Fact-checking Dick Cheney is an inherently tricky exercise. It’s not that the former vice president is cautious, carefully choosing his words to avoid deliberate falsehoods; it’s actually the opposite – fact-checking Cheney is challenging because his word-to-falsehood ratio approaches 1:1 so regularly.
This has been especially true during the crisis in Ukraine, which has inspired the former V.P. to complain even more vigorously about President Obama. Cheney recently told Charlie Rose, for example, that the administration “appeased” Vladimir Putin by taking out a missile-defense program intended for Poland and the Czech Republic.
Over the weekend on Fox Cheney, Cheney went further, insisting that the missile-defense program for Eastern Europe was scrapped “at the mere request from Putin.”
Is there anything to this? Glenn Kessler took a closer look and found that Cheney’s claim is so wrong, “it’s a bit amazing” that the former vice president keeps repeating it.
Toward the end of his presidency, George W. Bush, concerned about a possible threat to Europe and the United States from Iranian missiles, proposed to install 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar system in the Czech Republic. The Russian certainly were not happy about it, even though U.S. officials insisted the system was aimed at Iran.In September, 2009, President Obama announced that he was scrapping the Bush plan and introducing an alternative, what he called a “European phased adaptive approach.” The four-part plan would initially focus on threats posed by Iranian short- and intermediate-range ballistic missiles in Europe, and then eventually would include a fourth phase that would target as-yet undeveloped Iranian intercontinental missiles.
What’s more, neither Poland and the Czech Republic supported the missile-defense plan crafted by the Bush/Cheney administration, and the stronger, alternative policy – which Russia liked even less – was put together by then-Defense Secretary Bob Gates, who presumably has some credibility with the previous administration.
In other words, when Cheney says Obama “appeased” Putin and scrapped a missile-defense program at Putin’s “mere request,” the failed former V.P. either doesn’t remember the policy he claims to care so much about, or he’s deliberately trying to mislead the public.
Or perhaps both.
In the same Fox interview, Cheney added that his administration’s response to the conflict between Russia and Georgia in 2008 was “more robust” than Obama’s response to developments in Ukraine. As proof, Cheney noted that the United States allowed “Georgian soldiers that had been involved supporting our efforts in Iraq” to return to Georgia.
Hmm. In Cheney’s mind, a “robust” U.S. response to a crisis is allowing one nation’s military to serve in its own country.
The war started on Aug. 7, 2008 and by Aug. 11 the airlift of nearly 2,000 troops from Iraq was nearly complete, according to the Pentagon, which emphasized it was not flying the soldiers to the war zone. On Aug. 12, a ceasefire was announced by Russia. “Did the U.S. airlift of the Georgian troops to Tbilisi change the tide of battle or Moscow’s political calculations? No. The Russian army handily drove them back,” wrote former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Steven Pifer in Politico.
It’s almost as if Cheney has no idea what he’s talking about.