President George W. Bush (L) and Vice President Dick Cheney attend a ceremonial swearing for new Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Pentagon in Arlington, Virginia on December 18, 2006.
Matthew Cavanaugh/EPA

‘Most of us think we did the right thing in Iraq’

Following up on this morning’s report, Dick Cheney was on Capitol Hill once again today, delivering yet another round of advice to congressional Republicans on foreign policy as if he still has credibility on the subject. The failed former vice president was reportedly “greeted with affection,” and received standing ovations from the assembled GOP lawmakers.
 
This seemed to summarize the ridiculousness of the scenario nicely.
Asked if he saw any irony in Cheney coming to talk to Republicans about next steps in Iraq, [New York Rep. Peter King] said firmly, “No, because most of us think we did the right thing in Iraq.”
And there it is. Even now, years later, as the world struggles with the consequences of a disastrous war, which the Bush/Cheney team handled in the most incompetent, dishonest, and corrupt ways possible, congressional Republicans look back and think, “Yep, that was a smart move.”
 
If anyone ever wonders why credible debates over foreign policy seem so incredibly difficult right now, look no further than the fact that “most” congressional Republicans consider the worst foreign-policy catastrophe in a generation “the right thing.”
 
Indeed, the Huffington Post’s report on GOP reactions to Cheney’s remarks – journalists were not allowed to hear or see the gathering – were disheartening.
 
Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, responded, “What he talked about was we’ve, Republicans, have had a position on peace through strength. You look at all the Republican presidents we’ve had back to [Dwight] Eisenhower. You know they all understand, if you’re not strong, then you invite aggression. When you invite aggression, you end up with people getting killed…. It’s important to be strong, and that’s what he talked about.”
 
This will no doubt be disappointing to the pro-weakness contingent of American politics.
 
I mean, really. If we’re “not strong” we “invite aggression”? This is empty, meaningless rhetoric. In the Reagan/Bush era, attacks on U.S. diplomatic outposts around the globe reached unprecedented heights, including the deadly assaults in Beirut in 1983. The size of the Pentagon budget and our commitment to presenting a “strong” posture were irrelevant.
 
Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.), a veteran of the war in Iraq, said Cheney offered a “great message,” adding, “Hopefully this is an awakening that we have to be very strong and very serious.”
 
Right. To be “very serious,” Republicans must listen to Dick Cheney, whose entire tenure in national office was marred by one spectacular failure after another.
 
In related news, conservative media has been quite excited over the last few days about remarks then-President George W. Bush made in 2007 about Iraq.
“I know some in Washington would like us to start leaving Iraq now. To begin withdrawing before our commanders tell us we’re ready would be dangerous for Iraq, for the region and for the United States. It would mean surrendering the future of Iraq to Al Qaida. It’d mean that we’d be risking mass killings on a horrific scale. It’d mean we’d allow the terrorists to establish a safe haven in Iraq to replace the one they lost in Afghanistan. It’d mean we’d be increasing the probability that American troops would have to return at some later date to confront an enemy that is even more dangerous.”
Apparently, Fox News, the Washington Post’s Marc Thiessen, and assorted other Republicans have been jumping up and down about the quote, effectively saying, “Bush was right all along!”
 
Except, that’s absurd. Dave Weigel had a good piece on this that’s definitely worth checking out in its entirety.
[A]rguments for invading Iraq were predicated on the idea that Hussein’s state could be replaced by a strong democracy that would be an ally in the Middle East. Absolutely, as Iraq failed to turn into a dry heat version of Sweden, Bush would warn against withdrawing troops and giving the enemy a head’s up on when to start partying.
 
But in 2002 and 2003, the idea that America would have to commit forces to Iraq for a generation was so absurd that pollsters didn’t really ask it. In 2007, Bush was admitting that America needed to stay in Iraq as long as terrorists threatened to build beachheads there…. If you start the clock then, though, yes – the Obama administration failed to keep a residual force in Iraq. The military wanted 24,000 troops, the administration settled on 10,000, and even that number failed to survive status of forces negotiations. Had they stayed, they’d have found a 2012 Iraq that was a bit more dangerous than 2012 South Korea. But they would have been there. It’s just that the Bush administration that sold the Iraq War to voters 11 years ago did not suggest that America was committing to a generational military presence and pitched land battles against new terror groups. Some of the people who argued against the war worried that they might happen. To ignore them, and to credit Bush with prophetic foresight, is to give him one hell of a mulligan.
I’d just add that the recent shift in focus to ISIS has brought its own bizarre arguments from Iraq war supporters, including the notion that somehow the end of the war in Iraq led to ISIS’s creation. Reality is stubborn: there was no al Qaeda presence in Iraq before Bush/Cheney launched the 2003 invasion, but once the war deteriorated and chaos ensued, Iraq became a magnet for terrorists. Soon, AQI took root, which in time evolved into ISIS.
 
In other words, the reminder for those celebrating the Bush/Cheney failures now is simple: ISIS wasn’t the result of the end of a war; ISIS was the result of the start of a war. It’s something to keep in mind as congressional Republicans continue to hang on Cheney’s every word.
 

Dick Cheney, Foreign Policy, George W. Bush, House Republicans and Iraq

'Most of us think we did the right thing in Iraq'