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Vice President Cheney's 'major rhetorical reversal' on Iraq

Ron Brynaert
Published: Saturday September 2, 2006

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About halfway through an article analyzing President Bush's "striking change of tone" in his recent speeches regarding the "grim consequences of failure" in Iraq, New York Times White House Correspondent David E. Sanger also notes a "major rhetorical reversal" by Vice President Dick Cheney.

President Bush "picked up on an approach that Gen. John P. Abizaid, Vice President Dick Cheney and others have refined in the past few months: a warning that defeat in Iraq will only move the battle elsewhere, threatening allies in the Middle East and eventually, Mr. Bush insisted, Americans 'in the streets of our own cities,'" writes Sanger for The Times.

Sanger compares this "new approach" by the Bush Administration, apparently undertaken "to rebuild eroding support for the war," with the "domino theory" employed by a Democratic administration four decades ago to help "sell" the Vietnam conflict to the American public.

"It is reminiscent of ó updated for a different war, and a different time ó President Lyndon B. Johnsonís adoption of the 'domino theory,' in which South Vietnamís fall could lead to Communismís spread through Southeast Asia and beyond," writes Sanger. "In the case of Iraq, Mr. Bushís argument boils down to a statement he quoted from General Abizaid, his top commander in the Middle East: 'If we leave, they will follow us.'"

Sanger notes that "[n]o one has been more willing to set out the new domino theory than the administrationís chief hawk, Mr. Cheney."

"In private meetings with foreign visitors and members of Congress, according to several participants in those sessions, he raises the prospect that if America fails in Iraq, Saudi Arabia will be the next target and then maybe Pakistan ó which, he notes, has a good-sized nuclear arsenal," Sanger writes. "No one would benefit more from an American withdrawal, he continues, than the Iranians."

That represents "a major rhetorical reversal" for the vice president, the 24-year Times veteran reports.

"In the prelude to the war, he argued that ousting Saddam Hussein would usher in a new era of stability in the Middle East," Sanger writes.

Cheney's August of 2002 speech

In August of 2002, seven months before "Operation Iraqi Freedom" was launched, Cheney gave a widely covered speech to the Veterans of Foreign Wars' 103rd National Convention in Nashville, Tennesee which argued that critics were wrong to suggest that deposing Saddam Hussein might spark more unrest across the Middle East region or prove counterproductive to the "war against terror."

"Another argument holds that opposing Saddam Hussein would cause even greater troubles in that part of the world, and interfere with the larger war against terror," Vice President Cheney had said. "I believe the opposite is true."

"Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region," Cheney had contended. "When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace."

In the same speech, the vice president had also predicted that Iraqis would "erupt in joy" after Saddam's regime was overthrown.

"As for the reaction of the Arab 'street,' the Middle East expert Professor Fouad Ajami predicts that after liberation, the streets in Basra and Baghdad are 'sure to erupt in joy in the same way the throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans," Cheney had said.

"Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of Jihad," added Cheney. "Moderates throughout the region would take heart."

"And our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced, just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991," claimed Cheney back in August of 2002.

FULL TIMES ARTICLE CAN BE READ AT THIS LINK