Dick Cheney is up to his old tricks again

For Dick Cheney, Iraq means never having to say you’re sorry.

His recent interviews damning President Obama for losing Iraq make him sound as if he’s suffering from amnesia. But memory loss has not blotted out his central role in creating the Iraq mess. He just refuses to admit he made any errors.

His willful blindness doesn’t only distort the past; it also helped create a terrorist haven in Iraq that didn’t exist before America invaded. And his hubris dims any future chance of driving out the terrorists.

There’s no room here to rehash the deliberately distorted intelligence he used to justify the invasion. But note Cheney’s ignorance of the country he was taking on.

He swallowed the claims of Ahmed Chalabi, his favorite Iraqi expat, that the country’s Shiites would embrace us, that the Iraqi army should be disbanded and the Sunnis broken. Cheney also believed that Iraq was ripe for democracy (with Chalabi as its leader) and that Iran would be the next domino to fall.

He was wrong on all counts and refused to listen to those who knew better.

The ouster of Saddam Hussein and the rise of Iraq’s Shiite majority gave Iran unprecedented influence in Baghdad. In recent days, the most powerful man in the Iraqi capital has been Gen. Qassem Suleimani, head of the Quds force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards. The Iraqi army was never able to rebuild as a national force after it was dissolved on Cheney’s watch. Witness its collapse last month.

None of this excuses Obama’s contribution to the current crises in Iraq and Syria.

While Cheney overreached, Obama did far too little. He never developed a strategy to deal with the rise of al Qaida offshoots in Syria or their return to Iraq. He paid scant attention to the sectarian maneuvers of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki in Baghdad, which pushed frustrated Sunnis to align, once again, with jihadis.

The Obama White House made too little effort to ensure that there would be a small follow-on U.S. force in Iraq after 2011. Such a force would have provided leverage for U.S. officials to mediate between Iraq’s sectarian factions, as they did successfully in the past. That might have headed off the present crisis.

Yet it is simply wrong to say, as Cheney does, that all was well with Iraq when he left the White House. Yes, Ambassador Ryan Crocker and Gen. David Petraeus had rescued Cheney and his boss from their self-made disaster, and Obama should have tried harder to maintain those gains. But Iraq’s institutions had been broken by the U.S. invasion, and its shaky new foundation was all too susceptible to collapse.

Equally key, the wretched mistakes made on Cheney’s watch soured the American public on further involvement in the troubled country. Americans remember the money wasted on projects Iraqis never needed and the troops who died because the Pentagon failed to provide body armor or up-armored humvees in Cheney’s time.

Our country is weary of Iraq. The polls show it. My email shows it. Even the Republican Party is split on any future involvement in Baghdad. Americans don’t want to hear about the terrorist threat emanating from Iraq – even though it is real now in a way that it wasn’t in 2003. The public doubts this threat because Cheney twisted the truth last time.

The former veep’s arrogance is so infuriating that it blinds many Americans to the danger posed by jihadis in Syria and Iraq who are training Europeans and Americans. Anything he says is assumed to be hype.

Cheney’s constant castigation of Obama blinds many on the right to the fact that the president is finally doing the right things. Secretary of State John Kerry is belatedly pressing the benighted Maliki to reach out to Sunnis (and privately encouraging all of Iraq’s factions to seek another leader). He is warning Iran and Saudi Arabia that fueling a Shiite-Sunni holy war in Iraq threatens the whole region – and the world.

Kerry may be too late. There may be no option left other than containing the new jihadistan that spans eastern Syria and western Iraq.

Kerry and Obama need to focus nonstop on Iraq. Instead, of helping, though, Cheney is fueling the fury of those on the right who oppose anything Obama does, as well as those on the left who disbelieve anything Cheney endorses. This will increase domestic opposition to any coherent policy.

Full of righteous indignation, Cheney is once again helping to destroy Iraq.

Trudy Rubin is a columnist and editorial-board member for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

©2014 Trudy Rubin

Read more Other Views stories from the Miami Herald

A 1930s photograph of a Pan Am airplane flying over Miami clearly shows the courthouse as one of the tallest buildings in Miami.


    Respect courthouse history, but it’s time for a new one

    I love the Dade County Courthouse, the place where Al Capone and would-be presidential assassin Giuseppe Zangara were tried and convicted. But the public is in dire need of a new courthouse in downtown Miami.

Tony Lesesne


    Tony Lesesne: Overkill, and an apology

    Yes, it happens in South Florida, too — and it shouldn’t. Black men pulled over, needlessly hassled by police officers who give the rest of their colleagues a bad name, who make no distinction when a suspect has no other description than ‘black male,’ who harass residents because they can. A North Miami Beach officer pulls over a black man in a suit and tie — and behind the wheel of an Audi that simply had to be stolen, right? In another Miami-Dade city, an officer demands that an African-American man installing a vegetable garden justify why he has a shovel and seedlings. Detained for possession of cilantro? Here are five South Floridians who tell of their experiences in this community and beyond, years ago, and all too recently.

Delrish Moss


    Delrish Moss: Out after dark

    “I was walking up Seventh Avenue, just shy of 14th street. I was about 17 and going home from my job. I worked at Biscayne Federal Bank after school. The bank had a kitchen, and I washed the dishes. A police officer gets out of his car. He didn’t say anything. He came up and pushed me against a wall, frisked me, then asked what I was doing walking over here after dark. Then he got into his car and left. I never got a chance to respond. I remember standing there feeling like my dignity had been taken with no explanation. I would have felt better about that incident had I gotten some sort of dialogue. I had not had any encounters with police.

Miami Herald

Join the

The Miami Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

The Miami Herald uses Facebook's commenting system. You need to log in with a Facebook account in order to comment. If you have questions about commenting with your Facebook account, click here.

Have a news tip? You can send it anonymously. Click here to send us your tip - or - consider joining the Public Insight Network and become a source for The Miami Herald and el Nuevo Herald.

Hide Comments

This affects comments on all stories.

Cancel OK

  • Marketplace

Today's Circulars

  • Quick Job Search

Enter Keyword(s) Enter City Select a State Select a Category