Early signs indicate Dick Cheney is leaning against the Iran nuclear deal.
“It is madness,” the former vice president announced Tuesday.
“The results may be catastrophic,” he inveighed.
“This deal gives Tehran the means to launch a nuclear attack on the U.S. homeland.”
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The deal “strengthens our adversaries, threatens our allies and puts our own security at risk.”
Cheney hyperbolized, hyperventilated and gave rein to hyperactive imagination – “desperation … cave … neutered” – and the audience at the normally sedate American Enterprise Institute was riled.
When Michaela Anang, a student from Boston with the liberal group Code Pink attempted to heckle the “war criminal” Cheney, Marc Thiessen, the moderator, leaped up to block her, audience members shouted, “Get out of here!” at her, and one man, in jacket and tie, engaged her in a violent tug of war to confiscate her banner.
“Thank you very much,” Cheney said with a wry grin.
Supporters of the Iran deal are probably saying the same to Cheney. They are probably more grateful still that applauding Cheney from the front row were Paul Wolfowitz, a principal architect of the Iraq war, and Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, author of the Senate Republicans’ letter to the ayatollahs attempting to kill the deal during negotiations. In the second row were former congresswoman Michele Bachmann and I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby, the Cheney aide whose tenure led to a prison sentence.
Surely, those who would like to see Congress undo the nuclear agreement can’t expect that rolling out Cheney is going to save the cause. When it comes to dire predictions based on scary intelligence, the former vice president wouldn’t seem to have the best track record.
Moments after Cheney’s speech came reports that the number of Senate Democrats supporting the Iran deal had climbed to 41 – more than enough to sustain a presidential veto of any congressional disapproval of the deal, and possibly enough to block such a disapproval resolution from clearing Congress.
This came despite an all-out campaign by the once-feared American Israel Public Affairs Committee and its affiliates, which spent tens of millions of dollars to rally opposition; The Washington Post called it the largest defeat for AIPAC in more than two decades. The deal’s survival also suggests Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s extraordinary meddling in American politics backfired.
And now, as if to hammer nail into coffin, comes Cheney – angrily questioning “the veracity of the president’s claims” about the deal and labeling several Obama assertions “simply false.”
A lecture on veracity and falsehood from the man who asserted before the Iraq invasion that Saddam Hussein had reconstituted nuclear weapons? The man who said hitting Iraq would strike “a major blow right” at the base of the 9/11 terrorists? The man who claimed that Iraq had “long-established ties with al-Qaida” and that it was “pretty well confirmed” that 9/11 mastermind Mohamed Atta met with senior Iraqi intelligence officials?
Most everybody – including former President George W. Bush’s brother, presidential candidate Jeb Bush – has come to acknowledge that, given the absence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, the United States should not have gone to war in 2003. But not Cheney.
He unabashedly made allegations against Iran on Tuesday that he once made against Iraq, citing evidence of “an agreement between the Iranian government and al-Qaida.” Echoing the old warnings about Iraq’s “mushroom cloud,” he noted that a nuclear Iran could kill 6 million Jews in a day. He acknowledged that intelligence failed to predict the North Korean nuclear test when he was in office – but only to argue that there should be “serious concern” about Obama’s claim that it would take Iran a year to produce nuclear weapons.
There should be concern about Obama’s claims – but there should be even more about Cheney’s. He said that the deal “threatens the security of Europe” without acknowledging that European powers negotiated it. Dropping his longstanding quest to expand executive power, he said Congress should have seized the authority to ratify the deal.
Cheney said it’s a “false choice” to claim the alternative to the deal is war. But he went on to say that unless Iran makes greater concessions, “they must understand that the United States stands ready to take military action … Iran will not be convinced to abandon its program peacefully unless it knows it will face military action if it refuses to do so.”
And this isn’t war? In the immortal words of George W. Bush: “You can’t get fooled again.”