Vice President Cheney spoke at the American Enterprise Institute this morning in a speech that was scheduled only recently; I received an e-mail about it Friday. Here is the transcript of his remarks, and here is the video.
Once again Cheney tackled the Big Lie being peddled by many Democrats: that George W. Bush lied about prewar intelligence. He didn't back off from criticism of an earlier speech:
What is not legitimateand what I will again say is dishonest and reprehensibleis the suggestion by some U. S. senators that the president of the United States or any member of his administration purposely misled the American people on prewar intelligence.
And he added more:
American soldiers and marines serving in Iraq go out every day into some of the most dangerous and unpredictable conditions. Meanwhile, back in the United States, a few politicians are suggesting these brave Americans were sent into battle for a deliberate falsehood. This is revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety. It has no place anywhere in American politics, much less in the United States Senate.
Cheney did not just dwell on the past but pitched the story forward. He pointed to the intercepted letter from Ayman al-Zawahiri to Abu Musab Zarqawi and asked those who advocate an immediate withdrawal some questions.
In light of the commitments our country has made, and given the stated intentions of the enemy, those who advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq should answer a few simple questions: Would the United States and other free nations be better off, or worse off, with Zarqawi, bin Laden, and Zawahiri in control of Iraq? Would we be safer, or less safe, with Iraq ruled by men intent on the destruction of our country?
It is a dangerous illusion to suppose that another retreat by the civilized world would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone. In fact, such a retreat would convince the terrorists that free nations will change our policies, forsake our friends, abandon our interests whenever we are confronted with murder and blackmail. A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists, an invitation to further violence against free nations, and a terrible blow to the future security of the United States of America.
This is an attempt to frame the issue. Rep. John Murtha, who urged immediate withdrawal (he used the word "practicable," but what else does this mean except that you withdraw as fast as you can logistically remove the troops?), focused on the peril faced by U.S. troops. Cheney focuses instead on the peril that would be faced by all of us if we should withdraw. I think Cheney has the better of the argument. There is always peril to the troops when they are deployed in territory where there may be hostile forces. The troops faced perils far worse than they do in Iraq when they were ordered into Normandy in June 1944 (there were more deaths in one day there than so far in Iraq). But no one suggested that troops shouldn't have been sent there. Those who advocate immediate withdrawalor immediate withdrawal as soon as practicableshould be asked to respond to Cheney's questions. Of course, most mainstream media reporters are not inclined to do this; the only questions they like to ask are those intended to discredit administration policy. But maybe a few of them will take their professions of fairness and objectivity seriously. We'll see.