Cheney’s Unintended Admissions

Exclusive: Former Vice President Dick Cheney’s memoir is filled with accounts about the great and wonderful people who agree with him — and the evil buffoons who don’t. But the book offers some unintentional insights into how the American Republic got into today’s mess, writes Robert Parry.

By Robert Parry

Political memoirs are usually self-serving affairs, mixing rationalizations with score-settling. But Dick Cheney’s In My Time may become the new standard for this sorry genre, made even worse because it is almost devoid of newsworthy tidbits of information.

One of the few candid admissions that slipped through was the former Vice President’s brief acknowledgement that President George W. Bush had decided on the need for a “second resolution” in the United Nations Security Council to authorize the 2003 invasion of Iraq but failed to get it.

“When the president decided to try for a second resolution, I understood his reasons,” Cheney wrote, indicating that it would provide necessary legal and political cover for British Prime Minister Tony Blair. “But our efforts to gather support for the resolution were unsuccessful, and on Monday, March 17, we pulled it down.”

In other words, the Bush administration recognized that its desire to invade Iraq had not been sanctioned by the UN Security Council. Bush floated this second resolution to spell out that authority but needed to yank it down because it was doomed to defeat.

Approval from the Security Council is a prerequisite under international law for giving legitimacy to an invasion. Still, after being rebuffed by the Security Council though no formal vote was taken Bush pressed ahead with the invasion, claiming that an earlier resolution, 1441, demanding that Iraq get rid of its WMD or face severe consequences, was sufficient legal justification for war.

That, of course, left Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein in a pickle because he had already destroyed his stockpiles of unconventional weapons and whatever his government did to prove the point including submitting a 12,000-page report to the UN and letting UN inspectors look wherever they wanted was not going to be enough to dissuade Bush, Cheney and Blair from invading.

Hussein might have expected that the UN, which was created after World War II in large part to prevent powerful nations from waging war on weaker ones, would intervene to prevent an unprovoked invasion, but the UN proved impotent in the face of U.S. determination to defy international law.

Cheney wrote that after Bush’s bid for a second resolution collapsed on March 17, 2003, Bush took to the television that night to give Hussein 48 hours to leave Iraq. The U.S. press corps obsessed about the president’s deadline and largely ignored the behind-the-scenes U.S. defeat at the UN.

In the months and years that followed, as Iraq was consumed by horrendous violence and as hundreds of thousands of lives perished, Bush would insist that the Security Council indeed had approved the invasion under Resolution 1441 and although that was untrue the Washington press corps would never challenge the claim.

Lying with Impunity

Bush grew so confident that he could lie with impunity before docile journalists that on July 14, 2003, just a few months after the invasion when the facts should still have been fresh in everyone’s minds, Bush declared, “We gave him [Hussein] a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. And, therefore, after a reasonable request, we decided to remove him from power.”

Facing no contradiction from the obsequious White House press corps, Bush repeated this lie in varied forms until the last days of his presidency. It became one of Bush’s favorite refrains that Hussein “chose war.”

Cheney’s memoir fits well within the self-serving “reality” that Bush and his neoconservative advisers fashioned for the U.S. press corps and the American people.

In Cheney’s view, pretty much everyone on the Bush-43 team did just splendidly while anyone who wasn’t on the team including some erstwhile teammates like Secretary of State Colin Powell  deserved only disdain or worse. Bush’s infamous formulation “you’re either with us or with the terrorists” seemed to apply, in Cheney’s mind, to skeptical Americans as well as foreign leaders.

And that perhaps is the most significant insight from Cheney’s book, the danger to the American Republic and the planet from people like Cheney who don’t seem capable of understanding the viewpoints of anyone who disagrees with them. It is less a political mind-set than one normally associated with cults.

Whatever Cheney and his allies do gets graded at from wonderful to at least defensible, while adversaries operate with the worst possible motives and are always wrong. Facts are selected to support these preordained conclusions.

