Thursday, October 22, 2009

Dick Cheney should shut up.

It has been my goal in writing this blog to try to keep the tone always civil, respectful and positive. Feeling that there are already plenty of critics out there, I decided back when I set up this site just before last year's election, to offer only support for the new administration. I also try to echo President Obama's post-partisan, inclusive tone. Sometimes, however, a bit of rudeness may be called for. At least that is my reaction to the comments of former vice-president Cheney as reported in this morning's paper. Where does Dick Cheney get off complaining that President Obama is "dithering" in Afghanistan, and insinuating that he is putting troops in danger by undertaking a careful study of our aims and strategy in that country? There are so many ways in which this statement is inappropriate I don't have time to list them all.

First, wasn't it the Bush administration, while supporting the initial invasion of Afghanistan and overthrow of the Taliban in a very expeditious manner, that then became distracted by Iraq, and dithered itself in Afghanistan for more than six years? Isn't it the Obama administration that has already committed substantially more resources to Afghanistan than did Bush and Cheney? So who was dithering? Who was putting an inadequate number of troops in harm's way? Who was not trying to "win"? Who took their eyes off the ball, allowing Osama Bin Laden and his cohorts to escape to the mountains, probably in Pakistan, while they launched a poorly-planned invasion of Iraq?

Second, let's remember Dick Cheney's response when critics of the Bush administration's war policies questioned his strategy. He either told people outright to shut up because they did not have access to the information he had, or he questioned their patriotism or resolve. So perhaps Dick Cheney ought to take his own advice and allow the new administration to have a chance to implement a new strategy.

Third, what is wrong with taking the time to get this problem right? Not only are there domestic political considerations that must be taken into account in deciding whether to risk substantial American resources and lives in a protracted struggle in Afghanistan, there are also real military and political considerations in Afghanistan itself that must also be addressed. For one thing, we want to make sure we are supporting a legitimate government in Afghanistan, not one that appears to have rigged an election and engaged in other forms of corruption. We have seen what happens when an outside power tries to prop up a government that lacks popular support. Such efforts are doomed to failure regardless of the resources committed. We have also seen what happens, as Bush and Cheney so beautifully demonstrated in the poorly-implemented occupation of Iraq, when we try to meddle in the affairs of another country in too heavy-handed a manner. We end up fomenting an insurgency, instead of creating a stable government, and creating more problems for ourselves than the ones we tried to solve.

Fourth, it is downright unpatriotic and subversive to suggest that undertaking a careful study of our objectives in Afghanistan could be dangerous to the troops. What purpose can someone have in making such reckless comments other than to encourage those who lose relatives or friends to this struggle to blame the new administration's policies for such deaths? Dick Cheney should know better than that. He knows that the foremost objective of our military has for years been what they call force protection. Whether we have 1000 or 100,000 troops in Afghanistan, Dick Cheney knows that our commanders' first goal is to try to keep casualties to a minimum. Dick Cheney also knows that increasing the commitment of troops is not likely to reduce the number of casualties.

I am not one of those who advocates simply pulling the troops out of Afghanistan. I think it could be disastrous if the Taliban were to return to power, and I think we are right to try to prevent that from happening. But I also think the Obama administration is absolutely right to take the time necessary to re-assess our strategy carefully, and make sure we are not engaging in an unproductive mission. For critics like Dick Cheney to argue that what we need to do is to commit blindly to massive increases in war-fighting capability in Afghanistan without taking the time to explore alternatives, and find out whether such an effort would be feasible or effective, just reveals his own failure to learn from his own mistakes, as well as his own insecurities about being questioned about those mistakes. Dick Cheney kept himself insulated from most questioning during the years he exercised a great deal of power running the government. He has no business trying to create the kind of dissension and trouble for the new administration that he would never have tolerated when he was in power.


  1. Great post, while you warned of wanting to be rude, there was nothing uncivil in regard to your push back on Dick Cheney. Your statement "as well as his own insecurities about being questioned about those mistakes" captures whats up with Dick.

    He is not only incompetent, but he is blinded by his contempt for anything other than Dick Cheney.

  2. I think telling someone to shut up is rude. At least I always tell my kids that it is rude. But in this case, perhaps justified.

  3. Not so keen on the whole "freedom of speech" thing, eh? Dick was there and if he is being misrepresented, which I believe he is, by the present administration, he should speak out. He says the Bush team left Obama a study on Iraq while Obama has said Bush did a terrible job and left them nothing.

    Somehow, I'd like to hear a counter voice to Dear Leader's message.

  4. I'm fine with the whole freedom of speech thing. But Dick Cheney ought to give more thought to whether it is in his own and his country's interest to keep making the irresponsible and stupid comments he keeps making. Remember it was Dick Cheney who kept suggesting while he was vice president that anyone who questioned the president's strategy must be in league with the terrorists. So perhaps he should take his own advice and shut up, or else we should feel free to draw the conclusion he repeatedly told us to draw, which is that he is not a patriot.

