While in Argentina earlier this year, a Buenos Aires taxi driver asked me what I thought about the new president of the United States -- "who is it, Cheney?" -- which served as a reminder that 1) the world doesn't hang on the election of a new caesar as much as the media here in the U.S. would have you believe (Vogue magazine on Michelle Obama: "The First Lady The World's Been Waiting For". The rest of the world: who?) and 2) while President Obama isn't exactly much of an improvement upon his predecessor, things could be worse, if only by a little.
I was reminded of that on Sunday when former Vice President Dick Cheney emerged from his underground lair to remind the world what evil looks like, and to snarl to CNN's John King about all the ways President Obama's superficial attempts to roll back some of the Bush-era "war on terror" policies -- such as dropping the term "enemy combatant" while retaining the power to indefinitely imprison terrorism suspects -- were making us all less safe, doing his part to flame the fiction that there actually is some deep, meaningful chasm between the way Republican and Democratic administrations view maintaining the American empire (when there in reality exists at best minor squabbles over the methods, not the ends).
Indeed, Cheney echoed verbatim the cabal of godless liberals now in power in claiming -- contrary to the findings of the U.S. intelligence community and the IAEA (a phrase I've written a dozen times this year) -- that Iran is actively developing nuclear weapons (video):
"[W]e still have an Iran that I believe is pursuing nuclear weapons. What they've done, I think, as best I can tell -- I'm not reading the intelligence reports anymore like I did before January -- is they produced a fair amount of low enriched uranium, the kind that you would use for a power plant. That's the hardest step to get to. Once you have got low enriched uranium, it's relatively simple to change it to highly enriched uranium, and that's the last step that's needed before you've got fissile material for a weapon. So I'm not sure exactly where they are at this point, but I am confident of what their objective is, and I don't think that's changed."With Cheney unarmed and about as popular as . . . well, a Republican, it should have been easy for any competent (remember that word), professional journalist to bring up the fact that all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies disagree with the former vice president's assertion. Indeed, back when the 2007 National Intelligence Estimate on Iran was released, CNN described it thusly:
"Iran halted work toward a nuclear weapon under international scrutiny in 2003 and is unlikely to be able to produce enough enriched uranium for a bomb until 2010 to 2015, a U.S. intelligence report says."Fairly straightforward, no? A competent journalist might even use this information to their advantage, say, when a high-ranking former official states the exact opposite.
But during Sunday's interview King made no mention of the report or of the international inspectors currently inspecting Iran's nuclear facilities, choosing instead to accept the validity of Cheney's statement at face value. "Do you wish your administration had taken more aggressive steps" on Iran, asked the credulous King. "Were you boxed in by opposition to Iraq not only here but around the world?"
Likewise, King remarked that Cheney's use of "over reliance" would be "a good term, a fair term" to describe the Bush administration's approach to "diplomacy" with Iran. The Bush administration, which rejected Iranian diplomatic overtures in 2003 and actually berated the Swiss for passing the message along, was overly reliant on diplomacy and the negotiating efforts of its European allies, according to King. If you find that characterization to be wildly inaccurate and contrary to empirical evidence -- good news: you're a member of the reality-based community. The bad news? Good luck getting a job at CNN.
As for Cheney, it appears he stole his talking points on Iran from the very people he claims are on the verge of surrendering to the terrorists. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for instance, told a German television station on March 6th that Iran "is very aggressive in their pursuit of nuclear weapons." A day earlier she declared that she doesn't "think there is a credible debate about their intention" to develop nukes (after earlier acknowledging an "ongoing debate" about the status of Iran's nuclear program -- a nuance she didn't allow a day later).
Cheney might not be in the White House, but his spirit lives on.
For those interested, I have compiled a list of some of the more egregious untruths uttered by the Obama administration (and Cheney) about Iran's nuclear program, with a few statements from Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair thrown in for a bit of contrast. Download a PDF of the file here, and feel free to suggest quotes for inclusion or engage in ad hominem attacks via email or in the comments.