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Saturday, November 17, 2007

They Can’t Claim Innocence: Cheney on Iraq, 1992

Astounding! In a speech made in 1992, Dick Cheney, then Secretary of Defense under the first George Bush, outlined all the reasons why a ground war in Iraq to force out Saddam would be a really dumb idea.

Sadly, all his predictions came true in the present war. I am once again grateful to Democracy Now for digging this up. And if you go to the link above, you can actually hear Cheney say this.

AMY GOODMAN: As we talk about how President Bush and Vice President Cheney made the case for war in Iraq, I want to turn to comments made by Dick Cheney in September of 1992. At the time, he was President George H.W. Bush’s Secretary of Defense. During an address at the Economic Club of Detroit, Cheney was asked why the United States didn’t bury Saddam Hussein during the Gulf War. This is how he responded close to fifteen years ago.

DICK CHENEY: At the end of the war in the Gulf, when we made the decision to stop, we did so because we had achieved our military objectives — that is, when we decided to halt military operations. Those objectives were twofold: to liberate Kuwait and, secondly, to strip Saddam Hussein of his offensive military capability, of his capacity to threaten his neighbors. And we had done that.

There is no doubt in my mind, but what we could have gone on to Baghdad and taken Baghdad, occupied the whole country. We had the 101st Airborne up on the Euphrates River Valley about halfway between Kuwait and Baghdad. And I don’t think, from a military perspective, that it would have been an impossible task. Clearly, it wouldn’t, given the forces that we had there.

But we made a very conscious decision not to proceed for several reasons, in part because as soon as you go to Baghdad to get Saddam Hussein, you have to recognize that you’re undertaking a fairly complex operation. It’s not the kind of situation where we could have pulled up in front of the presidential palace in Baghdad and said, “Come on, Saddam. You’re going to the slammer.” We would have had to run him to ground. A lot of places he could have gone to hide out or to resist. It would have required extensive military forces to achieve that.

But let’s assume for the moment that we would have been able to do it, we got Saddam now and maybe we put him down there in Miami with Noriega. Then the question comes, putting a government in place of the one you’ve just gotten rid of. You can’t just sort of turn around and away; you’ve now accepted the responsibility for what happens in Iraq. What kind of government do you want us to create in place of the old Saddam Hussein government? You want a Sunni government or a Shia government, or maybe it ought to be a Kurdish government, or maybe one based on the Baath Party, or maybe some combination of all of those.

How long is that government likely to survive without US military forces there to keep it propped up? If you get into the business of committing US forces on the ground in Iraq to occupy the place, my guess is I’d probably still have people there today, instead of having been able to bring them home.

We would have been in a situation, once we went into Baghdad, where we would have engaged in the kind of street-by-street, house-to-house fighting in an urban setting that would have been dramatically different from what we were able to do in the Gulf, in Kuwait in the desert, where our precision-guided munitions and our long-range artillery and tanks were so devastating against those Iraqi forces. You would have been fighting in a built-up urban area, large civilian population, and much heavier prospects for casualties.

You would have found, as well, I think, probably the disintegration of the Arab coalition that signed on to support us in our efforts to eject the Iraqis from Kuwait, but never signed on for the proposition that the United States would become some kind of quasi-permanent occupier of a major Middle Eastern nation.

And the final point, with respect to casualties, everybody, of course, was tremendously impressed with the fact that we were able to prevail at such a low cost, given the predictions with respect to casualties in major modern warfare. But for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it was not a cheap or a low-cost conflict. The bottom-line question for me was: How many additional American lives is Saddam Hussein worth? The answer: Not very damn many. I think the President got it right both times, both when he decided to use military force to defeat Saddam Hussein’s aggression, but also when he made what I think was a very wise decision to stop military operations when we did.

So why, knowing exactly how things were going down, did Cheney push this idiotic war?


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