Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been on a tear lately. He has blasted the Obama administration for the ongoing collapse of Iraq, criticized Republicans for capitulating to the president, and all the while, seemed completely oblivious to his own role in the quagmire that now threatens the stability of the entire Middle East.
Cheney, 73, has long been a divisive figure in American politics. His role in the faulty lead-up to the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent chaos that enveloped the country – as well as his refusal to acknowledge missteps along the way – have long made liberals disdain him.
So it’s no surprise that he enraged the left with his op-ed column in The Wall Street Journal when he blamed only President Obama for the advance of the Islamic State militant group - not himself or for the Bush administration.
“Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many,” Cheney and his daughter, Liz Cheney, wrote in their June 18 piece. “Too many times to count, Mr. Obama has told us he is ‘ending’ the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – as though wishing made it so,” the Cheneys continued. “His rhetoric has now come crashing into reality. Watching the black-clad ISIS jihadists take territory once secured by American blood is final proof, if any were needed, that America's enemies are not ‘decimated.’ They are emboldened and on the march.”
The Cheneys blamed Obama for wasting the gains made by the Bush administration – with no acknowledgment whatsoever that many of Iraq’s problems arose from a gross mismanagement of the war.
“Iraq is at risk of falling to a radical Islamic terror group and Mr. Obama is talking climate change,” the Cheney father-and-daughter team wrote. “Terrorists take control of more territory and resources than ever before in history, and he goes golfing. He seems blithely unaware, or indifferent to the fact, that a resurgent al Qaeda presents a clear and present danger to the United States of America.”
Regardless of one’s politics, Cheney’s assessment shows a startling ability to ignore facts. Not only did the United States enter Iraq using faulty intelligence, it completely mismanaged decisions made after Baghdad fell.
The Bush White House, for instance, decided to disband the Iraq army once Americans had taken Baghdad. These former soldiers later regrouped to kill thousands of Americans and injure many thousands more.
Cheney also fails to acknowledge how his focus on Iraq led to near-disaster in Afghanistan. In the months after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden were on the run. He was nearly captured at the Battle of Tora Bora, and the rest of al Qaeda in Afghanistan was decimated.
Instead of continuing to pursue gains made in Afghanistan’s mountains, Cheney championed the unnecessary invasion of Iraq, allowing the Taliban to regroup. Some 13 years later, American troops are still fighting and dying in Afghanistan.
These are just two examples of policy failures. There still remain issues about the Bush administration’s use of torture on terror suspects, a policy Cheney supported. The former vice president was also dismissive of abuses at Abu Ghraib prison.
Cheney’s questionable record - and his recent blunt assertions two years after a heart transplant revived him both physically and mentally – have allowed those on both sides of the political spectrum to pile on. Secretary of State John Kerry dismissed the op ed with this: “This is the man who took us into Iraq saying this? Please.”
Even some within the Republican establishment have criticized Cheney. Rand Paul, a presumptive GOP presidential candidate in 2016, said that Cheney was to blame for the violence in Iraq, not Obama. Megyn Kelly, a host of Fox News, slammed Cheney for the suggestions made in The Journal piece.
“Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir. You said there was no doubt Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You said we would be greeted as liberators,” Kelly said to Cheney. “You said the insurgency was in its last throes back in 2005, and you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to ‘rethink their strategy of jihad.’ Now, with almost a trillion dollars spent there, with almost 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?”
Through it all, Cheney has remained defiant. Along with his daughter Liz, an attorney and political commentator, he’s started the Alliance for a Strong America, formed “because we know that America’s security depends upon reversing President Obama’s policies,” the group says in its mission statement.
Cheney’s recent behavior has been dividing the Republican Party at the very time it seeks to unify itself in a midterm election year and two years ahead of the 2016 election. “With his long track record of bad judgment, Cheney’s efforts to depict more prudent and thoughtful Republicans, such as Rand Paul, as isolationists is ridiculous,” Richard Burt, a former diplomat for President Ronald Reagan and the elder President George Bush who has been advising Mr. Paul, told The New York Times recently. And Kevin Madden, who advised Mitt Romney, also said to The Times, “One of the challenges of a Cheney re-emergency is the party does need new leaders, new voices, new visions on national security policy and overall foreign policy to emerge.”
Still, some in the GOP don’t mind the tough cases he’s been making. And Cheney has shown no signs of backing down. He continues to dismiss those who question him of being arrogant of history, and insists the past has no bearing on the present.
“If we spend our time debating what happened eleven or twelve years ago, we’re going to miss the threat that is growing and that we do face,” Cheney said on This Week with George Stephanopoulos recently. “We’re missing the boat, we don’t understand that nature of the threat, and we’re unwilling to deal with it.”
Top Reads from The Fiscal Times:
- Why Vietnam Will Be the Next Nuclear State
- Japan’s Pivot Away from the West Leads Back to China
- Obama’s Former Syria Ambassador Slams U.S. Policy