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For Whom Does Cheney Speak?

Cheney at West PointVice President Dick Cheney, shown in this AP photo on MSNBC, spoke today to the graduating class at West Point. MSNBC described his speech as a "call to arms," urging the cadets to lead the troops against an enemy that is "massing" in Iraq.

We're fighting a war over there because the enemy attacked us first," Cheney said. "These are men who glorify murder and suicide. Terrorists are defined entirely by their hatreds."

The terrorism fight now centers on Iraq, the vice president said, because that is where the enemy has massed. "The security of this nation depends on the outcome," Cheney said.

Because MSNBC dutifully reported his statements without challgenge, we have to keep reminding ourselves that none of what Mr. Cheney said is true. There was never any link between the people who attacked America and Iraq or with the Administration's justifications for attacking Iraq. As Ian Welsh just explained in the prior post, the Vice President doesn't have a clue about what motivates al Qaeda or any other group the Bush/Cheney regime recklessly defines as "terrorists." There is no massive gathering of enemy troops arriving to fight Americans in Iraq, or any where else. And it is simply delusional hysteria to assert that any of the resistance groups opposing the US occupation in Iraq represent anything remotely resembling an existential threat to America. If there were, the generals there would be screaming for tens or hundreds of thousands more US troops, and millions of Americans would be lining up in every town to volunteer to defend the nation. Vice President Cheney, who also used his speech to ridicule the Geneva Conventions (h/t Stephen Parrish), at a time when US soldiers are being held captive in Iraq, is quitely simply, an irresponsible, lying nut case.

Is Dick Cheney truly the voice of the regime that the US Congress just authorized to continue its war and occupation in Iraq? We have the Vice President of the United States making false, bellicose statements even as our own military commanders are leaking stories to the media telling a very different story. Three months ago we were told that the "new strategy" under the new General was going to turn the tide in Iraq; we finally had it "right." Now the same generals are already signaling that expectations for prompt results are too high and that a different but familiar strategy focused on training Iraqis may be needed, while Secretary Gates and others in the Administration are arguing we will have to radically reduce our troop levels to be able to sustain what they fear will be a prolonged occupation lasting perhaps decades.

Reduced troops levels by 50 percent? That doesn't sound like the response that would be called for if it were really true that the enemy is massing in Iraq and our survival literally depended on winning this battle. Who speaks for this Administration?

And we've heard this before. A year before the 2006 elections (and before the 2004 elections), there were repeated leaks from the White House and the Pentagon about all their plans to reduce the number of US troops, creating the impression that by the time the election rolled around, US troop levels would be in decline and we'd be in some transition out. It never happened. [Update: Glenn Greenwald tracked down all the times we’ve seen this diversion before.] Now we are hearing the same kinds of stories again, except this time, those leaking these stories know that the Army and Marines simply cannot sustain the "surge" levels of deployment and extented tours without breaking our armed forces. Should we believe the leaks this time?

Ever since it became clear that the Democrats would lose on the Iraq Supplemental funding bill, the netroots have been struggling with how to assess the damage and regroup. There is very little confidence in the prevailing media narrative that September will be different, because by then a sufficient number of Repubicans will join anti-war Democrats in imposing binding restraints on the President's ability to continue his Iraq occupation. The debate is how much emphasis progressives should place on the anti-war movement itself, and how much on positioning the Democrats to capture the White House and expand their Congressional majorities. Is there a strategy for doing both, or must we choose?

The American people elected Democrats to end the occupation, but they did not elect enough Democrats to do that over the obstinance of a President and delusions of his Vice President and those who cheer him on. We don't have the votes to overcome a veto, yet, and so strategies in the future must deal with that.

It seems to me the House leadership came up with a strategy that first recognized this reality but allowed its members to vote against the open-ended occupuation while voting for needed domestic programs, including a much needed increase in the minimum wage. Had the leadership trusted its base enough to level with them, and not tried to suger coat the reality by claiming all was well, they'd have been in better shape with us today. Those who tried to fool us, Steney Hoyer and Rahm Emanuel, hurt the party. We should let Pelosi know that demoting those who hurt the party and promoting those who support what needs to be done have our support.

The Senate leadership, however, failed us and failed its members badly. They were left with forcing their own Presidential candidates, with little support from their colleagues, with the choice of voting against the funding or voting against needed domestic programs, thus splitting Democrats from each other and driving a wedge between anti-war positions and domestic programs, and between the party and its most active base.

I like Harry Reid; I believe he's a decent man. But we need a stronger leadership team in the Senate, and I think we need to be calling for that now. We know we're going to face this same set of dilemmas in September, and this time, I expect our party to be better prepared — whether or not the Republicans finally begin to abandon the schizophrenic Bush/Cheney regime.

Meanwhile, eight more US troops were killed, pushing the May total, now near 100, towards the bloodiest month since the war began. There have been 1000 US troops killed since the last Memorial Day. It's a good thing we have a plan for how this ends.

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John has been writing for Firedoglake since 2006 or so, on whatever interests him. He has a law degree, worked as legal counsel and energy policy adviser for a state energy agency for 20 years and then as a consultant on electricity systems and markets. He's now retired, living in Massachusetts.

You can follow John on twitter: @JohnChandley