Home > Cheney’s Avalanche of Lies
By William Rivers Pitt
"The vice president, I’m surprised to hear him talk about records. When he was one of 435 members of the United States House, he was one of 10 to vote against Head Start, one of four to vote against banning plastic weapons that can pass through metal detectors. He voted against the Department of Education. He voted against funding for Meals on Wheels for seniors. He voted against a holiday for Martin Luther King. He voted against a resolution calling for the release of Nelson Mandela in South Africa. It’s amazing to hear him criticize either my record or John Kerry’s."
– Senator John Edwards, 10/05/04
Clearly, Dick Cheney is no George W. Bush.
On Thursday night in Florida, Bush exposed himself as unprepared, easily ruffled, angry, excitable and muddled. As one wag put it, he came to a 90 minute debate with 10 minutes of material. On Tuesday night in Ohio, Cheney showed the American people who is really running things at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He was controlled, calm, every inch the CEO in charge.
Cheney was also every inch the snarling, hunch-shouldered golem that has made him one of the least popular politicians in recent memory. He seldom looked up at moderator Gwen Ifill, or at the cameras facing him, choosing instead to speak into his own chest for the entire night. Cheney appeared, overall, to cut quite the frightening figure, the dark night to Edwards’ optimistic day.
The other problem for Cheney, of course, was the way he lied with nearly every word that passed his curled lips. It was a virtuoso performance of prevarication, obfuscation and outright balderdash. On Thursday night, George W. Bush played the part of a man who couldn’t possibly defend his record. On Tuesday night, Cheney acted as though that record did not exist.
Cheney was behind the eight-ball before he even entered the hall, tasked to defend his administration’s rationale for invading and occupying Iraq. Unfortunately for him, journalists record statements made by important people. In 1992, then-Defense Secretary Cheney spoke to the Discovery Institute in Seattle, WA. Recall that the United States was flush from the trouncing of Iraq in the first Gulf War. Cheney was asked why coalition forces didn’t roll tanks on Baghdad and depose Saddam Hussein. Cheney’s response, given 14 years ago, could well describe the mess we currently find ourselves in.
"I would guess if we had gone in there," said Cheney in 1992, "I would still have forces in Baghdad today. We’d be running the country. We would not have been able to get everybody out and bring everybody home. And the final point that I think needs to be made is this question of casualties. I don’t think you could have done all of that without significant additional U.S. casualties. And while everybody was tremendously impressed with the low cost of the conflict, for the 146 Americans who were killed in action and for their families, it wasn’t a cheap war."
For the record, 1,064 American soldiers have died in this second round of war in Iraq. An additional 138 soldiers from the ’coalition’ Bush and Cheney assembled have also died, bringing the total to 1,202. Edwards made the point several times that the United States was bearing "90% of the coalition causalities" in Iraq, and that the American people are bearing "90% of the costs of the effort in Iraq." Cheney tried to say this wasn’t true, but the body count numbers don’t lie, and never mind the burden being carried by the Iraqi people, more than 20,000 of whom have perished since the invasion began.
"And the question in my mind," continued Cheney in 1992, "is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not that damned many. So, I think we got it right, both when we decided to expel him from Kuwait, but also when the president made the decision that we’d achieved our objectives and we were not going to go get bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq."
Cheney’s answer to this glaring contradiction, of course, is "September 11," i.e. the terrorist attacks changed everything. It doesn’t change the facts of a disastrous occupation, or the overwhelming financial burden being placed on American taxpayers because of Bush administration failures, and it certainly doesn’t explain 1,064 folded American flags handed to American families who thought their sons, daughters, husbands, wives, mothers and fathers were going to Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction and protect the United States.
Page 01 of the Washington Post for Wednesday 06 October carries an article titled ’Report Discounts Iraq Arms Threat,’ which reads in paragraph one: "The government’s most definitive account of Iraq’s arms programs, to be released today, will show that Saddam Hussein posed a diminishing threat at the time the United States invaded and did not possess, or have concrete plans to develop, nuclear, chemical or biological weapons, U.S. officials said yesterday."
Yes, the lies were thick before Cheney took his seat at the desk on Tuesday night. They got thicker. Edwards, in a theme repeated throughout the night, stated that Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with the attacks of September 11, and that the Bush administration had erred grievously by diverting attention from Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda and into Iraq. Several times, Edwards accused Cheney of rhetorically combining Iraq and 9/11.
"I have not," replied Cheney, "suggested there is a connection between Iraq and 9/11."
