Saturday, June 25, 2005

Cheney Clarifies Comment About "The Last Throes" of the Iraq War. It Means Violence and Intense Conflict, With No Timetable on When It Will End

Vice President Cheney was heavily criticized as "out of touch," when he said in a May 31 CNN interview that the Iraqi insurgency was in "the last throes."

He returned to CNN on June 23 to clarify his comments.

"If you look at what the dictionary says about throes, it can still be a violent period, the throes of a revolution." Cheney told Wolf Blitzer. "The point would be that the conflict will be intense, but it's intense because the terrorists understand if we're successful at accomplishing our objective -- standing up a democracy in Iraq -- that that's a huge defeat for them. They'll do everything they can to stop it."

So there you have it. He wasn't suggesting that the insurgency was diminishing -- as was widely interpreted, even by his defenders. He was just saying that it was almost over. Right, Dick?

BLITZER: Do you want to offer an assessment how much longer this insurgency will continue?

CHENEY: No. No, I can't say that. ...

BLITZER: But is this going to be a time frame within a year, two years, five years, how much longer will this insurgency require the troop level of the United States in Iraq right now?

CHENEY: I think the way to think about it is defining it in terms of achieving certain conditions on the ground. We don't want to stay a day longer than necessary, but we want to stay long enough to get the job done.

***

I took Cheney's advice, and looked up "throes" on dictionary.com. Sure enough, Cheney was right, the second definition reads:

n violent pangs of suffering; "death throes"

I certainly feel better. Regardless of what Cheney's "last throes" comment meant, at least Americans can be rest assured that his grammatical skills are sound.

***

Cheney's interview with Blitzer folllows a key chapter from the Bushspeak handbook. Make a big statement that will get widespread attention, the chapter reads. If you need to later contradict yourself, rest assured that fewer people will notice.

For example, President Bush made a broad sweeping statements about Saddam Hussein seeking enriched uranium in Africa -- offered in a State of the Union address -- only to have the White House retract the statement six months later. Earlier this month, it happened again, when the administration, one month after the fact, retracted a statement that terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi visiting Syria to plan bombings in Iraq.

It helps when you are interviewed by a lightweight like Blitzer, who asks questions as if they're on cue cards. No independent thought required. Blitzer assumes his guests are telling the truth, and seldom contradicts them, or offers alternative information that would allow him to play devil's advocate, let alone vigorously fight for the truth.

Unfortunately for Cheney, the impact of his Bushspeakwas minimal, because he was contradicted -- coincidentally on June 23 -- by the top American commander in the Persian Gulf, Gen. John Abizaid.

Abizaid, testifying to the Senate Armed Services Committee, indicated the insurgency was not weakening.

"I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago," he said, adding the overall strength of the insurgency was "about the same" as six months ago. "We are not trying to paint a rosy picture."

Told by Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, the committee's senior Democrat, that his assessment directly contradicted Cheney, Abizaid said: "I don't know that I would make any comment about that other than to say there's a lot of work to be done ... I gave you my opinion."

***

Whatever you make of Cheney's "last throes" comment -- and feel free to accept it as "it will soon be over" or "they can only keep up this intense violence for a little longer" or any number of other things-- recently published statistics suggest otherwise.

An April 27 Washington Post story, based on statistics provided to Congressional aides, found terrorist incidents in Iraq had increased,from 22 attacks in 2003 to 198 last year, a 900% increase. That contradicts the Bush administration's assertion that the situation there had stabilized significantly after the U.S. handover of political authority to an interim Iraqi government last summer.

Why is the Post report based on information from aides, and not from some published State Department report? Because the State Department said in April that it was breaking with tradition in withholding the statistics on terrorist attacks from its congressionally mandated annual report.

Although the State Department said the data would still be made public by the new National Counterterrorism Center (NCTC), which prepares the information, officials at the center said no decision to publish the statistics has been made.

"Last year was bad. This year is worse. They are deliberately trying to withhold data because it shows that as far as the war on terrorism internationally, we're losing," said Larry C. Johnson, a former senior State Department counterterrorism official in the first Bush administration, who first revealed the decision not to publish the data.

***

As you might expect, Blitzer didn't ask Cheney about the statistics. Better to let him provide Bushspeak on the "last throes" in Iraq -- whatever that means.

12 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cheney is stepping in it here.....he hasnt explained what he meant by LAST throes. Would suggest the end of the violent period the dictionary suggests. Everyone knows what he meant....all politics.

11:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Though jabbs suggests that Cheney had to go back and contradict what he previously said, that in fact, simply did not happen.

Now I know that they liberals and the Democrats are all fired up about trying to get somebody to make a concrete timetable as to when this should be over, and when we should withdraw, but quite frankly that simply demonstrates how incredibly unserious they are about winning this war.

1:21 AM  
Anonymous parated2k said...

You did a really good job stating your case, and wrote an interesting article, but I have a question...

When have we ever gone to war with a "time-table?" I remember sweating and freezing my butt off in Desert Storm. It was a pretty popular war (as wars go). I don't remember anyone calling for a "time table".

We didn't have "count down calendars" where we could talk about how many days we were "short". Sometimes we joked about how "the quickest way home is through Baghdad", but for much of it, we didn't even know if there was going to be a war.

