The Lowe Down

Category: Dick Cheney (12)

Chan Lowe: War with Syria


Thank you, Cheney, Rummy, Condi, Wolfie and the rest of the hubristic cabal that felt they alone held the solution to the geopolitical puzzle. Thank you, George W. Bush — who couldn’t find the Middle East on a map before September of 2001 — for giving them the keys to the car.

The Iraq debacle looms over any discussion about what to do in Syria, since we’re still recovering from the burns received from the last time we placed our hand on the hot Middle East stove.

Iraq, according to the neoconservative strategists of the Bush administration, was the key to stability in the region. If we toppled Saddam, a grateful Iraqi people would allow us to establish a model Jeffersonian democracy, creating a thirst for freedom among their neighbors. They in turn would overthrow their dictatorships, establish U.S.-friendly governments, and our source of oil would be secure for generations to come. Win-win.

They made a couple of mistakes. First, there is no such thing as an Iraqi people. “Iraq” is a construct whose borders were imposed by Europeans with little concern for the ethnicity, creed or compatibility of the enclosed peoples.

Second, in a “nation” with no democratic traditions, what the locals prize most isn’t freedom, but stability. The former concept is strange and abstract, the latter is very real and concerns daily life in the streets. Saddam Hussein, for all his sins, provided a healthy dose of social order. The daily mayhem in Iraq is taking a back seat to the news about Syria, but there are many Iraqis who believe life was a lot better for them before the Americans came.

It’s no surprise that our leaders are reluctant to involve us in Syria. We hate to stand back while a dictator gases his own people, but we’ve learned the meaning of “mission creep” the hard way. Besides, if we did get rid of Assad, a hostile Islamist faction could well replace him.

The American people would like to be the good guys, but thanks to the misadventures of the past, intervention — even for the most humanitarian of reasons — has become a political third rail.

As British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain said in 1938 during the Czechoslovakia crisis:

How horrible, fantastic, incredible it is that we should be digging trenches and trying on gas-masks here because of a quarrel in a far-away country between people of whom we know nothing.

For post-Iraq America, that utterance doesn’t sound as craven as it once did.

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Chan Lowe: End of the Iraq War


Well, that was certainly a bust. In hindsight, it looks like our trillion bucks and thousands of casualties didn’t exactly produce the shining democratic example to other Middle Eastern regimes the neocons were hoping for.

Instead, we’re leaving behind a weak sectarian government that will be a puppet of the Iranians, the very bad guys Saddam was doing a fine job of containing before we took him out. Nice job.

Not that our troops let us down. They went in there and fought for their country, the way they wanted to and the way they were expected to. It was the civilian leadership that failed in its duty by squandering them in a pointless endeavor.

If you want to blame somebody for Iraq, blame Florida voters (and not for the reason you’d think). The late Lawton Chiles got tired of being a U.S. Senator from Florida and came back home to run for governor back in 1994. Had he not edged Jeb Bush out in that election, the smart son would have been the heir apparent to the presidency. Instead, W., as governor of Texas, was the only Bush left standing to anoint.

Jeb, whether or not you agree with his politics, would have been competent enough that Poppy Bush wouldn’t have felt compelled to attach training wheels to his boy’s administration in the form of Dick Cheney. Jeb probably wouldn’t have allowed Cheney and his paranoid fellow travelers anywhere near the White House, anyway.

Which is to say that we here in Florida had plenty of chances to screw things up, and we took advantage of every one of them.

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Reject Corner!!!


My editor, Antonio Fins, rejected the above cartoon in sketch form this morning. His rationale:

"The devil waiting for Dick Cheney to autograph a book? Yeah, ok. Ho-hum.

"I’m not a fan of Satan comparisons. I didn’t find this cartoon to be that clever or creative. Dick Cheney is great fodder for a cartoonist, and I don’t think this cartoon maximized that potential.

"It’s a subjective decision on my part. No doubt.

"So, in deciding whether I made the right call, here is what you need to consider. After I rejected the devil-in-line cartoon, Chan came up with a replacement – the one about the Bachmann cocktail. Admit it. The latter was a much, much better cartoon.

"So I think I made the right call.

"Because when I compare what I gave up vs. what we ended up with, the replacement was a better, more clever cartoon.

"I am a brilliant Decider."

My take: Personally, I thought the Cheney cartoon was on a par with the Bachmann cocktail number (linked above, as well as being the previous blog posting). Maybe Tony isn't a fan of Satan comparisons because, in this case, he didn't want to offend Satan.

Weigh in and let me know what you think.

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Chan Lowe: The Obama vacation ruckus


To be fair, the Democrats were just as hard on W. whenever he went off to Crawford to clear brush.

Wait a second. By this point in his term, he’d already taken three times as many vacation days as President Obama.

Well, okay. But the nation wasn’t in a crisis, the way it is now.

