have done very hard duty with little notice.

But this year, the gratitude that they inspire has been heightened, perhaps paradoxically, by the news about David Petraeus, his affair and the mess left behind. I won’t add to the mountain of Petraeus commentary, so much of which has been driven by preexisting attitudes toward Petraeus himself, the wars he led or the matter of how we should deal publicly with sexuality.

What has troubled me is how writing on all sides has aggravated the understandable but disturbing tendency to lay so much stress on the role of famous generals that we forget both the centrality of midlevel military leadership and the daily sacrifices and bravery of those in the enlisted ranks who carry out orders from on high.

There is, of course, nothing at all new about celebrity generals, and many of them truly deserved the accolades that came their way. One thinks, for example, of Ulysses S. Grant, who is enjoying a comeback among historians, and Dwight D. Eisenhower, whose subsequent presidency should give Republicans trying to rebuild their party some useful guidance.

But our military has been at its best when it combined two deeply American impulses, one more honored on the right, the other on the left.

We are an entrepreneurial country, and members of our officer corps do extraordinary work when they are given the freedom to think for themselves and to innovate.

We are also a democratic nation, and although the military is necessarily rank-conscious, the U.S. armed forces have traditionally nurtured an egalitarian ethos that cultivated loyalty all the way down. This is one reason reports of rather privileged living by generals are grating, even if none of us begrudges a bit of comfort for those — including people at the top — who give their lives to service.

The entrepreneurial and democratic spirits are important in battle, but they are even more important to the many noncombat tasks that we are now asking our military to undertake. Petraeus’s approach to Iraq depended upon officers who had exceptional political gifts and an ability to improvise as they worked with local leaders. As an Army major serving in Iraq wrote in a memo that was shared with me back in 2007, “We discovered that we were not fighting a military campaign but a political campaign — not too different from what a small-town mayor might do to win reelection back in the U.S.” The surge was as much about this kind of inventiveness as it was about military planning.

We can show our gratitude toward these officers and their troops in at least two ways.

First, as my MSNBC colleague Rachel Maddow keeps reminding us, we need to cut through what the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America calls the Department of Veterans Affairs’ “egregious failure to process the claims of our veterans” in a timely and effective way.

And we need to recognize the contribution that this new generation of veterans can make to our nation. The character of the “Greatest Generation” that fought World War II was established not by the generals or the admirals but by the officers in the lower ranks and the millions of enlisted men and women who carried into civilian life both the skills and the sense of service and community they learned in the war years.

My students taught me that we don’t need to be nostalgic about the Greatest Generation. It’s right here among us.


By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, November 21, 2012

November 22, 2012 Posted by | Politics | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Like It Or Not, Only In America”: Be Thankful For Our Democracy And The Troops Who Protect It

Six years ago I celebrated Thanksgiving on a small Iraqi base in western Ninewa province. Nearly halfway through my year-long tour on that day me and 9 other members of the military transition team I served with (one man was home on leave) settled in to watch a game of football. No, not the Cowboys or the Lions. In this case it was a soccer match between the young members of an American cavalry troop who were co-located with us at the time and ringers from the Iraqi battalion. Final score, 1st Battalion: 20, B Troop: 2. Or something like that. (The energy and fitness of the young troopers could not overcome the superior passing skills and finesse of the Iraqis.)

The weather in the high desert was changing from the arid heat to the cooler fall. We sat down that afternoon to a meal of hot, or at least warmish, and plentiful “A” rations of some form of pressed turkey loaf and fixings. This certainly was not the feasts available on some of the larger American and coalition forward operating bases throughout the country, and certainly was not as joyous an occasion as being surrounded by friends and family and favorite foods and beverages as available back here in the United States, but in retrospect it was quite good. It certainly was much better than what I am sure some soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines will be having tomorrow in remote combat outposts in Afghanistan. The fellowship of being surrounded by fellow soldiers, American and Iraqi, made the circumstances of being so far from home in a war zone bearable.

So on this Thanksgiving I say we give thanks for many things, even though individual circumstances may dictate the depth of our thanks. But collectively we Americans should be thankful for living in a country where violence and intimidation are not the norms for resolving political differences. Sure, we just exited from a contentious presidential election. And yes there was some hyperventilation about the results from some quarters (just as there was following the 2000 and 2004 elections) and the economy continues to sputter along, but we do live in a country where the deliberate, indiscriminate use of explosives or mass violence to systematically target to kill people simply due to their race, ethnicity, religion, or creed is not the norm. Yes, tragic incidents occur from time to time, but their rarity makes their occurrence all the more shocking.

We should also give thanks to the men and women of the armed forces and other members of the U.S. government and supporting contracting personnel who are separated from friends and family and are providing for the common defense and the advancement of U.S. interests abroad, whether they be in war zones or not. We hope to see you back home soon. For those in harm’s way be as safe as the mission allows.


By: Michael P. Noonan, U. S. News and World Report, November 21, 2012

November 22, 2012 Posted by | Democracy | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

No Brains In The Head: Truly The Dumbest `American Exceptionalism’ Attack Yet

I didn’t think the right’s “American exceptionalism” attack on Obama could get any dumber, but Sarah Palin has now outdone them all. She’s now faulting Obama for insufficient praise for our armed forces:

She also made a slight dig at President Obama for saying Monday at Arlington National Cemetery that his “most solemn responsibility as president [is] to serve as commander in chief of one of the finest fighting forces in the world.” Answering a question about Memorial Day, Palin said, “This is the greatest fighting force in the world, the U.S. military. It’s not just one of the greatest fighting forces. And I sure hope our president recognizes that. We’re not just one of many. We are the best.”

As it happens, the reporter got Obama’s quote a bit wrong. This is what Obama actually said: “It is my most solemn responsibility as President, to serve as Commander-in-Chief of one of the finest fighting forces the world has ever known.” But this isn’t good enough for Palin: If Obama doesn’t say that our armed forces are the bestest, baddest, most ass kicking-ist fighting forces in all of human history, he’s subtly denigrating the troops.

This is a reminder, if you needed one, that the charge that Obama doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism — which has taken literally dozens of forms now — will be central to the 2012 campaign. It’s also a reminder, though, of what this attack line is really about. It’s impossible to imagine that a significant number of voters could hear Palin’s latest attack and come away thinking there’s something to it; her claim is just too dumb for people to take seriously. But these sorts of attacks aren’t about the actual claims themselves.

Rather, they are part of a much broader effort to insinuate that you should find Obama’s character, story, motives, identity, cultural instincts and intentions towards our country to be alien and fundamentally suspect. The idea is to keep piling various versions of this charge — no matter how ludicrous — on top of one another, like snow piling up on a roof.

Mitt Romney has already made it completely plain that various versions of this insinuation will be a major feature of the 2012 GOP nominee’s argument against Obama. Donald Trump’s experiment in birther hucksterism — even though it crashed and burned — confirmed this beyond any doubt. Now Palin is at it, too.

Hearing this kind of thing from Palin actually makes me want her to run. Who better than her to reveal how vacuous, childish, jingoistic and unbecoming of the presidency this sort of nonsense really is?


By: Greg Sargent, The Plum Line, The Washington Post, May 31, 2011

May 31, 2011 Posted by | Birthers, Conservatives, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Neo-Cons, Politics, President Obama, Republicans, Right Wing, Voters | , , , , , , | Leave a comment


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