So, for instance, there has long been a clear-cut case that right-wing Cuban terrorists Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada Carriles masterminded the 1976 in-air bombing of a Cubana Airline flight killing 73 people, including Cuba’s youth fencing team. Yet, for decades, U.S. authorities especially members of the Bush Family harbored both men, protecting them from extradition.

Double Standards

However, in Cheney World, the evidence that the Bush Family harbored terrorists wouldn’t compute. By definition or at least by a well-entrenched double standard it couldn’t be possible. Whatever Cheney’s side does is fine.

Yet, different rules apply to Cheney’s enemies. According to Cheney’s memoir, Saddam Hussein was guilty of harboring al-Qaeda operatives just because Jordanian terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi had a base inside Iraq and once traveled to Baghdad. Here is how Cheney frames the case:

Zarqawi “had arrived in Iraq in 2002, spent time in Baghdad, and then supervised camps in northern Iraq that provided a safe haven for as many as two hundred al Qaeda fighters escaping Afghanistan. At one of those camps, called Khurmal, Zarqawi’s men tested poisons and plotted attacks to use them in Europe.

“From his base in Iraq, Zarqawi also directed the October 2002 killing of Laurence Foley, a U.S. Agency for International Development officer, in Jordan.”

These elliptical connections between Zarqawi and Iraq are meant to create an impression for the weak-minded or the fact-deprived “proving” that Hussein had a relationship with al-Qaeda. However, the Zarqawi claim though repeatedly endlessly by the Bush administration to the American people was completely misleading.

Zarqawi’s base in northern Iraq was outside Hussein’s control and was protected by a U.S./U.K. “no-fly zone.” Hussein’s forces could not reach Zarqawi’s base and curiously the Bush administration, which could have obliterated the camp from the air, made no effort to attack it.

As for Zarqawi’s visit to Baghdad, it was a secret trip to get medical treatment. It also turned out that Hussein, who was violently opposed to Islamic extremists like Zarqawi, had received an intelligence tip about Zarqawi’s presence and had dispatched secret police to capture him but they failed.

However, the Bush administration used the Zarqawi-Hussein myth as a key pillar in the case for invading Iraq and Cheney dusts it off one more time in his memoir.

The Bush administration built a similar house-of-cards case regarding intelligence on pre-9/11 contacts between Iraqi intelligence officials and representatives of al-Qaeda, who were hoping for some help from Hussein’s regime. What the administration and Cheney always left out of this construct was that Iraq rejected al-Qaeda’s overtures.

During the Bush administration, it became necessary to read whatever was said about Iraq and other foreign adversaries with a highly skeptical eye, not just regarding what was said but also what wasn’t said. Cheney’s memoir is a 565-page extension of that process.

Tarring a Critic

But foreign enemies were not the only ones to get this treatment. Out-of-step Americans were also tarred with a broad and ugly brush, as in Cheney’s depiction of Iraq War critic, former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson, and the so-called Plame-gate Affair.

Plame-gate was a scandal in which the Bush administration reacted to Wilson’s debunking of Bush’s claim that Iraq had been seeking yellowcake uranium from Niger by smearing Wilson and exposing his wife Valerie Plame as a covert CIA officer.

Though Wilson was correct in stating that Hussein had not sought yellowcake from Niger and the exposure of Plame’s CIA identity destroyed her career, Cheney twists every nuance to make himself and his inner circle out to be the real victims here.

Cheney makes a big deal out of the fact that Bush attributed his claim to the British who indeed had made the false accusation about Iraq seeking yellowcake uranium, but Bush’s British war collaborators were also partners in spinning lies to justify the Iraq invasion. The British lied, too, about Hussein’s capability to launch a chemical attack on 45-minutes notice.

The bottom line was that Iraq had NOT sought to secretly buy yellowcake uranium from Niger (whatever some people might have initially suspected) and that the CIA had reached that conclusion before Bush made his speech to Congress in January 2003.

