Five years. Nearly four thousand American lives. Perhaps hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead. Half a trillion dollars spent and we're still rolling up the tab.
How do you mark the fifth anniversary of the war in Iraq? President Bush and Vice-President Cheney were a contrast in styles.
Speaking at the Pentagon, in a speech that was officially titled "President Bush Discusses the Global War on Terror, "Bush ticked off a litany of the reasons why the costs of the war -- in all its forms -- was worth the fight:
"Because we acted, Saddam Hussein no longer fills fields with the remains of innocent men, women and children. Because we acted, Saddam's torture chambers and rape rooms and children's prisons have been closed for good. Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer invading its neighbors or attacking them with chemical weapons and ballistic missiles. Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer paying the families of suicide bombers in the Holy Land. Because we acted, Saddam's regime is no longer shooting at American and British aircraft patrolling the no-fly zones and defying the will of the United Nations. Because we acted, the world is better and United States of America is safer."
Nowhere was there any mention of the WMDs or aluminum rods or yellowcake or any of the other reasons we actually went to war. No mention of a connection between Saddam and the 9/11 terrorists. There couldn't have been a mention. An exhaustive study of 600,000 documents by the Pentagon came up with not a single operational link between Al Qaeda and Saddam's government.
But never mind his popularity rating or the negative public opinion of the war are both at all time lows -- only thirty one percent of the public approving of the job Bush is doing. Two-thirds of the population is against the war. There was the president dancing for all he's worth trying to do what he can to salvage what remained of his legacy.
Antipode to that was Dick Cheney who appeared on ABCs Good Morning America. When presented with fact that two-thirds of the populace was against the war, his answer was a curt "So?"
No two-step there. No hard dancing or soft selling. Not even any spin. Certainly none of that Bush-ian effort to one-last-time swing popular opinion. Just one, single word: So?
As in; So, what do I care what people think? So, what do I care what the voters want?
When pressed by reporter Mathra Raddatz on that point, Cheney's response was that one cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.
Mind you, there have been no fluctuations in people's opinions. The polls have been going only in one direction since the insurgency in Iraq began.
What was very interesting was Raddatz's own assessment of her interview with Cheney and contrasting it with a sit-down with Bush. Speaking far more subjectively than one would normally expect from a journalist, Raddatz said of Cheney: He wasn't unfriendly. Just very different than interviewing say...the president, who pours on the charm. Mr. Cheney seemed to just want to get the interview over with.
I have a feeling the Veep feels the same way about his term in office as well.