You've got to hand it to Dick Cheney; no other modern politician has come so close to perfecting the theater of the absurd. Even as he protests his innocence of lying about matters of state, he lies about matters of state.
In two major speeches Friday and Monday, the vice president who has long insisted Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda were allies, Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, we would be greeted as liberators in Baghdad, and that the Iraqi insurgency is in its "last throes," again evidenced his trademark inability to speak the truth.
Continuing the administration's recent shrill defensive barrage over whose fault the Iraq mess is and with the truth chasing the lies in full public view, Cheney had the gall to smear the war's critics as "corrupt and shameless." Then, within a few sentences, he showed again why 52 percent of those recently polled by Newsweek believe Cheney deliberately "misused or manipulated" prewar intelligence.
First, he shamelessly repeated the absurd notion that a bum-rushed Congress, most of which does not have high security clearance, was privy to the same intelligence as he and his war-salesmen allies. In fact, not only was Cheney and his staff poring over the classified testimonials of an array of known liars, forgers, drunks, opportunists and desperate exiles we now know supplied White House speechwriters with their best lines, he also had access to the intelligence community's combined disclaimers, rebuttals and outright denunciations of these sources and their conveniently tawdry tales.
"Yes, more than 100 Democrats voted to authorize him to take the nation to war," wrote former Sen. Bob Graham, D-Fla., in a devastating statement in the Washington Post on Sunday. "Most of them, though, like their Republican colleagues, did so in the legitimate belief that the president and his administration were truthful in their statements that Saddam Hussein was a gathering menace -- that if Hussein was not disarmed, the smoking gun would become a mushroom cloud."
Graham, then the top Democrat on the Senate Intelligence Committee, says the declassified version of the National Intelligence Estimate was a sham. "It represented an unqualified case that Hussein possessed (WMD), avoided a discussion of whether he had the will to use them and omitted the dissenting opinions contained in the classified version," writes Graham.
Parsed out, Cheney's recent statements amount to a defensive claim the Bush administration didn't lie so much as it was just calamitously incompetent, too eager for invasion to bother to do its due diligence.
The reality, however, is that while the Yalie president may not be the brightest star on the horizon, the owlish Cheney is nobody's dummy. What he is and has always been, is the most bald-faced of the administration's war hustlers, shamelessly peddling, for example, the cloak-and-dagger tale of a Hussein operative meeting with 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta in Prague long after U.S. intelligence had dismissed it.
Similarly, it was Cheney who was instrumental in getting Colin Powell to make the astonishing claims of the intelligence source code-named "Curveball" the centerpiece of the secretary of state's prewar presentation to the United Nations. Now, thanks to a definitive investigation by the Los Angeles Times published Sunday, we find out that top German intelligence sources in charge of interrogating Curveball had already declared him an unreliable source.
"We were shocked," a high level German intelligence officer told the Times. "Mein Gott! We had always told (the United States) it was not proven -- it was not hard intelligence."
But perhaps the most outrageous lie Cheney and the White House kept -- and keep -- making is that invading Iraq was a sensible part of the response to 9/11.
"In February 2002, after a briefing on the status of the war in Afghanistan, the commanding officer, Gen. Tommy Franks, told me the war was being compromised as specialized personnel and equipment were being shifted from Afghanistan to prepare for the war in Iraq -- a war more than a year away," noted Graham on Sunday. "Even at this early date, the White House was signaling that the threat posed by Saddam Hussein was of such urgency that it had priority over the crushing of al Qaeda."
In making his continued one-man jihad against the facts, Cheney is apparently throwing Hail Mary passes to that part of the Republican base which will believe anything it is told -- having already lost the trust of the majority of Americans.
But as Rep. John Murtha said in response to the slander by a Republican congresswoman that he, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, is a coward for arguing for the quick and complete withdrawal from Iraq, 'You can't spin this. You've got to have a real solution. This is not a war of words, this is a war."
Yes, Cheney's war.
Robert Scheer is the editor of TruthDig.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.