Wait a second. Under Bush, we sustained the worst attack on our soil since Pearl Harbor, and we started two separate wars that weren’t going too well.

Fine, but Bush wasn’t really running the country. Cheney, Rummy and the neocon cabal were. W. was just the front man. What difference did it make if he went on vacation?

Well, you’ve got us there.

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Chan Lowe: Obama threads the needle on gay marriage


Talk about being in an awkward position. Here’s President Obama, trying to smooth over a group of gay activists in Manhattan, and instead of being greeted like a hero, he’s forced to endure jeers and catcalls for not giving them the Full Monty on same-sex marriage. Hours later, New York legalizes it, leaving him eating dust and playing social catch-up to Dick Cheney, of all people.

This is one of those times when heading the great Democratic coalition can be...challenging, to say the least. Let’s not forget that⎯unlike Republicans⎯the Democrats are a loose alliance of interest groups that have banded together to push their own agendas by agreeing to help others with theirs, much like a nationwide Amish barn-raising.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Obama threads the needle on gay marriage" »

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Chan Lowe: Bush's memoir


For me, one of the most telling moments of the George W. Bush presidency occurred during a press conference. A newsman asked him if he could name any mistakes he had made, and the question took the President aback.

None that he could think of, he responded after some thought. Some would call this evidence of his resoluteness; others, of his foolhardiness.

In any case, we knew that his decision to invade Iraq was not something that kept him awake at night. What does keep him awake? Evidently, the verdict of history, because he is now seeking to shape it.

Continue reading "Chan Lowe: Bush's memoir" »

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Chan Lowe: The end of combat operations in Iraq


Tuesday night, President Obama gave just about the only speech that could have been given to properly mark the transition of America’s role in Iraq.

He sounded like the maid stuck with cleaning up a hotel room the morning after it has been rented by a rock band. There really wasn’t much to say about the whole endeavor that was positive, except that our troops did their jobs superlatively. The whole subject is uncomfortable for us, because while our service members did their duty and in many cases made the supreme sacrifice, we’re at a loss to know what they did it for.

We’re at a loss because our leaders violated the sacred pact the civilian leadership has always had with the military: We will ask you to go into harm’s way on behalf of your country, and in return you can have faith that we will only ask you to do so if the cause is worthy, if the mission is clear-cut, and if it has a reasonable chance of success.

We went in because they said there were WMD. Well, there weren’t any. Then it was about democracy, and we “surged” to give the Iraqis time to form a government. They still haven’t formed one. The place is a hair’s-breadth away from anarchy.

We had intentions of building a Western-oriented Arab bulwark in the Middle East. The only thing the Iranians will lack after the last Americans leave is an engraved invitation to invade.

Americans like to win wars, particularly after they’ve spent a trillion borrowed dollars when there are pressing needs at home. With Iraq, there is no surrender at Yorktown, no signing ceremony on the deck of the U.S.S. Missouri, just a fizzling-out.

Years from now, after the accursed place recedes into painful memory, it will probably revert to what it was before: a dusty crossroads ruled by whichever warlord among its contentious populace happens to be the most ruthless.

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Chan Lowe: Leaving Iraq


So much for Colin Powell’s Pottery Barn Principle about Iraq: “If you break it, you own it.”

Just because Powell got snookered by the Cheney-Rummy tag team into being a shill for the bankrupt WMD argument doesn’t mean that everything he ever said ought to be disbelieved.

Sadly, even though he’s right on the Pottery Barn thing, it looks like we are leaving the place broken and only partially pasted back together with bubble gum and masking tape, ready to fall apart again at the slightest jarring.

What’s even sadder is that we don’t care anymore. We don’t care after spending a trillion dollars, sacrificing thousands of our best young people, maiming thousands more, and leaving even more thousands with psychological damage. And we can’t even begin to fathom what our altruistic act of political liberation has done to the Iraqi people.

Geopolitically speaking, we’ve removed the only counterbalance the West and the Arab world had to keep Iran in check. Saddam may have been a bad man, but he was doing some pretty effective work in that department. We’re enjoying the fruits of removing him from power now.

Knowing what we know now, was it all worth it? As a nation, we shy away from that question, because the answer might be too painful, and could throw doubt on our core belief in the myth of American exceptionalism; that we are a force for good in the world.

At this point, we just want to wash our hands of the whole mess. The Iraqis can keep the pottery shards, courtesy of Uncle Sam.

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Dick Cheney cries out in the wilderness

We were deep into 2002, probably five or six months after 9/11, before my editor would even entertain the idea of my drawing a cartoon that did not portray George W. Bush in anything but a favorable light.

"We're not ready for that yet," I remember him saying. He was probably right, as far as the sentiments of our readers were concerned.

The terror was still fresh, the country had rallied around its president, and unbeknownst to us, Dick Cheney was quietly machinating behind the scenes to exploit our national myopia and expand executive power to unheard-of levels.

