The Apology Dick Cheney Owes

Colin Powell and George Will highlight the former vice president's alleged failures

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While Dick Cheney's new memoir In My Time hasn't made any heads explode yet, it has drawn criticism from some Republicans for its "cheap shots," as former Secretary of State Colin Powell said on CBS's Face the Nation Sunday, and its lack of self-criticism, as columnist George Will said on ABC's This Week. In particular, Cheney's detractors are focusing on the wreckage of the Iraq War and his failure to acknowledge any missteps in the execution of the conflict. Here's how pundits are coming down on the book:

He should apologize for misleading the country, says The Washington Post's conservative columnist George Will on ABC's This Week on Sunday:

Five hundred and sixty five pages and a simple apology would have been in order in some of them. Which is to say, the great fact of those eight years is we went to war—big war, costly war—under false pretenses. And…to write a memoir in which you say essentially nothing seriously went wrong…if I wrote a memoir of my last week, I would have things to apologize for.

He deserves blame for post-invasion Iraq, former Secretary of State Colin Powell tells CBS on Sunday: "The president knows that I told him what I thought about every issue of the day. Cheney may forget that I'm the one who said to President Bush, 'If you break it, you own it.' And you have got to understand that if we have to go to war in Iraq, we have to be prepared for the whole war, not just the first phase. And Mr. Cheney and many of his colleagues did not prepare for what happened after the fall of Baghdad."

He doesn't necessarily owe an apology, writes James Joyner at Outside the Beltway: "The notion that Cheney owes us an apology is interesting. It depends entirely on whether the Bush administration took us to war knowing Saddam did not have a nuclear weapons program or simply downplayed evidence casting doubt in order to make the case for war they genuinely believed was necessary."

Yes, he does, responds Wired's Spencer Ackerman to James Joyner on his personal blog:

I don't think that's correct. The case for an apology doesn't rest on the acknowledgement of deceit. It rests on the less-indicting (morally, not legally) ground that the war was a strategic blunder. Execution, in other words, not intend. In retrospect, I think it's fair to say that even if Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of WMD and was a bosom buddy of Usama bin Laden; and then a post-Saddam occupation became everything it ultimately became -- it would be a closer call, but even then, the Iraq war probably wouldn't have been in the interests of the United States.

Absent that counterfactual, arguing the opposite is outright bizarre, even when assuming only the most generous premises for the Bush administration's intention. Results matter.

Not that anyone should expect an apology from Cheney. And the real apology, if one is owed at all, is owed from George W. Bush.

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