As the crisis in Iraq deepens so is the finger-pointing on the rise with the Republicans in the USA blaming President Obama for letting the strengthening of the ISIS (sometimes called the ISIL - Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and the Democrats blaming former president George W. Bush for invading Iraq on a false claim. Dick Cheney, Bush’s vice president, even wrote an op-ed column in collaboration with his daughter Liz, in the ultra-conservative newspaper – the Wall Street Journal in which they audaciously blamed President Obama claiming, “Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many.”
Such delusional comments from an architect and a die-hard neocon proponent of the Iraq invasion do not surprise me. The Cheneys have joined a growing chorus of high profile Republicans who have criticized the Obama administration’s handling of the crisis in Iraq. It seems not only do they have chutzpah – an inexcusable gigantic one, which I must point out – they also suffer from severe case of amnesia. They forgot to mention George W. Bush. The very reason that ISIS, the insurgent group that has seized much of western and northern Iraq and even threatening takeover of the towns not far from Baghdad, exists today is because of Bush-Cheney’s criminal decision to invade Iraq. Before the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, top Bush officials were insisting that there was an al Qaeda-Iraq connection, which was a security threat to the USA.
After the fall of Saddam Hussein's Ba’athist regime, no documents were unearthed in Iraq proving the myth wrong. There was no WMD either. The U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency had by 2006 translated 34 million pages of massive and meticulous Iraqi records and found that there was nothing to substantiate a "partnership" between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. Two years later the Pentagon's own internal think tank, the Institute for Defense Analyses, found no "smoking gun” either after examining 600,000 Iraqi documents and several thousand hours of his regime's audio- and videotapes. Even the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence concluded in 2008, as every other investigation had before, that there was no "cooperative relationship" between Iraq’s Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda. The committee also found that "most of the contacts cited between Iraq and al Qaeda before the war by the intelligence community and policy makers have been determined not to have occurred."
All those allegations about ties between the Iraqi government and al-Qaeda were manufactured by neocon warmongers inside Bush’s administration to justify invading and occupying Iraq. They fancied that the cost of the war would be borne out by oil revenues extracted from Iraqi oilfields. Instead of an avoidable four trillion dollar war, the Bush-Cheney-Wolfowitz-Rumsfeld-Rice gang launched a savage campaign that resulted in the mass-murder of Iraqis for no fault of theirs except that they happened to live inside Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. With the leaked out photos of the treatment of the Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Rumsfeld’s soldiers and prison guards set a new low standard in the treatment of the POWs.
Then came the Fallujah incidents where the US soldiers and their contractors committed horrendous war crimes - worse than Mai Lai-type massacre of innocent civilians. They also used banned White Phosphorus. The US officials admitted that "more than half of Fallujah's 39,000 homes were damaged during the Operation Phantom Fury, and about 10,000 of those were destroyed". The actual devastation was much worse. According to Mike Marqusee of Iraq Occupation Focus writing in the Guardian, "Fallujah's compensation commissioner has reported that 36,000 of the city's 50,000 homes were destroyed, along with 60 schools and 65 mosques and shrines.” In 2010 it was reported in an academic study [“Cancer, Infant Mortality and Birth Sex-Ratio in Fallujah, Iraq 2005–2009”, Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health, 2010, 7, 2828–2837] that Fallujah since 2004 had seen "a four-fold increase in all cancers and a 12-fold increase in childhood cancer". In addition, the report said the types of cancer were similar to those found amongst the Hiroshima survivors who were exposed to “ionizing radiation from the bomb and uranium in the fallout" and that an 18% fall in the male birth ratio (to 850 per 1000 female births, compared to the usual 1050) was similar to that seen after the Hiroshima atom bombing.
The so-called al Qaeda only formally established itself in Iraq a year and a half after the U.S. invasion. Its leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi issued an online statement on October 17, 2004, pledging allegiance to Osama bin Laden. He succeeded in taking Iraq down the road to civil war. His strategy was to hit the Shia so they would in turn strike the Sunnis, so as to trigger a vicious circle of tit-for-tat violence in which al Qaeda would be seen as the guardians of the Sunnis against the rage of the Shia. It was a strategy that worked all too well, provoking first sectarian conflict in Iraq and later civil war. Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) regularly attacked Shia religious processions, shrines and clerics. The tipping point in the slide toward full-blown civil war was AQI's attack in February 2006 of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, which is one of the most important Shia shrines in the world.
By August 17, 2006 AQI had become the de facto government of the western Iraqi province of Anbar, which is strategically important because it borders Jordan, Syria and Saudi Arabia and makes up about a third of the landmass of Iraq.
As Peter Bergen noted recently on June 16 in the CNN, “The Bush administration had presided over the rise of precisely what it had said was one of the key goals of the Iraq War to destroy: a safe haven for al Qaeda in the heart of the Arab world.”
By 2007, al Qaeda's unrestrained violence and imposition of Taliban-style ideology provoked a countrywide Sunni backlash against AQI that took the form of Sunni "Awakening" militias. The Sunni militias were later known as the "Sons of Iraq" whose on-the-ground intelligence combined with American firepower proved devastating to AQI. However, AQI did not vanish altogether. The Syrian civil war of the last three years provided the necessary background for its rebirth and transformation into the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria," or ISIS. And now ISIS has marched back into western and northern Iraq.
It is so hilarious reading now Cheney’s op-ed column, or listening to Paul Wolfowitz’s comments! They were the very people that masterminded the Iraqi crisis that has resulted in the death of some 4500 US soldiers, let alone of a million Iraqis. They behave as if they were unaware of the Bush-era agreement mandating that all American troops leave Iraq by the end of 2011, which was signed by George W. Bush, before Obama took office in 2009. As negotiations over departure of the US forces proceeded in Obama's first term, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki refused to grant American troops immunity from prosecution in Iraqi courts for their war crimes. Without that immunity, there was simply no way American forces could remain there.
Still, this crisis is partly Obama's child. Had his administration came to the aid of the Syrian resistance fighting Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime, it is doubtful that ISIS would have emerged in the Iraqi scene. Emboldened by the US indecision, the militias have moved across the border and provided a sense of security to the Sunni minorities which was lacking in Maliki’s Iraq. Maliki has been behaving like a sectarian leader and is no unifier that the country desperately needed in the post-Saddam Hussein years. Sectarian fighting had intensified under his watch.
Dick and Liz Cheney opined that Mr. Obama's actions —before and after ISIS's recent advances in Iraq—have the effect of increasing strategic threat to the security of the United States. They wrote, “This president is willfully blind to the impact of his policies. Despite the threat to America unfolding across the Middle East, aided by his abandonment of Iraq, he has announced he intends to follow the same policy in Afghanistan.”
The Democratic National Committee blasted an email out last Wednesday to reporters that was critical of the op-ed, saying that the "only rhetoric that needs a dose of reality is Mr. Cheney's." On Wednesday morning Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid took to the floor of the chamber to criticize Cheney. "If there is one thing this country does not need is that we should be taking advice from Dick Cheney on wars. Being on the wrong side of Dick Cheney is being on the right side of history," Reid said.
The Cheneys wrote, “President Obama is on track to securing his legacy as the man who betrayed our past and squandered our freedom.” They forget to tell us that it was Bush-Cheney administration that betrayed the trust of all – both inside and outside the USA – by misleading everyone about the rationale behind the Iraq war. Through their arrogant actions, it is they who have squandered American freedom and should have been facing trials as war criminals.
It is shame on our generation to let such war criminals go free and lecture us about trust and betrayal, and the value of freedom!