Previewing his September 8 address on the Iran deal to (who else?) the American Enterprise Institute, Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz have published a lengthy op-ed (“Restoring American Exceptionalism”) in Saturday’s print edition of The Wall Street Journal. It’s predictably over the top, apocalyptic, and entirely Manichean in word and spirit. Appeasement, Chamberlain, Hitler, Hiroshima, Nagasaki—it’s all there. It will no doubt be required reading for speechwriters of all of the Republican presidential candidates.
One phrase, however, really jumped out at me: “Nearly everything the president has told us about his Iranian agreement is false.”
The reason it made such an impression is that I remembered that it was almost exactly 12 years ago that Cheney formally launched the Bush administration’s well-orchestrated campaign to intimidate Congress (especially Democrats) into approving the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) resolution that led to the invasion and occupation of Iraq seven months later. In fact it was exactly 12 years and three days ago that he spoke to the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) in Nashville. A couple of excerpts seem particularly pertinent under the circumstances.
The Iraqi regime has in fact been very busy enhancing its capabilities in the field of chemical and biological agents. And they continue to pursue the nuclear program they began so many years ago. These are not weapons for the purpose of defending Iraq; these are offensive weapons for the purpose of inflicting death on a massive scale, developed so that Saddam can hold the threat over the head of anyone he chooses, in his own region or beyond.
…But we now know that Saddam has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons. Among other sources, we’ve gotten this from the firsthand testimony of defectors — including Saddam’s own son-in-law, who was subsequently murdered at Saddam’s direction. Many of us are convinced that Saddam will acquire nuclear weapons fairly soon.
Who knows if Cheney knew or had reason to know that those statements were false at the time that he spoke them. But, in light of the disastrous consequences that followed those particular falsehoods, our former vice president really needs to exercise more care in hurling such accusations, at least so close to key anniversaries.