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Cheney in 1994: Invasion Would Be a "Quagmire"

Take a look at Dick Cheney's (then Secretary of Defense) thoughts on invading Baghdad after the end of the Gulf War. You'll find the tune he sings quite dissonant. Watch.

This man has had the same glasses for two decades, but it seems his views on Iraq have changed along the way. After Iraq's infrastructure was decimated by the long and bloody Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s, followed by a relatively swift defeat of Saddam after Operation Desert Storm, George H. W. Bush shared many of Dick's ideas. Even though the elder Bush had referred to Hussein as "Hitler revisited," he chose to leave the tyrant in charge of a crumbling nation of 21.5 million war-weary citizens.

While this seems illogical, Bush sensibly explained:
Trying to eliminate Hussein would have incurred human and political costs. Apprehending him was probably impossible. We would have been forced to occupy Baghdad and, in effect, rule Iraq. There was no viable "exit strategy" we could see, violating another of our principles. Furthermore, we had been self-consciously trying to set a pattern for handling aggression in the post-Cold War.

Going in and occupying Iraq, thus unilaterally exceeding the United Nations' mandate, would have destroyed the precedent of international response to aggression that we hoped to establish.

Had we gone the invasion route, the United States could conceivably still be an occupying power in a bitterly hostile land.
A few comments that also deserve some attention (besides W's bumbling speech at the end) come from Democratic leaders in the years and months leading up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. Watch.

You must understand something. The issue wasn't whether George W. Bush "lied" to "get us into" a war, and he must have been a damn good liar to be able to "hoodwink" all those Democrats, huh? The reasons for overthrowing Saddam were numerous, and I don't know anyone who would still want him in power. But that wasn't the issue either.

The real issue, as the first Bush noted over 15 years ago, was whether a plan for invasion and occupation with no exit strategy in a decaying country in the most volatile region on the planet would result in a very long and very costly conflict.

In 1994, Bush was absolutely correct about the dangers posed by an invasion of Baghdad. He apparently forgot to forward that memo to his son. By 2003, while Hussein's troubling activity was increasing, so were the conditions for making an occupation unlikely to succeed. But as much of a mistake as it might have been, and whatever the motivations of today's Democratic leaders, withdrawal (read: defeat) is not an "exit strategy."

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