The Logic of Cheney


Reading the transcript from Limbaugh's show, one realizes what Cheney's vision of the future is: a Middle East permanently occupied by American forces, because any withdrawal anywhere means a victory for the terrorists everywhere. Money quote:

[The Democrats] seem to think that we can withdraw from Iraq and walk away from it. They ignore the lessons of the past. Remember what happened in Afghanistan. We'd been involved in Afghanistan in the eighties, supporting the Mujahideen against the Soviets and prevailed. We won. Everybody walked away, and in the nineties, Afghanistan became a safe haven for terrorists, an area for training camps where Al-Qaeda trained 20,000 terrorists in the late nineties, and the base from which they launched attacks on the United States on 9/11. So those are very real problems, and to advocate withdrawal from Iraq at this point, it seems to me, simply would play right into the hands of Al-Qaeda.

So what would be the feasible conditions for withdrawal? I see none. Even if we were to "win," as in Afghanistan in the 1980s, Cheney sees that as a reason to stay. If there is any chance of "losing," we also have to stay. The same logic applies to Pakistan were Musharraf to fall. And Saudi Arabia if that autocracy were to collapse. If the criterion is now space for Islamist terrorists to return, then we don't so much have mission creep as mission explosion. We're talking empire here - for ever. At least that's the logical conclusion of Cheney's control-fixation. And, of course, as these occupations create more terrorists, Cheney uses that as more reason to keep fighting. There is no end to this strategy - just permanent war, occupation and terror.

And domestically, you can see Cheney outfitting the executive office with extraordinary powers to fit this unending imperial project. He sees the presidency as a permanent war-maker and guardian of domestic security: able to arrest citizens at will without charging them, legally empowered to torture them if necessary, wiretap phones without warrant, and eager to treat all opposition as a form of treason against the troops. Hence his aspersions about "the motive" for wanting a redeployment out of the catastrophe Cheney has created in Iraq. Isn't the motive obvious? We have created a disaster, and we need to find some way forward. Nowhere in the interview is it assumed or even thought that the administration has any responsibility for the possibility of defeat we now face in Iraq. It is all the Democrats' fault. Because the Democrats have been running this war for the past four years.

This will be their line, and it is why, in my view, the Democrats should give the president everything he asks for in Iraq until the day he leaves office. They should explain in advance that his intransigence is the reason the troops are still in Iraq; and that because they cannot over-ride a veto, they will simply let him demonstrate his intransigence to America and the world. This is his war, not America's, at this point. He wants all the control and now wants to - typically - shuck off part of the responsibility. He needs to be made to own all of it. If he, by some miracle, succeeds, fine. We all win. If he loses, it will be his loss alone. And the Republican party needs to be made to own their president and his war as well - or to come up with a candidate who will challenge the Bush-Cheney strategy. The Democratic anti-war base has nowhere to go, and they should be ignored on the funding issue. The Dems need to play this with coolness and calm - and not into Cheney's and Limbaugh's hands. Give them what they wish for. Deny them the wedge issue they want. And hold them accountable.

(Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty.)