"His regime has had high-level contacts with al Qaeda going back a decade and has provided training to al Qaeda terrorists." - Cheney, 12/2/02
"His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. He could decide secretly to provide weapons of mass destruction to terrorists for use against us." - Cheney, 1/30/03
"I think there’s overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al Qaeda and the Iraqi government." - Cheney, 1/22/04
"There’s been enormous confusion over the Iraq and al-Qaeda connection, Gloria. First of all, on the question of - of whether or not there was any kind of a relationship, there was a relationship. It’s been testified to. The evidence is overwhelming. It goes back to the early ’90s...There’s clearly been a relationship." - Cheney, 6/17/04
One could argue, perhaps, the definition of "is" on this matter. Cheney did not state specifically in any of the above quotes that Iraq was involved with 9/11. But the repeated claim that Iraq was connected to al Qaeda, a claim that has been shot to pieces dozens of times over, establishes enough of an Iraq-9/11 connection to satisfy a man who appears to believe that a frightened populace is a happy populace.
George W. Bush doesn’t even believe Cheney on this point. An article by Reuters from September 18, 2003, had Bush telling reporters, "We’ve had no evidence that Saddam Hussein was involved in September 11." Bush was forced into this scramble because his Vice President had, again, made this discredited connection between Iraq and 9/11 on ’Meet the Press’ the previous Sunday by claiming, "more and more" evidence was being found to justify the connection. It wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.
Cheney’s unruffled, monotone demeanor became demonstrably agitated only a few times on Tuesday, but those times were telling. They came when John Edwards mentioned Halliburton. Edwards accused Halliburton, essentially, of war profiteering, and went so far as to describe how the company, while run by Cheney, was trading with nations now considered to be enemies of America.
"While he was CEO of Halliburton," said Edwards, "they paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false information on their company, just like Enron and Ken Lay. They did business with Libya and Iran, two sworn enemies of the United States. They’re now under investigation for having bribed foreign officials during that period of time. Not only that, they’ve gotten a $7.5 billion no-bid contract in Iraq, and instead of part of their money being withheld, which is the way it’s normally done, because they’re under investigation, they’ve continued to get their money."
Cheney was allotted 30 seconds to reply to this explosive charge. His response: "The reason they keep mentioning Halliburton is because they’re trying to throw up a smokescreen. They know the charges are false."
Edwards’ reply to this in-depth rejoinder: "These are the facts. The facts are the vice president’s company that he was CEO of, that did business with sworn enemies of the United States, paid millions of dollars in fines for providing false financial information, it’s under investigation for bribing foreign officials. The same company that got a $7.5 billion no-bid contract, the rule is that part of their money is supposed to be withheld when they’re under investigation, as they are now, for having overcharged the American taxpayer, but they’re getting every dime of their money."
A few more facts: According to the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Houston Chronicle, the New York Times, the Petroleum Economist and scores of other reporters and media outlets, Halliburton in the time of Dick Cheney dealt with both Iraq, Iran and Libya through a variety of subsidiaries and in defiance of scores of international sanctions. Cheney did not like the sanctions against these countries, and went out of his way to make sure Halliburton could get around them and turn a tidy profit.
On June 13, 2000, one month before joining the Republican presidential ticket, the Los Angeles Times reported Cheney’s claim that, "We’re kept out of (Iran) primarily by our own government, which has made a decision that U.S. firms should not be allowed to invest significantly in Iran, and I think that’s a mistake." When speaking to the Cato Institute on June 23, 1998, Cheney stated, "Unfortunately, Iran is sitting right in the middle of the (Caspian Sea) area and the United States has declared unilateral economic sanctions against that country. As a result, American firms are prohibited from dealing with Iran and find themselves cut out of the action."
Cut out of the action?
It went on like this for 90 minutes, and got quite silly at one point. Cheney tried to paint Edwards as an absentee Senator by claiming he’d not met Edwards until that night. CNN and the other networks, a couple of hours later, began showing video of the two of them sitting together for several hours during the National Prayer Breakfast in February of 2001. It seems a silly thing to lie about, what with all the chaos and dead people we’re all dealing with, but the media appeared happy to seize upon it. So it goes.
Cheney looked for all the world as if the whole thing bored him. One can hardly blame him. When your entire professional and political career is a tapestry of untruths, telling them again for the umpteenth time could indeed be quite dull.
William Rivers Pitt is a New York Times and international bestseller of two books - ’War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know’ and ’The Greatest Sedition is Silence.’