I’m sure no one was surprised to learn that Dick Cheney is refusing to retract his recent statement that Speaker Nancy Pelosi is playing into the hands of al Qaeda. After all, he’s been peddling this “objectively working for the enemy” slur against antiwar Americans nonstop for years. But the lack of novelty of Cheney’s position shouldn’t keep anyone from noting its ever-increasing absurdity.Here’s Cheney’s latest iteration of his “logic” on Al Qaeda’s “strategy” in Iraq:
What happens if we withdraw from Iraq?,” he said. ”And the point I made and I’ll make it again is that al-Qaida functions on the basis that they think they can break our will. That’s their fundamental underlying strategy, that if they can kill enough Americans or cause enough havoc, create enough chaos in Iraq, then we’ll quit and go home. And my statement was that if we adopt the Pelosi policy, that then we will validate the strategy of al-Qaida. I said it and I meant it.”
Okay, Mr. Vice President, according to your own administration’s incessant claims, a savage civil war (as distinguished from the civil war already underway, which the administration still won’t acknowledge) will break out if the U.S. withdraws any troops–indeed, if we don’t add more troops. And what would that civil war produce? A truly vicious Shi’a crackdown on the Sunnis, for one thing. Is that part of al Qaeda’s strategy, as well? The devastation of its own very fragile base in Iraq?Seems to me relatively obvious that the current situation in Iraq is what ideally suits al Qaeda: the U.S. being tied down in a draining and unsuccessful military engagement in Iraq that has limited the resources we can place into Afghanistan (the one undoubted al Qaeda sanctuary), decimated U.S. influence throughout the Muslim world, and at the same time enabled the Arab Sunni insurgents of Iraq to nourish fantasies of a return to power. What’s not to like about that, if you’re al Qaeda?The whole idea, of course, that U.S. policy in Iraq should be dictated by Al Qaeda’s spin on it is in itself absurd, and to be honest, a bit craven. The terrorist organization is by all accounts a relatively small player in Iraq to begin with. It will obviously interpret any course of action by the U.S., in Iraq or elsewhere, as a “victory” for its cause. Cheney’s suggestion that we should remain imprisoned forever in Iraq, hostages to his administration’s bad judgment and incompetence, because al Qaeda will gloat over the consequences of those actions, projects an image of American weakness that is simply breathtaking. But not as breathtaking as Cheney’s argument that the administration’s critics, not the administration itself, is responsible for the enduring damage to U.S. interests we now face, particularly if we don’t change course in Iraq.