There are a number of slide shows (including here, here, here, here, and here) commemorating the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq. They will drag you back into that lost decade and tear at your heart. All the wasted lives and treasure, and for what? The expressed war aims were all lies, and even the neoconservatives’ real reasons for the war are in tatters: the country is not a stable ally in the region and Israel is not more secure. But don’t tell it to this guy.
Photographs of Dick Cheney are not being featured this week, and that is a serious oversight. You can see Colin Powell holding up a vial of faux anthrax at the UN, but he was a stooge and visual media played almost no part in the government’s campaign of deception. Those who like to lay the blame for bad judgment on visual media ought to take a long look at this sorry episode in US history: an unnecessary and stupid war was sold almost entirely with words, thank you, whereas images helped considerably in exposing the truth of the matter–for example, at Abu Ghraib.
But I digress. Even if there is blame aplenty to spread around, Cheney, more than anyone else, is the reason the US went to war.
And his words are in the news this week, as CBS has aired an interview in which he says–really–that “If I had to do it over again, I’d do it in a minute.”
One might think that this is to be expected, and democracies naturally have highly partisan true believers on all sides. He gets to speak his mind, and so do we. Most of us won’t have artfully crafted interviews played on major media outlets, but in principle it’s the same, right?
Even if the playing field were level, the lack of reflection evident in this former high-ranking government official should be seen as very disturbing. He is modeling not simply a difference of opinion, but a refusal to learn from history.
The remark I quoted is being repeated widely across the media this week, but the trailer for the show includes another statement that I find even more revealing. The clip begins with the interviewer asking Cheney stock questions: What is your favorite virtue? What do you appreciate most in your friends? What is your idea of happiness? These questions are hardly surprising, and Cheney provides stock answers: “Integrity.” “Honesty.” Etc. And then another standard question is posed: What do you consider your main fault? Whereas he had answered crisply before, here Cheney puts his head down and ponders the question: “My main fault. . . . Um, well, I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about my faults, I guess would be my answer.”
And there you have it. Perhaps that’s not the mark of a criminal mind, but it sure could help. If you don’t reflect on your faults, you can’t ever really go wrong.
Cheney need not ever think otherwise, but fortunately a significant majority of Americans now see that the war should never have happened. That’s not enough, however. If the nation is to have a conscience, it can’t think like Dick Cheney. We should look at the photographs again, and consider the many, many mistakes that were made: by the government, by the press, by opinion leaders, and by ordinary citizens. The country was played for a fool, and by someone who would do it again in a minute. If you don’t believe it, just ask him.