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Cheney's Chutzpah – A Rebuttal

Cheney speaks to US troops at Camp Anaconda, Iraq in 2008. (Creative Commons)

Oscar Levant defined Chutzpah as that quality which enables a man who has murdered his mother and father to throw himself on the mercy of the court as an orphan. It was the first phrase that came to mind reading the former US vice president's recent article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal criticizing President Obama for his Iraq policy. No phrase sums up his attempt better.

Cheney, in his op-ed co-authored with daughter Liz, claims, "rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many." This comes from a man who before going to war said, "there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction," had "in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons," and in 2005 just before the sharp rise in deadly sectarian conflict that left thousands dead said, "I think they're in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency." He had also claimed that Saddam "had an established relationship with al Qaeda."

Cheney writes that Obama told the American public he was "'ending' the wars in Iraq …—as though wishing made it so." It is interesting to note that it was the Status of Forces Agreement signed by President George W. Bush with the Iraqi President Nouri Al-Maliki back in 2008 that set the timeline for the withdrawal of US troops from the country. The former vice president writes that ISIS jihadists are taking territory that was once secured by American blood and that enemies of the US are emboldened and on the march. He also writes that the establishment of terrorist safe havens in the Arab world has put American security under threat. Perhaps forgetting that there was no Al-Qaeda in Iraq prior to the US invasion and it was the Bush-Cheney administration's inability to stabilize post-invasion Iraq that led to the rise of militant Islamist groups in the country. Moreover, "once secured" does not even come close to describing the security situation in post-invasion Iraq under the Bush-Cheney administration. A country where hundreds of thousands of Iraqis and Americans lost their lives, many more were injured and continue to suffer from PTSD, was "secured" only if the dictionary you consult is a work of Rush Limbaugh's genius. The fact of the matter is that the Bush-Cheney Administration left Iraq with a sham Iranian-backed democracy on the one hand and at the mercy of Al-Qaeda and various other Sunni-insurgent groups on the other. More important than what Cheney has written is what the former vice president has avoided highlighting while criticizing only the Iranian role in the region, the role of the Saudi ruling family in specific, and leaders of other Gulf countries in general – the countries he went "on a trip [to],… this spring" and who share his disdain for President Obama.

He, while criticizing President Obama, cites a RAND study that says, "between 2010 and 2013, there was a 58% increase in the number of Salafi-jihadist terror groups around the world. During that same period, the number of terrorists doubled". This is especially ironic given the fact that the ideological roots and financial support to most Salafi-jihadist groups, be they in Syria, Iraq or Yemen, can be traced to Saudi Arabia.

The election of Obama in 2008 was a rejection of the neo-conservative ideals championed by the Bush-Cheney administration. Not just that, in the preceding years many in the leadership of Cheney's own political party decided to keep distance from the former vice president. He did not seek presidency after leaving office and skipped appearances at successive Republican National Conventions held in 2008 and 2012. Over time Cheney lost the support of prominent Republican leaders such as Lt. Gen. Brent Scowcroft and Gen. Colin Powell. The criticism he attracts is well-earned. Cheney moved from the traditional-conservative ideological position he held when he served as Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush, to a neo-conservative worldview during President George W. Bush's administration. A shift most likely shaped by the time he spent at the ultra-conservative American Enterprise Institute and the Jewish Institute of National Security Affairs (indeed the majority of American Jews are Democrats and do not support the hawkish US political right) after leaving the US Department of Defense. Watching Republican Party mouthpiece and Rupert Murdoch-Prince Al-Waleed bin Talal jointly-owned Fox News's Megan Kelly taking Dick Cheney to task for his article – it is evidently clear the former vice president is considered no more than a political has-been even in his own backyard. History has probably given its verdict earlier than the Bush Administration expected.

The situation in the region, especially Syria and Iraq, is painful from a human perspective. Though there are historic, ideological, ethnic, and sectarian differences that exist to date, the region had a parallel history of peaceful co-existence and inter-faith harmony. What the Bush-Cheney invasion and incompetence in the handling of post-invasion Iraq did was superimpose the divisions and erase out the commonalities. It took the keys of Baghdad from the Iraqi citizens and handed them over to the rulers in Riyadh and the clerics of Qom.

Andy Borowitz – a brilliant satirist, who writes for The New Yorker, recently probably best summed up what is happening in Iraq when he posted, "Someone needs to tell the Sunnis and Shiites that the mission was accomplished 11 years ago!" Ordinary Iraqis in particular and others in the region in general, one hopes will get the message. This Saudi-Iranian sword fight in the region must end. More US diplomacy and lesser emphasis on drones can play an important role in achieving peace in the long run.

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Hammaad Khan

Hammaad Khan is a PhD scholar at the Australian National University, Canberra and a former visiting researcher at the Edmund A Walsh School of Foreign Service, Georgetown University, Washington DC, USA. He has also worked as a journalist for two of the leading English language newspapers in Pakistan, "The News International" and "Daily Dawn." Hammaad's areas of interest include US-Iraq relations, US-Pakistan relations, US domestic politics and foreign policy as well as Pakistan's domestic politics and foreign policy. He has a general interest in political Islam and the politics of the Middle East and South Asia. Hammaad can be reached at hammaad.khan[@]

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