The above clip is then-Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney explaining why we didn’t invade Iraq and depose Saddam after the Gulf War. The time is 1992 on the eve of the election that would sweep Poppy Bush from the White House. He also told the BBC in this interview:
Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein’s government, then what are you going to put in its place? That’s a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off — part of it the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of eastern Iraq the Iranians would like to claim, fought over it for eight years. In the north you’ve got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey. It’s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.
And now, with a resurgent opposition force, Iraq appears ready to fall into the hands of people we’d rather not have it fall in the hands of. If you’re in Iraq, the choices are pretty awful—stay with a corrupt authoritarian Shi’ite government, or go with a Sunni-based insurgency crazy enough to be disowned by Al Qaeda. Which is worse? Apparently, Obama had turned down previous requests from Iraq’s increasingly dictatorial leader Nouri Al-Maliki to supply air support. It’s clear now that stopping ISIS would take boots on the ground, something that most Americans including Obama’s supporters don’t want to see. There are numerous beehives waiting to be kicked here, including increased problems in Syria and Iranian aid for the Shi’ite majority in Iraq. And the fighting intensifies. Meanwhile, GOP stalwart John McCain is barnstorming the bromide that Obama lost Iraq. News flash, Maverick--Iraq wasn’t ours to lose.
By the way, those good Liberals who want to blame the past President (aka Shrub) for the disaster that Iraq has turned into might look at the whole history of the US government’s relationship with Saddam Hussein, aptly memorialized in this great video by Eric Blumrich formerly of BushFlash (I’d link to his site, but I can’t find him). Blumrich created a series of Flash animations beginning after the 9/11 attack that skewered the Bush administration. But this video notes that the US had a very long and twisted history (dating back to the 1950’s) of collaboration with Saddam. You can look all this up, by the way. In the 1950’s and 1960’s, the US was much more concerned about Communism than it was about dictatorships it could control. And in 1963 the CIA was cheering when the then-Iraqi President Qassim was executed by the Ba’athists in a coup. Qassim probably knew he was signing his own death warrant when he demanded more oil royalties.
So then what? The Iran/Iraq War, Gulf War, periodic demonization of Saddam by folks like the Project for The New American Century, the Neo-cons who would come to power in 2001. And now we’re going to ‘lose’ Iraq. I don’t know if Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn rule still applies.
But we have never done ANYTHING for Iraq out of altruistic reasons, and I’m not sure we’d know how.