What is also clear about the Plame case is that Cheney was the one who unleashed the Bush administration’s powerful assault against Wilson for daring to criticize Bush’s use of the false yellowcake claim. Cheney’s fury at Wilson was the driving force that led to Plame’s exposure.

Cheney was the one who fashioned the P.R. counterattack against Wilson by suggesting that his investigative trip to Niger in 2002 at the request of the CIA was a “junket” arranged by Plame. Cheney scribbled that point in the margin of Wilson’s New York Times op-ed in which the ex-ambassador describes his trip to Niger and his discovery that the yellowcake rumors were false.

This “junket” theme was then peddled by White House officials, including political adviser Karl Rove and Cheney’s chief of staff Lewis “Scooter” Libby. The fact that one of Rove’s friends, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, was the first administration official to blow Plame’s cover to a reporter doesn’t change the fact that the White House was pushing the story, too.

The war against Joe Wilson also didn’t end with his wife losing her job at the CIA. The Right’s powerful media machine and neocon editors at the Washington Post turned Wilson and Plame into human piñatas to be whacked at for the rest of Bush’s presidency.

But none of that reality is in Cheney’s book. If you relied simply on In My Time to understand this case, you would conclude that the evil Joe Wilson was persecuting noble public servants in the White House, not that some of the most powerful people in the United States had targeted a political critic and, in the process, destroyed the CIA career of the critic’s wife. [For more details, see Neck Deep.]

Preserved Delusions

What’s also striking about Cheney’s memoir is how it preserves the full flower of delusion from the Bush-43 era.

In Cheney World, President George W. Bush is one of the greatest presidents ever; the U.S. achieved “victory” in Iraq because of Bush’s courageous “surge”; Bush’s tax cuts and deregulation were massively successful; the United States is a flourishing society, except that once Bush handed this gem over to Barack Obama, the new president promptly crushed it.

One might think that a leading architect of the international and economic strategies, which have left behind two open-ended wars grinding inexorably toward American defeats as well as the worst financial disaster since the Great Depression and the largest federal deficits ever, would show some remorse for serious mistakes made.

But that may be the ultimate message from Cheney’s book, that reality itself no longer has a place in the U.S. political system, that politics is simply a matter of strong-willed people asserting a “reality” and then relying on powerful media allies to enforce that “reality.”

The separation of America’s ruling elite from reality especially but not exclusively on the Republican side was underscored by another tidbit of news that slipped into Cheney’s memoir, his recollections about his frequent meetings with former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.

In one passage from summer 2006 as the Iraq War was going badly and military commanders were intent on drawing down U.S. forces, Cheney described his opposition to those plans and his determination that “we had to win first.” Cheney added:

“About this time Henry Kissinger visited me in my office at the White House, as he had done with some regularity since I had become vice president. Henry began with Iraq and warned about the political dynamics of withdrawing forces.

“ ‘Once you start,’ he said, recalling his experiences with Vietnam, ‘the Democrats’ demand for more will never end.’ The issue would no longer be winning, but how fast we were withdrawing. ‘Withdrawals are like salted peanuts,’ he said. ‘Once you start, you can’t stop.’ “

If I’m reading that right, Kissinger’s message was that one should never start a military withdrawal, that once American troops are committed to some foreign adventure, they must stay until “victory,” whatever that’s supposed to mean in a place like Vietnam or Iraq or Afghanistan.

Kissinger’s concept would have meant that American troops would still be fighting and killing in Vietnam because “victory” there was never a realistic option. Cheney was determined to apply this “never start withdrawing” lesson to Iraq, too.

So, while Cheney’s memoir has little value for anyone looking for essential facts about what happened over the past decade or for that matter what Cheney witnessed since the days of Richard Nixon the book does carry an unintended message: that societies which elevate thin-skinned and close-minded people like Dick Cheney are headed toward destruction.

