Cheney's Distorting Mirror
People often see highly distorted images in mirrors. Many anorexics see their bony physiques and portruding ribs as grotesquely fat when they look at themselves. There are also lots of obese people who see an image of perfectly thin health reflecting back to them. In both of these cases, the distorted self-images are part of the disease that is ruining their health. Vice-President Dick Cheney looks at the war in Iraq through a lens that is just distorted as that of the anorexic or obese. In today's interview with CNN's granite-jawed but painfully mediocre John King, all Cheney saw was American commitment, American "will", and American progress. In response to Kerry/ Feingold's call for a withdrawal deadline, Cheney emphasized that al-Qaeda would take American withdrawal as a sign that the U. S. did not have the "will" to fight a war on terrorism. Withdrawal would also become a cue for terrorists to be more aggressive in carrying the fight to the U. S. But this is all Cheney's distorted self-image. In fact, it was the U. S. invasion that was the cue for terrorists to become more aggressive. Terrorist groups like al-Qaeda in Iraq became active in Iraq where they had not been active before. The ranks of these groups were swollen by recruits inspired by the Iraq invasion. The recruits receive outstanding training while fighting American troops before going back home to launch terrorist operations there. Cheney sees the presence of American troops in Iraq as deterring global terrorism. However, all of the evidence suggests that global terrorism was inspired to reach new heights by the invasion.The same is the case with the perception of weakness. Cheney claims that terrorists would see the U. S. as weak if we withdrew from Iraq. What he doesn't seem to see, however, is that the global terrorists already view the United States as weak because of the half-assed nature of the Bush administration's effort in Iraq. Not putting enough troops into Iraq to stay on the offensive, the Bush administration has turned American troops into heavily armed targets in places like Haditha. Lacking troops, the Americans have the situation in Baghdad to deteriorate dramatically and haven't been able to provide security for pro-American Iraqis. The terrorists interpret all of these things as signs of weakness and redouble their efforts to plant roadside bombs, assasinate politicians, and intimidate ordinary Iraqis. Unlike Dick Cheney, the terrorists are seeing American weakness for what it is and attacking accordingly. Dick Cheney sees nothing but progress because the U. S. has held three elections in Iraq over the last two years. But is it progress? There is a new government, but the new government is adding to American problems rather moving to a solution. The worst problem is the sectarianism which makes Shiite police, commandos, interior department police, and army units into death squads that are a grave danger to any Sunni Moslem living in Baghdad or the surrounding area. Likewise, Iraqi politicians and officials are focusing on stealing money rather fighting the war. I imagine that Iraqi politicians now have more cash than they can fit into their freezers. Stealing also seems to be the only thing that Iraqi politicians can decide on quickly. It took them a full six months to put a government together after the last election. In the meantime, the terrorists gained ground, sectarian death squads became a daily fact of life, and living conditions deteriorated dramatically in the Baghdad area. Only somebody with a highly distorted view of themselves and the world would see this as "progress." The U. S. went into the Iraq War following a typical American cultural template. The Bush administration dangerously over-hyped the threat posed by Saddam, dangerously under-estimated the difficulties of occupation, and even more dangerously ignored the intense difficulties of reconstructing a post-Saddam Iraq. Dick Cheney still views the current Iraq situation in terms of the same distortions that led the Bush administration to invade in the first place. As a result, we Americans may have to change our culture in order to deal effectively with the situation in Iraq and global terrorism. We may have to decide that cooperation is more effective than going it alone, that walking away is more courageous than pouring more billions of dollars and more thousands of lives into a bad situation, and the soft skills of understanding other cultures, negotiating with neutral parties, and building cultural ties are more important to winning this war than force and intimidation. Right now, the distorting mirrors of Dick Cheney and the rest of the Bush administration are sinking us deeper and deeper into trouble.