Notes on the Atrocities
Like a 100-watt radio station, broadcasting to the dozens...

Monday, September 15, 2003  

At the center of this dispute about Paul Krugman is the question of White House lies and buck-passing. In reader comments to one of the posts, RJP wrote: "Followed by a non-response from you on the Administration never admitting a mistake, so I'll assume you've conceded that point." Ah, no. I still haven't heard an admission of failure, and now we have this news:

In a rare television interview yesterday, Cheney expanded on an effort by President Bush and top aides to argue that there should be no further changes in Iraq policy despite bipartisan and international calls for different approaches. He declared "major success, major progress" in Iraq, said most of the country is "stable and quiet" and asserted that Americans are viewed as "liberators" there.

The vice president offered an unqualified defense of virtually all administration actions leading up to the war in March and its aftermath, even as the administration has opted to seek a U.N. imprimatur for the occupation after five months of resisting that. Cheney said the administration did not underestimate the financial cost, the resistance or the troop strength needed to pacify Iraq, and he said that prewar allegations about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction would be vindicated.

Perhaps only RJP will be shocked by this. But Cheney didn't just play defense with Russert, he went on the offense and made some statements I think most people will find shocking.

We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization....

With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.

As far as I know, this last part is a blatant lie. The FBI and CIA have discredited it, the Czech government has denied it, and even after months of trying to make the link, the US hasn't been able to find a single shred of evidence. Back to the Post:

An FBI investigation concluded that Atta was apparently in Florida at the time of the alleged meeting, and the CIA has always doubted it took place. Czech authorities, who first mentioned the alleged meeting in October 2001 to U.S. officials, have since said they no longer are certain the individual in the video of the supposed meeting was Atta. Meanwhile, in July, the U.S. military captured the Iraqi intelligence officer who was supposed to have met Atta and has not obtained confirmation from him.

Moving along. Cheney characterizes everything as a success:

The fact is that most of Iraq today is relatively stable and quiet.

Fine. I actually think that, given everything we knew going in--and we did know it, even I knew it--Iraq was bound to be a quagmire of racial and religious hatred, retribution, and violence. It's reasonable to say that it's going as well as expected. But this isn't what the Bushies tried to sell to the American people as the definition of "going well."

More significantly, I think this is a great opportunity for critics of the White House's foreign policy to get some traction. Hold the Bushies to it. Every time something bad happens, remind the American people that the White House thinks this is how it should be. This is "going well." Make them, for once, stand by one of their damn policies.

Russert then ran through a series of predictions Cheney made before the war and confronted him with the reality now. Listen:

CHENEY (March 16): I disagree. To suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.

MR. RUSSERT (yesterday): We, in fact, have about 140,000 troops, 20,000 international troops, as well. Did you misjudge the number of troops necessary to secure Iraq after major combat operations?

CHENEY (yesterday): Well, you’re going to get into a debate here about—talking about several years, several hundred thousand troops for several years. I think that’s a non-starter. I don’t think we have any plan to do that, Tim. I don’t think it’s necessary to do that. There’s no question but what we’ve encountered resistance. But I don’t think anybody expected the time we were there to be absolutely trouble-free. We knew there were holdover elements from the regime that would fight us and struggle. And we also knew al-Qaeda was there, and Ansar al-Islam, up in northeastern Iraq, which we’ll come back to, talk about in a minute.

So I don’t think there was a serious misjudgment here. We couldn’t know precisely what would happen

On the cost of the war. Russert led in by pointing out that Pentagon estimates were $50 billion and that Lawrence Lindsay was fired for suggesting it would cost between $100-200 billion (it's already at that figure, six months in).

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No, I didn’t see a one-point estimate there that you could say that this is the administration’s estimate. We didn’t know. And if you ask Secretary Rumsfeld, for example—I can remember from his briefings, he said repeatedly he didn’t know. And when you and I talked about it, I couldn’t put a dollar figure on it.
MR. RUSSERT: But Daniels did say $50 billion.
VICE PRES. CHENEY Well, that might have been, but I don’t know what is basis was for making that judgment.

The Iraqi reception:

VICE PRES. CHENEY (March 16): Well, I don’t think it’s unlikely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with various groups and individuals, people who’ve devoted their lives from the outside to try and change things inside of Iraq.

MR. RUSSERT (yesterday): We have not been greeted as liberat[ors].

VICE PRES. CHENEY (yesterday): Well, I think we have by most Iraqis. I think the majority of Iraqis are thankful for the fact that the United States is there, that we came and we took down the Saddam Hussein government.

On the Niger story.

... I guess the intriguing thing, Tim, on the whole thing, this question of whether or not the Iraqis were trying to acquire uranium in Africa. In the British report, this week, the Committee of the British Parliament, which just spent 90 days investigating all of this, revalidated their British claim that Saddam was, in fact, trying to acquire uranium in Africa. What was in the State of the Union speech and what was in the original British White papers. So there may be difference of opinion there. I don’t know what the truth is on the ground with respect to that, but I guess—like I say, I don’t know Mr. Wilson. I probably shouldn’t judge him. I have no idea who hired him and it never came...


VICE PRES. CHENEY: Who in the CIA, I don’t know.

On domestic issues, he defended the tax cuts:

MR. RUSSERT: If you froze the tax cut for the top 1 percent of Americans, it would generate enough money to pay for the $87 billion for the war, if you did it for just one year. Would you consider that?
VICE PRES. CHENEY: I think it’d be a mistake, because you can’t look at that without considering what its impact would be on the economy. An awful lot of the returns in that top bracket are small businesses, and they provide an awful lot of the job growth in this economy. If you’re going to go increase taxes on small businesses, you’re going to slow down the extent to which we’re able to reduce unemployment. So I think it’s a serious mistake; the wrong time to raise taxes.

Increase taxes on small business? These are exactly the kinds of lies and misdirection that inflame reasonable people. Did Russert mention raising taxes on small business?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Tax cuts accounted for only about 25 percent of the deficit.

MR. RUSSERT: But we see deficits for the next 10 years, big ones. How do you deal with that, when you have Social Security, Medicare, coming up?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We anticipate even with the added spending that we’ve asked for now we’ll cut the deficit roughly in half from where it’ll be next year over the next five years.

What do you bet that if this regime manages to stay in power that in four years Cheney will say he didn't say that on "Meet the Press?"

posted by Jeff | 9:38 AM |
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