Today, Vice President Cheney, taking the occasional break from his glowering, delivered a “speech” to AIPAC. Here is a selected portion:
1. The most common myth is that Iraq has nothing to do with the global war on terror. Opponents of our military action there have called Iraq a diversion from the real conflict, a distraction from the business of fighting and defeating bin Laden and the al Qaeda network. We hear this over and over again, not as an argument but as an assertion meant to close off argument.
Yet the critics conveniently disregard the words of bin Laden himself. The most serious issue today for the whole world, he has said, is this third world war that is raging in Iraq. He calls it a destiny between infidelity and Islam. He said the whole world is watching this war and that it will end in victory and glory or misery and humiliation. And in words directed at the American people, bin Laden declares, “The war is for you or for us to win. If we win it, it means your defeat and disgrace forever.”
This leader of al Qaeda has referred to Baghdad as the capital of the Caliphate. He has also said, and I quote, “Success in Baghdad will be success for the United States. Failure in Iraq is the failure of the United States. Their defeat in Iraq will mean defeat in all their wars.”
Obviously, the terrorists have no illusion about the importance of the struggle in Iraq. They have not called it a distraction or a diversion from their war against the United States. They know it is a central front in that war and it’s where they’ve chosen to make a stand. Our Marines are fighting al Qaeda terrorists today in Anbar province. U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed al Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad who were responsible for numerous car bomb attacks. Iraq’s relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain.
Here at home, that makes one thing above all very clear. If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us.
**This tiresome rhetoric essentially is Cheney’s way of saying, “We’re fighting them over there so we don’t have to fight them over here.” This position represents false choice nonsense. Cheney basically believes that Iraq is not a diversion from the war on terror… because our enemies have said that failure in Iraq would be humiliating to us. Thus, Iraq is important, not a distraction, etc. In this instance, Cheney has no problem using the words of the enemy to validate his beliefs. Has it not occurred to him that al-Qaeda is saying that Iraq represents an important conflict simply to excite people like him so that he can send more people to die over there? Iraq is only important to the extent that we are moving targets there. Someone wearing a “kick me” sign is more likely to be kicked than someone who is not wearing such a sign, but this does not mean that the kickers of the world have some special place in their heart for the people with the signs; the kickers attack these folks for convenience’s sake. Our ENEMIES chose to make Iraq a battleground because we stupidly went in there. Cheney, by saying it is the central battleground, has implicitly accepted the enemies’ point of view.
The second myth is the most transparent. And that is the notion that one can support the troops without giving them the tools and reinforcements needed to carry out their mission. Twisted logic is not exactly a new phenomenon in Washington. But last month, it did reach new heights. At a hearing at the Senate Armed Services Committee, Senator John McCain put the following question to General Petraeus, suppose we send you over to your new job, only we tell you that you cannot have any additional troops. Can you get your job done? General Petraeus replied, “No, sir.”
Yet within his days of his confirmation by a unanimous vote in the Senate — I repeat, a unanimous vote of confidence in General Petraeus — a large group of senators tried to pass a resolution opposing the reinforcements he said were necessary. And, of course, the House of Representatives did pass such a resolution. As President Bush said, this may be the first time in history that a Congress voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose the plan he said was necessary in winning that battle. It was not a proud episode in the history of the United States Congress.
The resolution that passed was not binding, only a statement of feelings. Yet other threats have been made that would hamper the war effort and interfere with the operational authority of the President and with our military commanders. These, too, are counterproductive and send exactly the wrong message. When members of Congress pursue an anti-war strategy that’s been called slow bleed, they’re not supporting the troops, they are undermining them. And when members of Congress speak not of victory, but of time limits — (applause) — when members speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines or other arbitrary measures, they’re telling the enemy simply to watch the clock and wait us out. (Applause.)
Congress does, of course, play a critical role in the defense of the nation and the conduct of a war. That role is defined and limited by the Constitution. After all, the military answers to one commander-in-chief in the White House, not 535 commanders-in-chief on Capitol Hill. (Applause.)
