Former Vice President Dick Cheney has been popping off lately about how President Obama is to blame for the current crisis in Iraq.
Cheney sees the alarming territorial gains by Sunni Muslim insurgents and al Qaeda jihadists, and the growing and regrettable influence of the clerics of Iran over the Shiite government of Iraq, and blames it all on the Obama administration.
Dick Cheney is wrong about Barack Obama and Iraq now -- big time -- just as he was in 2002 when he and President George W. Bush deliberately distorted classified intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction and misled the Congress and the country into the Iraq War under false pretenses.
Cheney and Bush are responsible for our invasion of Iraq, the greatest foreign policy blunder in our national history. They made mistake after mistake in Iraq in 2002 and 2003, and those failures, not President Obama, are directly responsible for the government dysfunction, sectarian unrest and growing civil war we see today in that divided country.
First, the President and Vice President intentionally lied to Congress and the American people when seeking congressional authority to invade Iraq. They stated publicly with complete certainty that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, was getting more, and was willing to use them, and thus posed an imminent threat to the United States. But the classified intelligence being given to the White House at that time was full of reservations, doubts and caveats about the status of Saddam's weapons. Had Congress seen the classified intelligence before the vote to authorize war, instead of months afterward, I believe Congress would have voted against the war and for continued international sanctions and enhanced inspections. We would have avoided the American debacle in Iraq.
I was a member of Congress then, and I regret to this day that I believed the White House lies that convinced me to support the war in order to disarm Saddam Hussein. The fact is that when we invaded Iraq, Saddam Hussein was already disarmed.
But Cheney and Bush were just getting started with their mistakes. They believed the blowhard Iraqi exile Ahmed Chalabi who swore that Shiite Iraqis would embrace us as liberators, that Sunnis should be marginalized in society, that the Iraqi army should be disbanded and former Ba'ath party members should be expelled from government (although they were the ones who could make the trains run on time).
For nine years we functioned not as liberators, as Cheney infamously promised, but as occupiers of a dangerously splintered country with a deadly insurgency. America's cost: 4,500 dead, 30,000 wounded and maimed, $758 billion in direct military spending, $2 trillion in total expenditures. And our misadventure in Iraq has surely created more terrorists and extremists than we ever brought to justice.
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