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Forum Post: In the Darkness of Dick Cheney: The Smile of Secret Power

Posted 8 months ago on Feb. 11, 2014, 2:36 p.m. EST by LeoYo (5909)
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In the Darkness of Dick Cheney: The Smile of Secret Power

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 10:55 By Mark Danner, TomDispatch | News Analysis

This essay appears in the March 6th issue of the New York Review of Books and is posted at Truthout with the kind permission of that magazine. The film and two books under review in this piece are listed at the end of the essay.

If you’re a man of principle, compromise is a bit of a dirty word. -- Dick Cheney, 2013 1.“We Ought to Take It Out”

In early 2007, as Iraq seemed to be slipping inexorably into chaos and President George W. Bush into inescapable political purgatory, Meir Dagan, the head of the Israeli Mossad, flew to Washington, sat down in a sunlit office of the West Wing of the White House, and spread out on the coffee table before him a series of photographs showing a strange-looking building rising out of the sands in the desert of eastern Syria. Vice President Dick Cheney did not have to be told what it was. “They tried to hide it down a wadi, a gulley,” he recalls to filmmaker R.J. Cutler.

“There’s no population around it anyplace... You can’t say it’s to generate electricity, there’s no power line coming out of it. It’s just out there obviously for production of plutonium.”

The Syrians were secretly building a nuclear plant -- with the help, it appeared, of the North Koreans. Though the United States was already embroiled in two difficult, unpopular, and seemingly endless wars, though its military was overstretched and its people impatient and angry, the vice president had no doubt what needed to be done: “Condi recommended taking it to the United Nations. I strongly recommended that we ought to take it out.”

Launching an immediate surprise attack on Syria, Cheney tells us in his memoirs, would not only “make the region and the world safer, but it would also demonstrate our seriousness with respect to nonproliferation.” This was the heart of the Bush Doctrine: henceforth terrorists and the states harboring them would be treated as one and, as President Bush vowed before Congress in January 2002, “the United States of America will not permit the world’s most dangerous regimes to threaten us with the world’s most destructive weapons.” It was according to this strategic thinking that the United States answered attacks on New York and Washington by a handful of terrorists not by a carefully circumscribed counterinsurgency aimed at al-Qaeda but by a worldwide “war on terror” that also targeted states -- Iraq, Iran, North Korea -- that formed part of a newly defined “axis of evil.” (1) According to those attending National Security Council meetings in the days after September 11,

“The primary impetus for invading Iraq... was to make an example of [Saddam] Hussein, to create a demonstration model to guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity to acquire destructive weapons or, in any way, flout the authority of the United States.”(2)

And yet five years after the president had denounced the “axis of evil” before Congress, and four years after his administration had invaded and occupied Iraq in the declared aim of ridding Saddam’s regime of its weapons of mass destruction, the North Koreans had detonated their own nuclear weapon and the Syrians and Iranians, as the vice president tells us in his memoirs, were “both working to develop nuclear capability.” What’s more,

“Syria was facilitating the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq, where they killed US soldiers. Iran was providing funding and weapons for exactly the same purpose, as well as providing weapons to the Taliban in Afghanistan. They were both involved in supporting Hezbollah in its efforts to threaten Israel and destabilize the Lebanese government. They constituted a major threat to America’s interests in the Middle East.”

By the vice president’s own analysis the “demonstration model” approach, judged by whether it was “guiding the behavior” of the axis of evil countries and their allies, was delivering distinctly mixed results. No matter:

”I told the president we needed a more effective and aggressive strategy to counter these threats, and I believed that an important first step would be to destroy the reactor in the Syrian desert.”

Launching an air strike on Syria, as he tells Cutler, “would sort of again reassert the kind of authority and influence we had back in ’03 -- when we took down Saddam Hussein and eliminated Iraq as a potential source of WMD.”

“Back in ’03” had been the Golden Age, when American power had reached its zenith. After Kabul had fallen in a few weeks, the shock and awe launched from American planes and missiles had brought American warriors storming all the way to Baghdad. Saddam’s statue, with the help of an American tank and a strong chain, crashed to the pavement. The first of the “axis of evil” countries had fallen. President Bush donned his flight suit and swaggered across the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. It was the “Mission Accomplished” moment.

And yet is there not something distinctly odd in pointing, in 2007 -- not to mention in the memoirs of 2011 and the film interview in 2013 -- to “the kind of authority and influence we had back in ’03”? Four years after the Americans had declared victory in Iraq -- even as the vice president was “strongly recommending” that the United States attack Syria -- more than a hundred thousand Iraqis and nearly five thousand Americans were dead, Iraq was near anarchy, and no end was yet in sight. Not only the war’s ending but its beginning had disappeared into a dark cloud of confusion and controversy, as the weapons of mass destruction that were its justification turned out not to exist. The invasion had produced not the rapid and overwhelming victory Cheney had anticipated but a quagmire in which the American military had occupied and repressed a Muslim country and, four years later, been brought to the verge of defeat. As for “authority and influence,” during that time North Korea had acquired nuclear weapons and Iran and Syria had started down the road to building them.