    I'm also saying that anyone who was such a key part of an administration that repeatedly refused its generals' requests for more troops in Afghanistan has no credibility in criticizing the next administration, which already did increase those troop levels substantially, for making a careful study before deciding on a strategy and appropriate troop levels for the future. One other point I forgot to mention in my post: Has Cheney forgotten the lengthy re-examination of Iraq policy that Bush conducted after the Iraq Study Group report and before deciding on the "surge" strategy? As I recall, it took months of "dithering" before deciding on that strategy. But because of that careful study, the new strategy was a lot more successful than the prior one. So again, Cheney has absolutely no credibility, and no standing really, to criticize the new administration for taking the time needed to get Afghanistan right. But if he wants to be so foolish as to keep making speeches like the one he made last night, I certainly respect his right to exercise his freedom of speech. Just because he has that right, however, doesn't mean that he is being smart in making the statements that he has made. And I have the right to say that what I think he should be doing right now is following the example of ex-president Bush and keeping his thoughts to himself.

  5. Maybe if Obama and other Democrats weren't riding the "blame Bush" train then Cheney wouldn't have to provide his input?

    Regarding Iraq... I don't recall Democrats being especially helpful on that process. As a matter of fact, they screamed "pullout" for months and even said when the surge did happen that it was wrong and it would get more Americans killed. Well... Democrats were wrong. Did any of them admit they were wrong? No.

    And Cheney pointing out that certain "ideas" proposed by Democrats would take away crucial tools needed to help stop Islamic terrorism is not the same thing as calling someone "unpatriotic." Revealing the FISA programs (which key Democrats knew of but "forgot" for political gain), trying to force the administration to try suspected terrorists in civilian courts which would force the administration to reveal their intel, etc... you'd have to be blind to not see how this would help those who would destroy us by letting them know what we knew and how we knew it.

    Cheney has every right to speak out and the last time he did battle he won. Pelosi ran under a rock several months ago regarding "torture" and what she knew. Cheney also proved how the Obama administration was releasing selective information regarding Gitmo and "torture." Obama dropped that issue.

    I think he is being smart. He is not only providing a counter-balance to the spin we here now from Obama and the Democrats but he is also speaking the truth.

    I have not seen it proven anywhere that anything Cheney has said is a lie.

  6. You are talking about everything under the sun except about what Cheney was actually talking about in his speech, which was the question of increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. And the question I have for Dick Cheney, and for you, is the one Robert Gibbs posed yesterday: Where does Dick Cheney get off complaining about Obama "dithering" on increasing troop levels in Afghanistan when it was the Bush administration that refused the military's requests for increases in troop levels in Afghanistan for years? The Obama administration actually increased the troop levels from 30,000 to over 60,000, and now Cheney is complaining because Obama wants to take a little more time to study whether he should increase the force level still further to 100,000? Cheney has a lot of nerve to make that criticism when he and Bush "dithered" on this precise question for more than six years.

  7. You are missing a few things here. Firstly, Cheney was motivated to give the speech to being with because the Obama administration lied and said Bush left them with a mess. Truth is, there was a detailed study done last year with a series of recommendations. The Obama team was asked if the Bush people should keep it a secret or not. They were asked to so they did. Then Obama's people come out and pretend like there was no study and they are having to "pick up the pieces." So that is a lie.

    Secondly, you miss the fact that Cheney's motivations were because Obama is trying to delay making a decision which all the military guys are saying is a must. You also leave out how important Obama has been saying Afghanistan is to American interests... he's been saying that since 2002 and many times on the campaign trail. And yet he won't make a decision because Democrats, now that they are in power, don't want to fight this war even though when Bush was in charge they said we had to fight Afghanistan but it was Iraq that was messing it up. Hypocrites now.

    I'm not trying to defend not having done more in Afghanistan under Bush but I think you're kind of ignoring some critical issues that led up to the speech, of which Afghanistan was but a part.

  8. I think Dick is just being Dick and trying to make some money in his retirement. If Fox News and other conservative outlets keep bringing him back, he'll keep coming back.

    However, this Afghanistan conflict is becoming a problem. I'm as liberal as they come, and I voted for Obama, however, I am frustrated with Afghanistan. I believe United States should fully withdraw from both countries, and let the civilians in each figure their own way out.

  9. So you think Cheney is in it for the profits? Sort of like how Bill Clinton made $40 million speaking from 2000-2007? Or different from that?

    And I guess if we leave you're okay will millions being murdered by the people who take power? Or would that be Bush's fault?

    "The world cannot afford the price that will come due if Afghanistan slides back into chaos or al Qaeda operates unchecked." - Barack Obama