CAIRO: A YouTube video has surfaced of US Vice President Dick Cheney explaining in 1994 why Iraq was too fragile to invade, prompting criticism across the internet.
Cheney, then Defense Secretary, tells the interviewee in an American Enterprise Institute video that the US was right not to move into Baghdad during the 90-91 Gulf War because “we would have been all alone . there would have been a US occupation of Iraq.
He then expresses clear understanding of the consequences of taking down Saddam Hussein: “What are you going to put in [Saddam’s] 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.
He refers to the Syrians fighting for the west, the Iranians for the east, and the Kurds for the north, which, if aligned with Turkey’s Kurds, could “threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.
Cheney also mentions the threat of increasing American casualties, saying that Saddam was “not worth losing more American lives for.
“It s a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.
Web critics respond to the video with outrage, suggesting that the administration did not change its mind since Cheney’s initial assessment but rather persisted in pursuing a course of action that they knew would be catastrophic.
Mohamed Abdel Salam from the Al Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies has a slightly different view though.
He does agree that Iraq was just as unstable and divided in 2003 as in 1990. “All those reasons were still there in 2003.
However, Abdel Salam says that the regional situation has changed, with Syria weaker under Bashar Al-Assad, Iran more extreme under Ahmadinejad, and Saudi Arabia and Al-Qaeda playing new influential roles. In addition, the Soviet Union was not an element to consider in 2003.
That the US thought in 2003 they could successfully invade Iraq and their assessment that Iraq would be an easy target was based on “imagination or underestimation or miscalculation, says Abdel Salam. “They imagined they’d finish the job in a year and a half.
As evidence, he points to how Cheney fails to mention insurgency in his 1994 defense for not taking Baghdad.
The US players also changed from 1990 to 2003, points out Abdel Salam, with neoconservatives filling top seats more than under Bush Sr., and a lot who were “not very realistic and empowered through 9/11.
As for the current situation, Abdel Salam says the current theory in the region is that the US administration plans to bomb Iran within the coming months, spreading the chaos beyond Iraq.