Dick Cheney is back.
If the former vice president’s trip to Wyoming wasn’t predictable three weeks after heart-transplant surgery, his speech to the Republican state convention in Cheyenne was.
Waterboarding is good, Obama is bad.
Not just bad, but “an unmitigated disaster.”
The only news content in the news coverage of Cheney’s flight to Wyoming is that he flew to Wyoming. My headline for the big-picture story that didn’t run would be:
Cheney Calls Obama Unmitigated Disaster While Obama Works to Mitigate Disaster Cheney Created.
The day after Cheney spoke to Republicans in Wyoming, the president was responding to Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s claim that the U.S. had given Iran “a freebie” on its putative nuclear weapons program, by agreeing to another round of talks next month.
Tension between Netanyahu and Obama continues because the American president refuses to order a bombing campaign on sites where Tehran is believed to be developing nuclear weapons.
As Netanyahu calls it, Obama’s agreement to continue negotiating with Tehran is a freebie.
Yet if there ever was a “freebie” regarding Iran, it was handed to the United States in May 2003, when Tehran offered to negotiate its relations with Israel, cooperation with the U.S. regarding anti-terrorism operations, turning over al Qaeda prisoners Iran had imprisoned, support for Hezbollah, and Iran’s nuclear program.
In a phrase, an unconditional offer to negotiate everything.
Remember, in 2003 the American military had “won” the war against Iraq, sweeping into Baghdad and routing Saddam Hussein’s army. (This was before the Bush Administration began to lose the remaining seven years of occupation.)
The Iranian government was terrified that American forces would pause only briefly then turn east toward Tehran.
So they reached out through the Swiss embassy (because the U.S. has no diplomatic relations with Iran) and offered to negotiate.
As Jake Bernstein and I reported in the Random House book we wrote about Cheney in 2006 (Vice: Dick Cheney and the Hijacking of the American Presidency), Secretary of State Colin Powell was open to negotiations with Iran.
This was the result our militarized foreign policy was supposed to yield. The U.S. had spent $100 billion on the invasion, thousands (Iraqis and Americans) had been killed, and one of the countries George W. Bush had included in his Axis of Evil was coming in out of the cold.
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was not yet president and the Iranians wanted to deal.
“We told them no,” Powell’s chief of staff Lawrence Wilkerson said in an interview we did with him in 2005. “No only did we tell them no, we wrote a letter to the Swiss to protest their interfering in our foreign policy.”
When I asked Wilkerson if he knew who made the decision to reject the Iranian initiative, he didn’t miss a beat.
“Yes I know,” he said. “It was the vice president of the United States.”