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Cheney's Cheerleading Falls Flat

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney talks with U.S. soldiers after lunching at the Taji Air Base, and touring the 9th Mechanized Infantry Division of the Iraqi Army, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2005, in Iraq.
AP
This column was written by John Nichols.
Even as President Bush was trying, once more on Sunday, to spin the fantasy that the Iraq invasion and occupation are some kind of success, Vice President Dick Cheney's visit to Iraq confirmed the truth of the mess that this military misadventure has created.

The vice president's "surprise" visit to Iraq — which, coming shortly after voting in the latest of the country's quickie elections had finished, was about as surprising as Cheney's repetition of the administration's "stay-the-course" mantra — was a public-relations disaster.

Why?

Because the vice president actually came into contact with the people his fantasies regarding Iraq — remember Cheney's pre-war promise that U.S. troops would be "greeted as liberators" — had put in harm's way.

Cheney's cheerleading during a whirlwind trip through the battle zone was challenged by men who are actually doing the fighting.

The first words Cheney heard during a roundtable discussion with several dozen troops were those of Marine Cpl. Bradley Warren, who said, "From our perspective, we don't see much as far as gains. We're looking at small-picture stuff, not many gains."

Cheney responded with warmed-over rhetoric about how the media is not showing the true picture of what is going on in Iraq. "I think when we look back from 10 years hence, we'll see that the year '05 was in fact a watershed year here in Iraq. We're getting the job done," claimed the vice president, who was making his first visit to the war zone. "It's hard to tell that from watching the news. But I guess we don't pay that much attention to the news."

The vice president did not seem to recognize the irony of complaining about media coverage presenting the war as something less than a success when he was responding to the concerns of a Marine — who is actually serving on the ground in Iraq — about the fact that he and his fellow troops "don't see much as far as gains."