Slip sliding away, or Cheney on Afghanistan and Iraq

The vice president evolves before the VFW.

Published March 5, 2007 8:58PM (EST)

Dick Cheney spoke today to a convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. It's at least the third time that the vice president has addressed the group since 9/11, and we thought it might be useful to read all three of the speeches today in one sitting.

We must have gotten the order wrong. When it comes to Afghanistan, at least, Cheney's speeches read like a history of war written in reverse. First, we win. Then we fight the "remnants" of the old regime. Then we go on the offensive against the old regime. But we should let the man talk for himself:

Cheney in August 2002: "In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime and al-Qaida terrorists have met the fate they chose for themselves. And they saw, up-close and personal, the new methods and capabilities of America's armed services."

Cheney in August 2006: "We are determined to deny the terrorists control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and staging ground for terrorist attacks on others. That's why we continue to fight Taliban remnants and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan."

Cheney in March 2007: "On the Afghanistan front, we'll continue the reconstruction and security assistance we've promised, and this spring U.S. and NATO forces will lead an offensive against Taliban and al Qaeda fighters."

Of course, things have slipped so much in Afghanistan because the United States has been so busy in Iraq. And on that front, Cheney's evolving remarks to the VFW read like a greatest hits collection of false facts, delusional thinking and, finally -- or, more accurately, always -- fear-mongering.

Cheney in August 2002: "Simply stated, there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us."

Cheney in August 2006: "Today, Iraq has the most progressive constitution and the strongest democratic mandate in the entire Arab world. Iraq's political leaders are steady and courageous, and the citizens, police, and soldiers have stepped forward as active participants and guardians of the new democracy -- running for office, speaking out, voting by the millions, and sacrificing for the future of their country."

Cheney in March 2007: "We don't know and we cannot predict every turn that lies ahead. As Gen. Petraeus has put it, 'The way ahead will be neither quick nor easy, and there will undoubtedly be some tough days. We face a determined, adaptable, barbaric enemy. He will try to wait us out. In fact, any such endeavor is a test of wills, and there are no guarantees.' The general has it exactly right."

By Tim Grieve

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

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