[For more on these topics, see Robert Parry’s Secrecy & Privilege and Neck Deep, now available in a two-book set for the discount price of only $19. For details, click here.]

Robert Parry broke many of the Iran-Contra stories in the 1980s for the Associated Press and Newsweek. His latest book,Neck Deep: The Disastrous Presidency of George W. Bush, was written with two of his sons, Sam and Nat, and can be ordered at His two previous books, Secrecy & Privilege: The Rise of the Bush Dynasty from Watergate to Iraq and Lost History: Contras, Cocaine, the Press & ‘Project Truth’ are also available there.

11 comments for “Cheney’s Unintended Admissions

  1. Steve R
    September 23, 2011 at 16:30

    The United Nations was not created to prevent powerful nations from waging war on weaker nations. What a crock of shit. the UN was created as another step toward world control by the paper money mob. “the new world order”

  2. September 22, 2011 at 12:57

    This sociopathic behavior by Cheney and others, now and before, are the result of not having a REAL House of Representatives. These representatives have mostly been ruling-class want-a-be, chosen in primaries because they were sellable to the constituents and also willing to sell them out. That is sociopathic behavior. It doesn’t matter to which political party one belong because its leaders are mostly sociopathic. Until being a representative becomes a duty, rather than a career, the financial sociopaths will rule. Like Wall Street says, “If you’re not (represented) at the table, you’re on the menu.” That’s why non-sociopaths get devoured.

  3. James M LeCuyer
    September 21, 2011 at 12:10

    While we amuse ourselves with wars the environment is growing far more threatening. The wars, or course, are intended to secure oil and other natural resources, which are part of the cause of global warming. We live in a state of bemused denial, while polar ice caps melt. Cheney and Kissinger and all the nasty neocons are the monsters of the immediate past. We must think ahead to understand what we must do in this slowly forming environmental catastrophe. We have reached a point where we may not have an option to save most of the world, but must save what is salvageable. If someone were to run a graph on the environmental issues that are growing worse, on atmospheric warming, on population vs food supply, water, non-sustainable energy, and so on, we might have a prediction point at which we can clearly see a tipping point. That might be a way to convince our leaders and our people to act. America is the center of resistance to positive steps to meet global warming, and if America can be convinced to act intelligently, the rest of the world will go along.

  4. September 18, 2011 at 12:09

    Sick of Dick Cheney’s TV appearances promoting his book? Read a different autobiography: “I’m Right and You’re Dumb! The Unauthorized Autobiography of Dick Cheney.” Addressing Cheney’s experiences through his own perspective, it’s both funny and informative, like a book version of “The Colbert Report.” It’s the only Dick Cheney autobiography that Democrats would truly enjoy reading. Available on and $12.95 paperback; $8.95 e-book.

  5. Drayton Hamilton
    September 18, 2011 at 09:15

    Mr. Parry:
    Many thanks for yet again setting the record straight about the criminality of Bush, Cheney and the rest with regard to the invasion of Iraq. These two and others in their high command are war criminals analogous to the Nuremberg “Crime Against Peace” variety precisely because of their failure to get UN authorization for the Iraq invasion. (This is not to overlook the vast, howling sea of carnage, pain and grief set in train by this crime.) You set Bush and Cheney’s criminality out with your customary cogency and clarity in this latest article in part on the Bush failure to get UN authorization. Ideally it would be hard for anyone reading this piece to evade a realization of the enormity of what these two truly odious creatures did in the name of the United States.

