In a remarkable video posted on YouTube, Dick Cheney says everything critical about Iraq which Democrats and liberals have been shouting for years.
The difference is that Mr. Cheney said it 13 years ago, in an interview with the American Enterprise Institute, on April 15, 1994. The footage is quite stunning. If you wrote a comedy sketch, and wanted to make the sitting vice president look even more duplicitous than he is, you couldn't have had him say it any differently.
Indeed, he looks almost prescient in his analysis of Iraq, except that what he was saying was pretty basic and obvious, even at the time. That he and the George Bush administration overlooked the basic and obvious is bad enough. That they ignored what Dick Cheney himself said is repugnant. In a bizarre, Twilight Zone/hilarious/sick and twisted way.
The occasion was to discuss the first Gulf War under President George Bush -- sorry, the other George Bush, the one who's heartbroken over the criticism of his poor son -- and defend its actions.
"Do you think the U.S. or U.N. forces should have moved into Baghdad?" the unseen questioner asks.
"No," Mr. Cheney replies, forcing even the most uninterested observes to sight up like a lightning bolt and take note. "If we would have gone into Baghdad, we would have been all alone. It would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq."
You can't quite believe what you're watching. But that's only the set-up. It gets worse. Or better. Or stranger. Or more bizarre, in a sick and twisted way. It all depends on your point of view. But there's Dick Cheney, curling his mouth into the now-familiar sneer and explaining further why going to Baghdad would have been disastrous.
"Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world. And if you take down the central government of Iraq, you can easily end up seeing parts of Iraq fly off."
Remember, this is not a comedy sketch. This is real. This is Dick Cheney saying these words, not John Kerry or Al Gore. Not Howard Dean. Or Jane Fonda. Or the Dixie Chicks. And he hasn't even delivered his whopper yet. That's about to come next. Are you ready? Here it is -
"It's a quagmire. If you go that far, and try to take over Iraq."
Yes, Dick Cheney used the "Q" word. And he used it correctly, by the way. So, hat's off to the fellow. The fellow 13 years ago, that is. Today? Enh, not so much.
But 13 years ago, Dick Cheney had his eye focused on what every rational-thinking American knew at the time, and understood viscerally. What every rational-thinking human knows about all wars. The cost of the war in human terms.
"The other thing is casualties," he says straight out, expressing the obvious reason why this nation shouldn't have kept going into Baghdad, which kept those deaths blessedly to a near-minimum, 146 American killed in action. And then, yes, Dick Cheney does the impossible -- he tops himself. Tops his explanation of Iraq volatility, tops his description of an Iraq "quagmire." Because what Dick Cheney says is -
"The question for the president in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad and took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam was how many additional dead Americans was Saddam worth, and our judgment was not very many. And I think we got it right."
And you sit there in awe. The man who for five years has been explaining the evil of Saddam Hussein -- the man who for five years has been making a concerted campaign to convince Americans that this war was worth the effort to remove Saddam Hussein and his mass killings and non-existent cache of Weapons of Mass Destruction that was pointed at America -- the man who for five years has tried to draw a non-existent connection between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda's plans to attack American -- that man, Dick Cheney, says it was not worth going into Baghdad to take out Saddam Hussein.
It's likely the families of the 3,690 Americans who died when we went into Baghdad to take out Saddam Hussein would agree fully with Dick Cheney. That other Dick Cheney. You know, the liberal one. The one defending cut-and-running. Or whatever he was calling it then. Probably, "good, common sense."
Every Democrat running for office in 2008 should save their ad budget and just run the footage over and over and over.
You can watch the video here.
The words don't lie.
Well, at least they didn't 13 years ago.
Follow Robert J. Elisberg on Twitter: www.twitter.com/RobertElisberg