Setting the record straight, the Dick Cheney way

The vice president says he'll correct anyone who says that an Iraq-9/11 link has been established. How about starting with himself?

Published January 12, 2006 5:40PM (EST)

Dick Cheney sat down for an interview with Tony Snow Wednesday, and the transcript posted at the Fox News site seems to suggest that the swelling in the vice president's foot is wreaking havoc with his memory.

Cheney tried to set the record straight about what he's said -- and what he hasn't -- about alleged links between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein. "I hark back to testimony by George Tenet when he was director of the CIA," Cheney said. "He went up before the Senate Intel Committee in open session -- this is on the public record -- and said there was a relationship there that went back 10 years. What was never established was that there was a link between Iraq and the attacks of 9/11."

Snow said that he'd heard both Cheney and his boss make that distinction clear "many times."

"That's right," Cheney said.

Snow said: "And you correct it any time somebody tries to raise it."

"That's right," Cheney said again.

Only it isn't right.

Cheney says now that he corrects anyone who says that a "link between Iraq and the attacks of 9/11" has been established. But in an appearance on "Meet the Press" in September 2003, it was Cheney who said that Iraq was the "the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11." And in a "Meet the Press" in December 2001, it was Cheney who said that "it's been pretty well confirmed" that 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta met with a senior Iraqi intelligence in Prague five months before the attacks.

Of course, it hasn't been "pretty well confirmed." U.S. intelligence officials ultimately came to believe that Atta wasn't even in Prague at the time the meeting was supposed to have taken place. Cheney's response: He denies that he said what he said. In an interview in June 2004, Cheney said flatly that he "never said" that the Atta meeting had been "pretty well confirmed."

By Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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9/11 Dick Cheney Iraq Iraq War Middle East War Room