From the Revolutionary War to Today, we've never said, "We're going to war, but only for 1 or even 5 years!"

When will the "time table" end for Korea, The Sinai, Bosnia, Germany.. etc?

So, again, with all due respect, since when has a "time table" been important?

2:18 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Parated2k, the Gulf War, which you mentioned, gave rise to the so-called Powell Doctrine which was the codification of why that war was popular, successful and short.

When you hear Americans asking for a "timetable" what they really want is reassurance that the Commander-In-Chief at least has a well-defined, achievable and fixed plan for victory; as opposed to an open-ended, vague and changing cloud of goals.

Republican apologists try to spin this by claiming it is unreasonable to publish a detailed schedule of our military plans (which, obviously, it is) but behind that straw-man is the real issue they can't address: the fact that so many are asking about our military exit strategy demonstrates a deep and growing mistrust in a military leadership that appears to be lost in a nation-building quagmire.

For the record the Powell Doctrine states: military action should be used only as a last resort and only if there is a clear risk to national security by the intended target; the force, when used, should be overwhelming and disproportionate to the force used by the enemy; there must be strong support for the campaign by the general public; and there must be a clear exit strategy from the conflict in which the military is engaged.

I think you'll agree that the war in Iraq fails by every one of the listed criteria. There is nothing wrong with asking the Administration to explain why that is the so.

7:35 AM  
Blogger Kevin said...

I think the very first commenter hit the nail on it's head. Cheney got caught dishing out political spin.

The American Dissident, I agree with what you say. I would add, however, that our failed military action in Somolia was also a huge part of the impetus for the Powell Doctrine. There we went in with too few troops and got sucked into a bad situation. Americans rightly wondered when we were gonna get the hell out - thus the Powell Doctrine. The Gulf War seems to have been what gelled the concept in Powell's mind and led to him issuing it.

9:30 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I agree wholeheartedly with the commentor in regards to utilization of the so called Powell Doctrine. However, at the same time, I cannot help but think that those that currently oppose the war would be absolutely up in arms if we just started carpet bombing the Sunni Triangle, and others areas of hostilities.

10:08 AM  
Blogger Pliny said...

Sorry to remind everyone, but Bush/Cheney won the election, and we will stay in Iraq until things are "settled."

I point to Japan and Germany, where U.S. troops only now are planning to leave. So in 50-60 years, if things have settled down in the Middle East, we may leave, un;ess we have a 99 year lease on some airbases like we do in Cuba, then we'll stick around.

To quote the neatest bumper sticker seen in the last 2 months, "George Bush - saving your ass, whether you like it or not."

2:03 PM  
Anonymous Linoge said...

Right. Because every war should have a clearly defined, easily phrased, and publically acceptable point at which it can be said that the war is "over". Especially wars that include the enemy using suicide bombing tactics against civilians. That only makes sense. Right? [/sarcasm]

The war will be over when the other side stops fighting. Seems like they have no inclination to do that any time soon. Better get comfortable.

2:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The comparison to Japan and Germany is laughable. Those wars were fought against organised national militaries who formally declared war and then formally surrendered, none of which is true in the current conflict.

Why not use the much more obvious comparison of Vietnam?

In any case I'd like to here any Republican politician say they intend to occupy Iraq for the next 60 years. that would be like mana to Dems in 2006/08.

3:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What can you expect from anyone who gets their information about international affairs from bumper stickers?

Guess Dennis didn't even read JABB's post that mentioned the 900% rise in terrorist attacks since 2003.

Typical Red State logic: more danger equals safer; more US casualties equals we're about to win! Pass the Cool Aid please, my head is hurting.

3:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What bothers me is that the State Department doesn't want to release statistics that contradict their propaganda.

I'd love to see the gutless wonders on cable discuss that, instead of the Runaway Bride and Michael Jackson.

4:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many, especially on the right, seem to be mystified as to why Americans should demand an organized military strategy in Iraq and not a timetable, as correctly defined by a blogger above.
We went into this war comforted by statements from Cheney and others in the Bush Administration that the Iraq people would greet us as heroes and liberators, and that the war would likely cost the U.S. well under $50 billion and the Iraq oil revenues would pay for it anyway.
Flash forward two years.
With casualties mounting daily and U.S. borne costs exceeding $218 billion, in the face of Bush propaganda repeatedly telling us everything in honkey dorey and we are in fact winning, telling us to ignore what we see with our own eyes and ears in the news. Then we can take that into account what we learned about the Bush true motivations in the Downing Street memos, and criticism from the War generals that Bush tried to wage the war on the cheap in the beginning and placed too few boots on the ground, which resulted in a more empowered insurgency today.
We have been given more than sufficient reason to believe the Bush Administration never had a plan for the aftermath on this war in Iraq. Based on these kinds of evidences of gross mismanagement and incompetence, it is only fitting we see some kind of proof that the Bush Administration indeed does have a plan and not just continuing to follow down this destructive course.
I hope I helped put this argument into better perspective.
And if the Bushies can continue to label anyone who makes this argument somehow unpatriotic, wobbly-kneed and anti-military, I think we've seen the end of civilization in the United States as we once knew it.

10:00 AM  

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