  6. Pierino Peloso
    September 16, 2011 at 18:53

    Check out this interview on TheRealNews if you have any doubts about the veracity of “Newsfrombelow’s” comments. May the scales finally fall from our eyes:

    Former Sen. Bob Graham Urges Obama to Reopen Investigation Into Saudi Role in 9/11 Attacks
    Uploaded by democracynow on 15 Sep 2011 – Former Florida governor and senator Bob Graham is calling on President Obama to re-open the investigation into the Sept. 11 attacks after new information has emerged about the possible role of prominent Saudis in the 9/11 plot. According to recent news reports, a wealthy young Saudi couple fled their home in a gated community in Sarasota, Florida, just a week or so before Sept. 11, 2001, leaving behind three cars and nearly all of their possessions. The FBI was tipped off about the couple ,but never passed the information on to the 9/11 Commission investigating the attacks, even though phone records showed the couple had ties to Mohamed Atta and at least 10 other al-Qaeda suspects. Democracy Now! interviews Graham to discuss the news he’s called “the most important thing about 9/11 to surface in the last seven or eight years.” As the former chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, a post he held on September 11, 2001, Graham chaired the Congressional Joint Inquiry into the attacks. He’s just written a novel called, “Keys to the Kingdom,” which follows a fictitious former senator and co-chair of the 9/11 congressional inquiry who is murdered near his Florida home after he uncovers an international conspiracy linking the Saudi Kingdom to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda. Graham says he chose to write the novel after his 2000 non-fiction book, “Intelligence Matters,” was heavily censored. [More] [Less]

    Date: 15 September 2011

  7. Newsfrombelow
    September 16, 2011 at 17:18

    It is nice to know that Kissinger and Cheney were good buddies. There is a thesis out there in official wisdom land that the neocons and Kissinger were at odds. Of course, Kissinger was the neocon choice for the coverup, I mean investigation of 9-11. He was also one of the first official establishment voices to blame Al Qaeda for the attack. Always reassuring when official political enemies are, in fact, close friends, strategizing together. Of course, the other great myth is the relationship between Papa and Junior Bush. We are supposed to believe there was a great tension between the two. Yet, the obvious relationship between Senior and Junior, Cheney and Kissinger, Al Qaeda and 9-11 was Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. Now who do you think helped Junior understand the Saudi-Pakistan relationship? Who do you think helped Junior understand the role of the Saudis in 9-11? And who flew the Saudis, and the Bin Laden family and associates out of the USA after 9-11? Somehow, the most important issues get left on the cutting room floor.
    Kissinger resigned from the 9-11 Coverup Commission because the families of the victims of 9-11 (the Jersey Girls in particular) met with him in his offices and asked him about whether he had any clients that might cause a conflict of interest in carrying out an investigation. In particular, they asked him if the Bin Laden family were his clients. He “almost fell off the couch” one of the witnesses from the 9-11 survivor families recalled. He resigned from the commission coverup the next day.

  8. Norman
    September 16, 2011 at 17:02

    Cheney points up A solid reason why the Civilian Executive Branch need to have present or former Military individuals in the position to make decisions. They don’t know what they are doing. Both Bush & Cheney chose not to serve their country in a war combat situation, so shouldn’t have been allowed to hold the reins of power. Yet the both of them along with who knows how many others, could care less about sending others into combat from purely egotistical reasons. A play C.I.C. & a cowardice V.P. shows that instead of outside terrorists hell bent to destroy the country, it was they who brought the country to its knees, which “O” is continuing to follow the same course. Whether or not the country recovers, only time will tell.

  9. rosemerry
    September 16, 2011 at 16:32

    How anyone could bear to read the books by Cheney, WBush, Blair etc is hard to understand. Blair in an interview quoted by Felicity Arbuthnot in the latest seemed unable to put in context the questions asked him, and constantly changed his story while fully believing what he was saying. Even to be recording his commentary on recent political issues on 9 Sept 2011, when his background is so full of lies, is a travesty of journalism.

    • September 21, 2011 at 00:19

      Surely – surely someone will see justice done for the American People being lied to with regard to weapons of mass destruction. Lies deliberately told by Bush and Cheney. They are guilty of deception, war crimes, and the deaths of millions of innocent people. Our young service men and women coming home amputees, their lives changed forever. Our countries debt. Surely justice has to be done. Someone please have the strength to see this is done. To see that Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld spend the rest of their lives in jail.

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