Journalists are starting to call Vice President Dick Cheney on his habitual double-speak. Cheney admits to having “misspoken” about Saddam’s weapons capability, but what the Boston Globe has called his “misspeaking streak” fits into a larger White House pattern: deception elevated into a strategy.
Exhibit A. During his “Meet the Press” interview on Sunday, Cheney claimed that not only is Iraq “relatively stable and quiet,” but “the majority of Iraqi’s are thankful for the fact that the United States is there.”
Sounds good. The reality? Outside of Cheney-land, Iraqi’s are angry, very angry. In fact, the New York Times on Tuesday quoted defense department officials warning that the biggest threat to America could be ordinary Iraqis, many of whom oppose the U.S. military occupation and are becoming increasingly hostile. As one fed told the Times, “To a lot of Iraqis, we’re no longer the guys who threw out Saddam, but the ones who are busting down doors and barging in on their wives and daughters.” Think life’s “stable and quiet” for the U.S. troops? Not likely. They face up to 17 attacks a day.
Exhibit B. is Cheney’s continued attempts to link Iraq to Al Qaeda and September 11. On “Meet the Press,” Cheney trotted out the old line about the 9/11 hijacker meeting in Prague with an Iraqi intelligence officer:
“With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack. But we’ve never been able to develop any more of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know.”
Well, actually, we do know. As the Washington Post points out, all the evidence suggests Atta was not in Prague at the time:
“An FBI investigation concluded that Atta was apparently in Florida at the time of the alleged meeting, and the CIA has always doubted it took place. Czech authorities, who first mentioned the alleged meeting in October 2001 to U.S. officials, have since said they no longer are certain the individual in the video of the supposed meeting was Atta. Meanwhile, in July, the U.S. military captured the Iraqi intelligence officer who was supposed to have met Atta and has not obtained confirmation from him.”
And as The Nation‘s David Corn reports, Cheney’s claim that campaign in Iraq would strike at the base of the 9/11 plotters is simply wrong:
“Cheney claimed that if the U.S. succeeds in Iraq ‘we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11.’ Huh? What’s the public evidence that any of the 9/11 plotters used Iraq as a ‘geographic base’? There is none. Afghanistan was the ‘geographic base’ for al Qaeda. Has Cheney forgotten that?”
Hence the growing sense that Cheney is on a roll, a “mispeaking streak” that deceived America into going to war:
“Cheney’s claim that we have learned more when we have learned nothing more is one more lie in the chain of deception that convinced a critical number of Americans to support the invasion and occupation of Iraq — at the loss of nearly 300 American soldiers and thousands of Iraqi soldiers and civilians. The fact that he dredged up the thinnest of alleged links between Iraq and Al Qaeda shocked his own intelligence officials. The fact that his own senior defense officials say there is no new intelligence is a dead giveaway that there never was a justification for this invasion.
The string of claims has finally reached the point where the media are challenging dear old granddad. On Sunday’s ‘Meet the Press,’ NBC’s Tim Russert replayed the quote about Saddam currently having reconstituted nuclear weapons. Russert said to Cheney, ‘You misspoke.’
Cheney responded, ‘Yeah, I did misspeak. I said repeatedly during the show “weapons capability.” We never had any evidence that he had acquired a nuclear weapon.’
But it’s unfair to single Cheney out; they all do it. As Robert Scheer writes in the Los Angeles Times the administration has adopted a strategy of Lie Now, Retract Later:
“The pattern is clear: Say what you want people to believe for the front page and on TV, then whisper a halfhearted correction or apology that slips under the radar.”
‘We know [Iraq] had a great deal to do with terrorism in general and with Al Qaeda in particular and we know a great many of [Osama] bin Laden’s key lieutenants are now trying to organize in cooperation with old loyalists from the Saddam regime’ [Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz told ABC on this year’s 9/11 anniversary.
We know nothing of the sort, of course, and the next day Wolfowitz was forced to admit it. He told Associated Press that his remarks referred not to a ‘great many’ of Bin Laden’s lieutenants but rather to a single Jordanian, Abu Musab Zarqawi. ‘[I] should have been more precise,’ Wolfowitz admitted.
But the Bush administration’s plan may be backfiring. Scheer cites a poll by the Post showing that 60 percent of Americans don’t back Bush’s plan to funnel $87 billion more into Iraq. Perhaps, writes Scheer, “like people blinking in the sun after a long hibernation, Americans are finally awakening to the stupid and craven things being done in the name of protecting us.”