It was a failure on the part of the media as much as anyone else, but consumers of news weren't ready yet for hard-nosed reporting, or commenting for that matter, about our leaders.

These are different times, and the man who used to condemn the Bush naysayers as unpatriotic didn't even wait for the inaugural platform to be disassembled before he began loudly trashing the new president. It's his right. Too bad he didn't see it that way when he was on the receiving end.

As for setting himself up as the world's authority on keeping us safe, let's remember that clever locution Cheney and his supporters like to use to justify their excesses: "The terrorists haven't hit us again since 9/11."

As I recall, Dick Cheney had been running this country for almost eight months when the terrorists did hit us on 9/11.

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The CIA revelations

You can “look forward, not back,” as President Obama says he is doing in distancing himself from his “rogue” attorney general, Eric Holder.

This, of course, is an adroit little sidestep. After all, Obama’s the one who nominated the guy. Holder, as a member of Obama’s cabinet, serves at his pleasure. I guess this kind of waffling is what they call “leadership.”

Anyway, an investigation of alleged illegal acts is probably a good thing for the republic. Obama has made it clear that those who were only following orders will not be prosecuted (that argument didn’t fly when it was made with a German accent, but this is the national security of the American homeland we’re talking about now, folks).

That leaves…whom? Probably nobody, because going after the principals of the Bush administration who set the policy would distract everyone from Obama’s priorities, not to mention possibly derail his presidency.

In any case, if we don’t at least examine the excesses of our behavior and do a little public self-reflection, then our already-battered worldwide reputation as a nation of laws will suffer even further.

And the terrorists—while not exactly winning—will have achieved a tactical victory in the battle for hearts and minds.

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Dick Cheney's tell-all

Ever heard of the diamond cutters of Antwerp, Belgium?

These are guys with an extraordinary amount of experience who have an extraordinarily high-pressure job. They sit in their little workspaces, jewelers' loupes screwed into their eyes, and they transform raw, shapeless diamonds from the mine into gemstones. They "read" the crystalline structure of the diamond, carefully position a chisel over the stone and give the chisel one sharp tap with a mallet.

If they do it exactly right, they split off a portion of the diamond, and are on their way to producing an object of surpassing beauty.

If they're off just a hair, or the angle is wrong by less than a degree, the chisel reduces a stone worth possibly millions into a pile of very expensive gravel, suitable only to coat the edges of drill bits.

I see Dick Cheney as the guy with the mallet, and George W. Bush as the chisel. What gorgeous possibilities could have been coaxed out of the goodwill stemming from 9/11, had they just handled it right.

Anyway, Cheney's big beef now is that George got recalcitrant toward the end, and stopped following directions.

The gall. After all, Cheney chose himself as Bush's vice president after exhaustive research because he knew that he--and only he--had the requisite skills to run the White House and keep Junior in line.

In the past, Cheney condemned administration figures who aired dirty laundry in self-serving books as despicable, but that isn't stopping him now. This is a crusade. George will taste the lash, for sure.

In the meantime, the rest of us can just be content with our pile of gravel.

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Dick Cheney's Republican Party


A strange thing about Dick Cheney (OK, another strange thing about Dick Cheney), is that when he was in public service, he went to enormous lengths to keep everything private.

Now that he's a private citizen, he's trying to make everything public, to the point of declassifying documents that would prove torturing prisoners made the country safer.

Then there's this so-called "battle for the soul of the Republican Party," which is a lot like arguing over how many angels can fit on the head of a pin, since nobody can really prove that the Republican Party has a soul in the first place. Or, if it once had a soul, maybe it sold it to Dick Cheney.

Cheney's condemnation of a truly heroic public servant, Colin Powell, as not being a "real Republican," says more about what has happened to the Grand Old Party of Lincoln, Rockefeller, Goldwater and Reagan than about Powell.

The only member of the former administration who seems to have distinguished himself in the post-Bush period is W. himself, and he has done so by wisely keeping his mouth shut (unless he's in front of wealthy foreigners, who pay him to open it).

Cheney could learn a little something from his former junior partner.

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About the author
Chan LoweCHAN LOWE has been the Sun Sentinel’s first and only editorial cartoonist for the past twenty-six years. Before that, he worked as cartoonist and writer for the Oklahoma City Times and the Shawnee (OK) News-Star.

Chan went to school in New York City, Los Angeles, and the U.K., and graduated from Williams College in 1975 with a degree in Art History. He also spent a year at Stanford University as a John S. Knight Journalism Fellow.

His work has won numerous awards, including the Green Eyeshade Award and the National Press Foundation Berryman Award. He has also been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His cartoons have won multiple first-place awards in all of the Florida state journalism contests, and The Lowe-Down blog, which he began in 2008, has won writing awards from the Florida Press Club and the Society of Professional Journalists.
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