Congress does have the purse strings. And very soon, both houses will have to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding, a bill to provide emergency funding for the troops. And I sincerely hope the discussion this time will be about winning in Iraq. (Applause.)
Anyone can say they support the troops and we should take them at their word. But the proof will come when it’s time to provide the money. We expect the House and Senate to meet the needs of our military and the generals leading the troops in battle on time and in full measure.
** What is Bush’s current policy, if not one of “slow bleeding?” He is fighting a war of attrition. Congress has simply recognized the absurdity of this. Also, it is always good for a laugh to hear Cheney talk about the necessity of funding for “the troops” – a line which he thinks sounds good in a sound bite but one that makes his stomach squirm when it comes to actually providing body armor, decent food and water, and health care. His nonsensical “a deadline sends the message to the enemy that it can wait the clock out and thus validates the terrorists’ strategy” blather presupposes that he knows what the strategy is. He does not. The strategy could be to kill as many Americans in Iraq as possible, in which case the setting of a timetable could thwart that strategy. We are fighting in the middle of someone’s civil war. Setting a timetable simply sends the message that…. hey, folks, this is your battle, not ours. We’re not going to take sides – shifting sides – simply so you can kill us. The same bleating was indulged in by supporters of the Vietnam War – if we left Vietnam, these folks said, the Vietcong would win and Communism would spread. This did not happen. It did not happen for both obvious and non-obvious reasons. Whatever the al-Qaeda “strategy” is (and why is the ultra-secretive Cheney talking about the strategy in public? Answer: because he has no idea what the strategy is and is just trying to scare people), the strategy is served by our remaining in Iraq as long as possible, where our soliders are fighting in alien and inhospitable conditions. If the strategy is to win a war of attrition, that strategy was validated a long time ago – when we first sent the troops in. Trying to get them out is merely trying to thwart the strategy. At any rate, whatever the actual strategy is, Cheney will still cling fast to his notions about how the war should be fought – reality and facts be damned.
There is a third myth about the war on terror, and this one is also the most dangerous. Some apparently believe that getting out of Iraq before the job is done will actually strengthen America’s hand in the fight against terrorists. This myth is dangerous because it represents a full validation of the al Qaeda strategy. The terrorists don’t expect to beat us in a standup fight. They never have. They’re not likely to try. The only way we can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission and the terrorists do believe that they can force that outcome.
Time after time, they have predicted that the American people do not have the stomach for a long-term fight. They cite the cases of Beirut in the 1980s and Somalia in the ’90s. These examples, they believe, show that we are weak and decadent and that if we’re hit hard enough, we’ll pack it in and retreat. The result would be even greater danger to the United States because, if the terrorists conclude that attacks will change the behavior of a nation, they will attack that nation again and again. (Applause.)
**Who s saying that our hand will be strengthened if we leave? Who is this straw man? How does Cheney know what al-Qaeda’s strategy is? How does he know what the terrorists expect? How could Beirut have been a long-term fight? What were we going to do – re-bomb the same marine barracks over and over again? Somalia isn’t even an example of terrorism. The terrorists have concluded that attacks will change the behavior of a nation – by making that nation behave erratically, in utter panic and fear, even to the point where the nation will attack the wrong country in retaliation. It’s not that we don’t have the stomach for a long-term fight; we shouldn’t have a stomach for a wrong fight, and if we picked the right battles then there would be no need to worry about whether America would remain steadfast in battle. Picking a wrong battle – the mistake that represents – is not erased by continuing to fight that battle to the point of pointlessness.
Believing they can break our will, they will become more audacious in their tactics, ever more determined to strike and kill our citizens, ever more bold in their ambitions of conquest and empire.
** “Conquest and empire” – I guess Cheney means all they want to conquer is Iraq??
And that leads me to the fourth and the cruelest myth of all and that is the false hope that we can abandon the effort in Iraq without serious consequences to the broader Middle East. I stand here today as a strong supporter of Israel and Israel has never had a better friend in the White House than George Bush…
**There will be consequences, but for whom, and what will those consequences be? How is Israel being helped by the wholesale slaughter of American soldiers and the waste of blood and treasure that has accompanied this war?