Tuesday, October 05, 2004
All eyes are on Cleveland, Ohio, tonight, when Vice President Dick Cheney will square off against Sen. John Edwards in the 2004 campaign's Vice Presidential debate. The Boston Globe this morning offers questions for the Vice President, saying, "Because of the widespread perception that the war in Iraq is at least as much Cheney's war as President Bush's, both debaters tonight must come to grips with Cheney's performance as the official who steered Bush toward the invasion of Iraq and infuriated intelligence professionals by ignoring assessments that did not suit his policy aims and spotlighting others that did." Paul Krugman of the New York Times agrees, saying Edwards should ask tough questions of the man who "played a central role in leading us to war on false pretenses." After the invasion, Cheney also took the lead in perpetuating the myth that al Qaeda was somehow tied to Saddam, a claim which he continues to make even thought it has been disproved by all known intelligence. For more on what Cheney will likely say and what you should know, read this American Progress debate backgrounder. Here's what to watch for:
KEY CHENEY CLAIM BLOWN APART: Vice President Cheney still asserts, " had a relationship with al Qaeda," in an ongoing attempt to plant "the idea that Hussein was allied with the group responsible for the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001." As his primary evidence, the vice president repeatedly has said terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi was an associate of bin Laden and received safe haven from Hussein, stating that Zarqawi "is an al Qaeda associate who took refuge in Baghdad, found sanctuary and safe harbor there before we ever launched into Iraq." Today, a new CIA assessment — which Cheney himself requested months ago – blew apart this claim. The report stated, "there is no conclusive evidence that the regime harbored terrorist Abu Musab al Zarqawi." One U.S. official said, "The evidence is that Saddam never gave Zarqawi anything."
INTELLIGENCE DEBUNKS CHENEY: It's the latest in a long line of intelligence that shows Cheney's claim is false. Previously, the Sept. 11 Commission found no "collaborative relationship" between Iraq and al Qaeda. CIA interrogators found "Osama bin Laden had rejected entreaties from some of his lieutenants to work jointly with Saddam." The chairman of the monitoring group appointed by the United Nations Security Council to track al Qaeda found "no evidence linking Al Qaeda to Saddam Hussein."
RUMSFELD'S MOMENT OF TRUTH: Further damaging Cheney's unsupported claims of a link between Saddam and Osama, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told an audience yesterday at the Council on Foreign Relations that he knew of no "strong, hard evidence" linking Iraq and al Qaeda. Immediately after his candid comments to the group, however, Rumsfeld furiously backtracked and tried to get back on message, saying he'd been "misunderstood."
'WE NEVER HAD ENOUGH TROOPS ON THE GROUND': Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S. official in charge of Iraq after the invasion, said yesterday that the U.S. effort in Iraq was handicapped from the beginning by a lack of adequate forces, flatly stating, "We never had enough troops on the ground." An insufficient number of U.S. troops to keep the peace early on "established an atmosphere of lawlessness," he said in a speech yesterday. The White House didn't adequately plan for the peace in Iraq, badly misjudging the situation and relying instead on falsely rosy predictions. A prime example: On 3/16/03, the week the invasion took place, Vice President Cheney said, "We will, in fact, be greeted as liberators" and "I think it will go relatively quickly... (in) weeks rather than months."
THE ULTIMATE FLIP-FLOP: The Seattle Post Intelligencer reports Cheney opposed invading Baghdad before he supported it. In 1991, then-Secretary of Defense Cheney cautioned against U.S. troops advancing into the city, "telling a Seattle audience that capturing Saddam wouldn't be worth additional U.S. casualties or the risk of getting 'bogged down in the problems of trying to take over and govern Iraq.'" He added, "And the question in my mind is how many additional American casualties is Saddam worth? And the answer is not very damned many." About 146 Americans died in the first Gulf War. This time, more than 1,000 U.S. troops have been killed in the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath.
IN BED WITH THE AXIS OF EVIL: In recent stump speeches, Cheney has tried to defend the invasion of Iraq by saying, "Iraq for years was listed by the U.S. State Department as a state sponsor of terror." What he doesn't say: Although the U.S. "concluded that Iraq, Libya and Iran supported terrorism and had imposed strict sanctions on them," during Cheney's tenure at Halliburton, he ignored that and "the company did business in all three countries." For example, with Cheney at the helm, Halliburton signed contracts with Iraq worth $73 million through two subsidiaries while that country was on the terrorism list. And Halliburton is being investigated for doing business while Cheney was CEO with Iran, a country also listed as a "state sponsor of terror" by the State Department. "The grand jury has subpoenaed various documents covering Halliburton's Iranian operations, a sign some evidence has surfaced indicating the company "knowingly violated" U.S. anti-terror sanctions.
CHENEY'S DAYS IN COURT: Cheney, under the guise of "legal reform," has attacked his rivals for being too cozy with lawyers. Watch those stones you're throwing from your glass house, Mr. Vice President. A watchdog site, HalliburtonWatch.org, has found that, with Cheney in charge, Halliburton filed 151 claims in 15 states around the nation, petitioning America's legal system an average of 30 times a year; most actions were filed against other corporations. (Halliburton currently is suing former employees who complained when the giant corporation sliced retiree health care benefits.)
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