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Saturday, June 25, 2005

Dick Cheney, Meet Reality

The Roanoke Times, June 25, 05


The vice president's long-overdue introduction to reality came courtesy of Gen. John P. Abizaid's testimony Thursday before the Senate Armed Services Committee that directly contradicted Cheney's rosy assessment of an Iraq insurgency in its "last throes." Abizaid made it clear that the insurgency was every bit as strong as it was six months ago and that foreign fighters were still joining the battle. A few days before, Abizaid told the Houston Chronicle that the United States was in for an indefinite fight that would "cost in blood and treasure."

Cheney remained as resistant to such assessments as he was to giving any consideration prior to the war that his belief that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators in Iraq might be wrong. "If you look at what the dictionary says about 'throes,' it can be a, you know, a violent period, the throes of a revolution," Cheney said on CNN after Abizaid's testimony.

As American confidence in President Bush's adventure in Iraq erodes, such persistent disdain for confronting reality will not offer much comfort.
Nor will the kind of partisan rhetoric exercised by White House adviser Karl Rove, who said the liberal response to the 9/11 attacks was to offer "therapy and understanding to our attackers," while conservatives "prepared for war."

Unfortunately, they mostly prepared for the wrong war. From the beginning, the real focus of the Bush administration was on Iraq, not Afghanistan, whose ruling Taliban had provided a safe harbor and training ground for al-Qaida.

Once the Taliban fell, resources were quickly diverted from the fight to wipe out al-Qaida and bring Osama bin Laden to justice to preparing for the invasion of Iraq - which had no connection to the terrorist attacks.

That invasion, according to a report by the CIA, turned Iraq into a training ground that will produce more proficient terrorists than Afghanistan. The report says that Iraqi and foreign fighters are developing a broad range of skills in Iraq's urban environments. Once the insurgency is over, the

CIA fears the terrorists will disperse and take those skills around the globe.

Calls for Rove to apologize for his remarks miss the broader point. Though his comments inexcusably ignored the shared outrage and national unity that marked the months after 9/11, the real apology should come from Cheney, President Bush and the other architects of the disastrous Iraq war.

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