Friday, February 23, 2007

Cheney Unbowed

Dan Froomkin writing in WaPo about an unrepentant Darth Cheney

Vice President Cheney is going out of his way to make it clear that he doesn't think he has anything to apologize for.

In an unprecedented display of public verbosity from the typically taciturn vice president, Cheney spoke for the second time in three days with ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl. During today's 22-minute interview in a Sydney restaurant, Cheney showed no sign of backing down from controversy. Rather, he:

* Repeated and amplified his opinion that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's proposed course in Iraq would validate al Qaeda. (After Cheney's last interview with Karl, Pelosi called upon President Bush to repudiate the comments.)

* Refused to acknowledge any failure of U.S. policy in Iraq.

* Stood by his 1991 prediction that an invasion of Iraq would result in a quagmire -- but said that 9/11 changed the dynamics such that it had to be done anyway.

* Expressed pride in having done "some very controversial things" since 9/11 that he said have averted further terrorist attacks within our borders.

* Said it was "probably inaccurate" to call him an all-powerful vice president.

* Refused to address any of the serious accusations leveled against him during the course of the trial of his former chief of staff, Scooter Libby.

* Refused to rule out military action against Iran.

Here is the full transcript of the interview. Here is the text and video of Karl's report for ABC News.

My favorite part was this -- the old everything-change-on-9/11 line -- where Cheney explains that what changed was rational thinking went out the window i.e. let's attack Iraq (which had nothing to do with 9/11) because Al-Qaeda struck on 9/11. WTF...?

I'm not sure, but this may have been the first time a reporter asked Cheney to respond to his now-famous assertion in 1991 that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would result in a quagmire.

Here's the complete quote from 1991 ( YouTube has the audio): "The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one in terms of what we'd have to do once we got there. You'd probably have to put some new government in place. It's not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you'd have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who's going to govern in Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire."

From today's interview:

"Karl: Back in 1991, you talked about how military action in Iraq would be the classic definition of a quagmire. Have you been disturbed to see how right you were? Or people certainly said that you were exactly on target in your analysis back in 1991 of what would happen if the U.S. tried to go in --

"Cheney: Well, I stand by what I said in '91. But look what's happened since then -- we had 9/11. We've found ourselves in a situation where what was going on in that part of the globe and the growth and development of the extremists, the al Qaeda types that are prepared to strike the United States demonstrated that we weren't safe and secure behind our own borders. We weren't in Iraq when we got hit on 9/11. But we got hit in '93 at the World Trade Center, in '96 at Khobar Towers, or '98 in the East Africa embassy bombings, 2000, the USS Cole. And of course, finally 9/11 right here at home. They continued to hit us because we didn't respond effectively, because they believed we were weak. They believed if they killed enough Americans, they could change our policy because they did on a number of occasions. That day has passed. That all ended with 9/11.

"In Iraq, what we've done now is we've taken down Saddam Hussein. He's dead. His sons are dead. His government is gone. There's a democratically elected government in place. We've had three national elections in Iraq with higher turnout that we have in the United States. They've got a good constitution. They've got a couple hundred thousand men in arms now, trained and equipped to fight the good fight. They're now fighting alongside Americans in Baghdad and elsewhere. There are -- lots of the country that are in pretty good shape. We've got to get right in Baghdad. That's the task at hand. I think we can do it."

So if I read this correctly, Cheney is saying: Yes, it's a quagmire. But after 9/11 we needed to prove that we weren't weak.

Is that now the official White House position?

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