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Monday, December 09, 2019

Anyone Here Miss Dick Cheney? Neither Do I

As Iraq ruptures into fragments, none other than Dick Cheney has shambled forth to blame Barack Obama.

“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong so much at the expense of so many,” the former vice president huffed in a Wall Street Journal column, blind to the irony of his own toxic self-righteousness.

No American political figure in recent history has been dead wrong as consistently as Cheney, or as loath to admit it.

It was he and George W. Bush who set in the motion the catastrophe now unspooling in Iraq. The decision to invade was peddled to Congress and the American people with a campaign of myth making that Cheney still refuses to disown.

Long after Bush was forced to concede that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, and long after U.S. intelligence agencies affirmed that Saddam Hussein had no connection to al Qaeda, Cheney continued to promote these discredited scenarios to justify his own hyperbolic cheerleading for the war.

Remember, this is the same arrogant boob who predicted that U.S. troops would be welcomed as “liberators.”

It took nine years and a new administration to finally get our ground forces out of that sad and awful mess. Now Cheney is pathetically trying to elevate his lowly place in history by attacking Obama for letting Iraq go to pieces.

In truth, the collapse began March 19, 2003, the day we started the “shock and awe” bombing.

Hussein was a rotten guy who ruled with an iron first, but he had no tolerance for jihadist terrorists. Eleven years ago, al Qaeda steered clear of Iraq. Today the country is overrun by al Qaeda-inspired insurgents, leaving the United States at a far greater risk than before.

Thank you, George and Dick.

Unlike his retired vice president, Bush has shown the calm decency — and good sense — not to stir foreign-policy debates. Cheney’s whining and jeering only serves to remind Americans of his own disastrously bad judgment and needy ego.

The hero’s legacy that Cheney craves for himself belongs instead to those men and women who were sent by his administration to fight in Iraq.

Cheney himself never served in uniform, having avoided Vietnam by securing numerous draft deferments. His appetite for war arose later in his life, when he was no longer at personal risk, and has followed him into his spiteful old age.

His views on Iraq have provoked mass public eye-rolling. It would be hard to find someone with less credibility, or someone more callous to the sacrifices that have already been made.

Beyond the $2 trillion-and-counting price tag, the cost of the Iraq invasion and occupation has been enormous.

Officially: 4,486 American soldiers died in combat there, and 32,226 were wounded in action. The unofficial toll is much higher — nearly a million veterans of the war have sought medical or psychological treatment at VA hospitals since their return.

The exact number of Iraqi civilians killed during the long conflict is impossible to determine, but estimates start at 115,000 — and still there’s no peace. The country is being split by ancient religious feuds that were barely held to a simmer during the U.S. occupation.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has resisted U.S. pressure for him to include Sunnis in the government, and now he’s paying the price. His hold is so weak that many Iraqi troops (the ones we spent billions to train) dropped their guns and surrendered immediately to the insurgents.

Cheney’s op-ed column, written with his daughter Liz, dishonestly blasts Obama for abandoning Iraq. Actually it was Bush, Cheney’s own boss, who signed the agreement requiring all U.S. troops to be gone by 2011.

And it was still too long.

Obama won the White House campaigning on a promise to end the war, which he did. No one who’s been paying attention to the Mideast seriously expected peace and harmony to ensue. Only the Iraqis can fix Iraq.

Surprisingly, the two opining Cheneys didn’t call for a brand-new invasion. Liz probably talked the old man out of it. Brushed the crumbs off his bathrobe. Sent him upstairs for a nap.

Note to future presidents: Whatever advice Dick Cheney offers, do exactly the opposite and you’ll never go wrong.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for The Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL, 33132.)

Photo: Gage Skidmore via Flickr

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