Dick Cheney isn’t cut out for PR. Truth in advertising may be rare, but gross exaggeration, or worse, outright lying, is bad business. It undermines credibility and is ultimately self-defeating. The same principles hold for selling government policy, although nobody has told the vice president yet.
Speaking in Baghdad on fifth anniversary of the Iraqi war, Cheney praised the “phenomenal” security improvements in the country. He then lauded what is possibly the biggest foreign policy blunder in US history. “If you reflect back on those five years,” he said, “I think it’s been a difficult, challenging, but nonetheless successful endeavor…it’s been well worth the effort.” He might have learned to temper his enthusiasm, at least when visiting the war zone, since the last time he was in Iraq the noise of mortars and artillery shells routinely fired to keep insurgents at bay interrupted his sleep during an overnight stay at a base near Baghdad. But Cheney is a man who sees—or wants us to see—the empty glass half full.
On the day Cheney extolled the “tremendous progress” in Iraq, a bombing in the Shiite holy city of Karbela killed 43 and injured 73. Meanwhile, two American soldiers died north of Baghdad when a roadside bomb exploded near their vehicle. The violence came on the heels of comments by General David Patraeus expressing disappointment for the lack of progress towards political reconciliation in Iraq. In a letter to American forces in the country, the US commander in Iraq said, “Many of us had hoped this summer would be a time of tangible political progress…it has not worked out that way.” The damning assessment would seem to strike at the heart of the rationale for the surge, which, according the Administration, sought to give Iraqi leaders “breathing room” to make tough political compromises.
Cheney’s buffoonish cheerleading also coincided with a report by the International Organization for Migration revealing that nearly one in five Iraq’s pre-war population are internally displaced or living as refugees in other countries. The report also found that 20 percent of internally displaced Iraqis lack clean water and 33 percent have no access to medicine. Has anyone asked them whether the war has been worth their effort?
Don’t believe your lying eyes, says Cheney. Iraq, he assures us, is on the mend. It would be nice to dismiss the obvious and believe the happy talk, but the vice president isn’t a straight shooter. Just ask his duck hunting mates.