The third anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq passed over the weekend, and Dick Cheney used the occasion to apologize for falsely optimistic statements he has made along the way. "'Greeted as liberators'? 'Last throes of the insurgency'? I don't know what I was thinking," the vice president said.
No, wait, he didn't.
On "Face the Nation" Sunday, Bob Schieffer asked Cheney about the rose-colored glasses through which he seems to see the war. "Mr. Vice President," Schieffer said, "all along the government has been very optimistic. You remain optimistic. But I remember when you were saying we'd be 'greeted as liberators,' you played down the insurgency 10 months ago. You said it was in its 'last throes.' Do you believe that these optimistic statements may be one of the reasons that people seem to be more skeptical in this country about whether we ought to be in Iraq?"
Cheney's response? Not a chance. The vice president said "the statements we've made" have been "basically accurate and reflect reality," and that, if Americans see it differently, it's because they've been influenced by media reports that focus on car bombings and other violence rather than on political progress.
"The facts are pretty straightforward," Cheney said. "The Iraqis met every single political deadline that's been set for them. They haven't missed a single one."
Maybe that characterization counts as "basically accurate" in Cheney-speak, but it's not what we'd call "true." Last summer, Iraqis missed several deadlines -- we stopped counting after three -- for creating a draft constitution amid disagreements between Shiite and Sunni leaders. While Iraqi voters eventually approved the constitution and elected a National Assembly, progress seems to have stopped right there. Three months after it was elected, the National Assembly met briefly last week, then adjourned because it still doesn't have a leader. Likewise, the feuding parties can't agree on a prime minister or a cabinet; as a stop-gap measure, party leaders have apparently agreed to the creation of some sort of security council that isn't mentioned anywhere in the constitution voters approved last year.
Some Iraqi leaders say the security council could help the country avert civil war; others say it's too late. Former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, who once was as bullish on Iraq as Cheney still is, said over the weekend that a civil war has already begun. "We are losing each day as an average 50 to 60 people throughout the country, if not more," Allawi said. "If this is not civil war, then God knows what civil war is."
Cheney was asked about Allawi's comments Sunday. He said he was wrong. Civil war has been the goal of the "terrorists" all along, Cheney said, "but my view would be they've reached a stage of desperation from their standpoint."