Mother Jones has published another secretly recorded speech at a private Republican event. Rather than Mitt Romney’s embarrassing “47 percent” line, this one has former Vice President Dick Cheney lamenting the U.S.’s lack of control over the Middle East, NSA hate, and the danger of “the increasing strain of isolationism” in the GOP.
The private event was the much talked about Las Vegas meet-up of “the Republican Jewish Coalition” held at billionaire Sheldon Adelson’s hotel, “where several possible 2016 contenders, including ex-Governor Jeb Bush and current Governors Chris Christie, Scott Walker, and John Kasich, showed up to kiss the ring of the casino magnate, who’s looking to bankroll a viable Republican presidential candidate,” Mother Jones writes.
There is a lot worth addressing in Cheney’s speech (the dark joke about bombing Iran and the delusional defense of the NSA come to mind), but I wanted to just highlight his remarks on the Middle East and the alleged isolationism running through the GOP.
The former vice president said Obama has been a bust at home and abroad, proving to be a weak commander-in-chief and failing to project strength around the world. “The bottom line is,” Cheney groused, “the United States’ position in [the Middle East] is worse than at any time in my lifetime.” He added, “It’s reached the point where Israel and Egypt, [the United Arab] Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Jordan are closer to one another—imagine that!—than any of them is to us… Nobody who’s been our friend in the past any longer has any sense of trust in we’ll keep our commitments, that we’ll be there in a crisis when they need us. On the other hand, none of our adversaries need fear us.”
This is a nice little summation of what Cheney thinks the thrust of U.S. policy in the Middle East should be. Aside from unequivocally and unconditionally supporting Israel (a prescription mentioned repeatedly in the audio recording), U.S. policy should keep all Middle Eastern states dependent on Washington, isolated from one another, and fearful of America’s war machine. This is how to maintain primacy over the region, and Cheney’s iteration conforms basically to how things have played out since WWII.
To keep the Middle Eastern states dependent on the U.S., you have to prevent independence, which means preventing democracy, economic development, and willful deviation from Washington’s demands. Keeping them from getting “closer to one another” than they are to us is vital in maintaining their dependence on the U.S. They shouldn’t be able to form their own alliances because they are not independent states, they are vassal properties belonging to America. And finally, they must all “fear us,” as Cheney puts it, because the threat of U.S. military force is paramount in enforcing obedience.
Cheney can hardly conceal his love of empire.
The former Vice President and infamous war criminal then went on to criticize Rand Paul, though without naming him specifically. The biggest threat to the Republican Party, Cheney worries, is a “strain of isolationism.”
Without naming names, Cheney also slammed the less hawkish members of his own party—such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.)—for believing that the United States “can afford to turn its back on that part of the world,” referring to the Middle East. “One of the things that concerns me first about the campaign, that I’m worried about,” he said, “is what I sense to be an increasing strain of isolationism, if I can put it in those terms, in our own party. It’s not taking over, by any means, but there is without question a body of thought now that’s supported by many Republicans and some candidates that the United States can afford to turn its back on that part of the world.” Cheney complained that “some candidates” think that the Middle East is “not our problem… Bring the boys home. There’s no reason in the world for us to be involved in that part of the world.” But, he remarked, “anybody who thinks back on the problems of 9/11” knows “it makes absolutely no sense at all for us to contemplate that course of action.”
As I’ve discussed, Rand Paul is no isolationist. This is the slur that imperialists use to slander those who advocate any hint of restraint in U.S. foreign policy.
More notable, perhaps, is Cheney’s argument for why America mustn’t “turn its back on that part of the world.” If you “think back on the problems of 9/11,” he says, “it makes absolutely no sense at all for us to contemplate that course of action.” Actually the opposite is true. The problems of 9/11, of anti-American Islamic terrorism, are a direct result of the ugly and violent history of U.S. interventionism in the Middle East. Policies of exactly the kind Cheney advocates and warns against abandoning are precisely what motivated those 19 hijackers to kill almost 3,000 Americans that day. Too bad Cheney and the other high-profile attendees are too blind to understand that unassailable fact.
Listen to the full speech below.