View Full Version : Cheney's Credibility On The Line

12-01-2005, 12:07 AM
Cheney's Credibility on the Line


Helen Thomas

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney's nose should be growing longer every day.

His stream of falsehoods in his desperate defense of the administration's decision to attack Iraq is pitiful.

Cheney has accused Democratic war critics of being "dishonest and reprehensible" in saying the administration misled the nation into war. But that's what the administration did.

In a speech last week to the American Enterprise Institute -- a conservative think tank in Washington -- the vice president claimed that congressional Democrats who voted to give President Bush authority to go to war had concluded -- "as the president and I did" -- that Saddam Hussein "was a threat."

But Cheney did not explain how Saddam was a threat to the United States, given that Iraq was the target of stringent economic sanctions and regular satellite surveillance, not to mention that American airpower had chopped the northern and southern sectors of Iraq into no-fly zones for years.

Cheney also contended that pre-war intelligence showed that "the dictator of Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. . ." He asserted that "the burden of proof was entirely on the dictator of Iraq, not on the U.N. or the United States or anyone else," on the question of whether Iraq possessed unconventional weapons.

That's baloney.

Before Bush gave the order to invade, U.N. inspectors had assured the U.S. that Saddam had destroyed his stockpile of weapons after his 1991 defeat in the first Gulf war. The president chose to ignore those assurances.

After the U.S. invasion and occupation, two American weapons-hunting teams came to the same conclusion, having searched Iraq in vain for the unconventional weapons arsenals that Bush and Cheney used as their excuse to invade.

But the vice president had no doubts before the invasion.

In 2002, Cheney said: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction."

In the same year, he said: "Saddam Hussein has indeed stepped up his capacity to produce and deliver biological weapons" and "he has reconstituted his nuclear program to develop a nuclear weapon."

In 2003, he said: "We believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons." Cheney also said the U.S. knows where the nuclear weapons are.

I remember reporters asking the White House spokesman back then why the administration didn't tell the U.N. inspectors where to find the weapons if the U.S. knew where they were.

Of course, there was no answer because there were no weapons.

Perhaps more shameful is Cheney's continual efforts to link the 9-11 terrorist attacks with Iraq and to conflate the U.S. invasion with the war on terrorism.

In 2004, even after President Bush said there were no ties between Saddam and the al-Qaida terrorist network, Cheney insisted: "I think there's overwhelming evidence that there was a connection between al-Qaida and the Iraqi government. I'm very confident there was an established relationship there."

He continued this Big Lie in his AEI speech.

He launched into a retrospective on the 9-11 catastrophe and sought to justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq as somehow linked with that "watershed" event. His remarks about the Iraq war were laced with references to 9-11, noting that the terrorist attack "signaled an entirely different era."

He also spoke of the need to take an "essential step in the war on terror" by ridding the world of a "murderous dictator."

The frequent vows by administration officials that we have "to stay the course" seem to mean that we are going to continue to compound the mistakes they made in the first place.

I believe more and more Americans are beginning to see through this stonewall.

(c) 2005 Hearst Newspapers