Sunday, November 09, 2003

How Bunker Boy Sold the War

Dick Cheney, who could not be bothered to go and get shot at in Vietnam because he had "other priorities," couldn't wait to send other people's children (not his own, of course) to go and die in Iraq to enrich himself thanks to his Halliburton "blind trust." Of course Dick's excuse is that he thought Iraq was a "threat." Newsweek takes a look at Bunker Boy's happy yet dubious path to war:

Of all the president's advisers, Cheney has consistently taken the most dire view of the terrorist threat. On Iraq, Bush was the decision maker. But more than any adviser, Cheney was the one to make the case to the president that war against Iraq was an urgent necessity. Beginning in the late summer of 2002, he persistently warned that Saddam was stocking up on chemical and biological weapons, and last March, on the eve of the invasion, he declared that "we believe that he [Saddam Hussein] has in fact reconstituted nuclear weapons." (Cheney later said that he meant "program," not "weapons." He also said, a bit optimistically, "I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators.") After seven months, investigators are still looking for that arsenal of WMD.

"Reconstituted," by the way, is a delightful term. It brings up visions of Saddam opening a can and adding water.

Cheney has long been regarded as a Washington wise man. He has a dry, deliberate manner; a penetrating, if somewhat wintry, wit, and a historian's long-view sensibility. He is far to the right politically, but in no way wild-eyed; in private conversation he seems moderate, thoughtful, cautious. Yet when it comes to terrorist plots, he seems to have given credence to the views of some fairly flaky ideologues and charlatans. Writing recently in The New Yorker, investigative reporter Seymour Hersh alleged that Cheney had, in effect, become the dupe of a cabal of neoconservative full-mooners, the Pentagon’s mysteriously named Office of Special Plans and the patsy of an alleged bank swindler and would-be ruler of Iraq, Ahmad Chalabi.
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Not so wise, eh? Evidently Dick's wisdom goes south when money enters the picture.

Cheney, say those who know him, is in no way cynically manipulative. By all accounts, he is genuinely convinced that the threat is imminent and menacing. Professional intelligence analysts can offer measured, nuanced opinions, but policymakers, Cheney likes to say, have to decide. As he put it last July in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute, "How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi threat?" And yet Cheney seems to have rung the warning bell a little too loudly and urgently. If nothing else, his apparently exaggerated alarms over Iraq, WMD and the terror connection may make Americans slow to respond the next time he sees a wolf at the door.

What is it about Cheney's character and background that makes him such a Cassandra? And did his powerful dirge drown out more-modulated voices in the councils of power in Washington and in effect launch America on the path to war? Cheney declined an interview request from NEWSWEEK, but interviews with his aides and a wide variety of sources in the intelligence and national-security community paint the portrait of a vice president who may be too powerful for his own good.

Sounds "cynically manipulative" to me. We're supposed to believe that a man this intelligent, this thoughtful, went off the deep end after 9/11? Or did he just think of money pouring into Halliburton and the companies of his Repug donors? And "too powerful for his own good?" You damn betcha. This man is the real president, the fist behind the amiable stupidity of George Bush. This is the man running the neocon cabal that started the war with no end in sight, all for the enrichment of themselves and their friends.

Some neocons began agitating inside the Bush administration to support some kind of insurrection, led by Chalabi, that would overthrow Saddam. In the summer of 2001, the neocons circulated a plan to support an INC-backed invasion. A senior Pentagon analyst questioned whether Iraqis would rise up to back it. "You're thinking like the Clinton people," a Feith aide shot back. "They planned for failure. We plan for success." It is important to note that at this early stage, the neocons did not have the enthusiastic backing of Vice President Cheney. Just because Cheney had spent a lot of time around the Get Saddam neocons does not mean that he had become one, says an administration aide. "It's a mistake to add up two and two and get 18," he says. Cheney’s cautious side kept him from leaping into any potential Bay of Pigs covert actions.

It's long and worth reading, but Newsweek made a mistake, in my view, in not discussing the financial links of the neocons to the war. I suspect that has a lot more to do than fury over 9/11 in creating the quagmire we're sunk in. UPDATE: Kevin Drum has a piece on this as well that's very much worth your time.

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