Given this, what exactly had the “demonstration model” demonstrated? If such demonstrations really did “guide the behavior of anyone with the temerity...to flout the authority of the United States,” how exactly had the decision to invade Iraq and the disastrous outcome of the war guided the actions and policies of those authority-flouting countries? The least one could say is that if the theory worked, then that “authority and influence we had back in ’03,” in conquered Baghdad, had been unmasked, as the insurgency got underway, as an illusion.

The pinnacle of power had been attained not in Baghdad but long before, when the leaders decided to set out on this ill-starred military adventure. By invading Iraq Bush administration policymakers -- and at their head, Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld -- had managed to demonstrate to the world not the grand extent of American power but its limits. The most one could say is that the “demonstration model” had had the opposite result of that intended, encouraging “rogue states,” faced with the prospect of an aggressive United States determined to wield its unmatched conventional military forces, to pursue the least expensive means by which to deter such an attack: nuclear weapons of their own. Now the Iraq war suggested that even if the Americans did invade, a determined core of insurgents equipped with small arms, suicide vests, and other improvised explosive devices might well be enough to outlast them, or at least outlast the patience of the American public.

  1. The Smile of Secret Power http://truth-out.org/news/item/21801-in-the-darkness-of-dick-cheney-the-smile-of-secret-power

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[-] 1 points by LeoYo (5909) 8 months ago

Is Hillary Clinton a Neocon-Lite?

Tuesday, 11 February 2014 09:33 By Robert Parry, Consortium News | Op-Ed

As a U.S. senator and Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton often followed a neocon-style foreign policy, backing the Iraq War, teaming up with Defense Secretary Robert Gates on an Afghan War “surge,” and staking out an even more hawkish stance than Gates on Libya, Robert Parry reports.

Most Democratic power-brokers appear settled on Hillary Clinton as their choice for President in 2016 – and she holds lopsided leads over potential party rivals in early opinion polls – but there are some warning flags flying, paradoxically, hoisted by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates in his praise for the former First Lady, U.S. senator and Secretary of State.

On the surface, one might think that Gates’s glowing commendations of Clinton would further burnish her standing as the odds-on next President of the United States, but strip away the fawning endorsements and Gates’s portrait of Clinton in his new memoir, Duty, is of a pedestrian foreign policy thinker who is easily duped and leans toward military solutions.

Indeed, for thoughtful and/or progressive Democrats, the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton could represent a step back from some of President Barack Obama’s more innovative foreign policy strategies, particularly his readiness to cooperate with the Russians and Iranians to defuse Middle East crises and his willingness to face down the Israel Lobby when it is pushing for heightened confrontations and war.

Based on her public record and Gates’s insider account, Clinton could be expected to favor a more neoconservative approach to the Mideast, one more in line with the traditional thinking of Official Washington and the belligerent dictates of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

As a U.S. senator and as Secretary of State, Clinton rarely challenged the conventional wisdom or resisted the use of military force to solve problems. She famously voted for the Iraq War in 2002 – falling for President George W. Bush’s bogus WMD case – and remained a war supporter until her position became politically untenable during Campaign 2008.

Representing New York, Clinton rarely if ever criticized Israeli actions. In summer 2006, as Israeli warplanes pounded southern Lebanon, killing more than 1,000 Lebanese, Sen. Clinton shared a stage with Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Dan Gillerman who had said, “While it may be true – and probably is – that not all Muslims are terrorists, it also happens to be true that nearly all terrorists are Muslim.”

At a pro-Israel rally with Clinton in New York on July 17, 2006, Gillerman proudly defended Israel’s massive violence against targets in Lebanon. “Let us finish the job,” Gillerman told the crowd. “We will excise the cancer in Lebanon” and “cut off the fingers” of Hezbollah. Responding to international concerns that Israel was using “disproportionate” force in bombing Lebanon and killing hundreds of civilians, Gillerman said, “You’re damn right we are.” [NYT, July 18, 2006]

Sen. Clinton did not protest Gillerman’s remarks, since doing so would presumably have offended an important pro-Israel constituency.

Misreading Gates http://truth-out.org/opinion/item/21794-is-hillary-clinton-a-neocon-lite

[-] 1 points by northernlights (14) 8 months ago

Good post Leo. How anyone can believe that Hitlary is the answer to our problems is beyond me.