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Dick Cheney & the Iraq War

Instructor: Mary Ruth Sanders Bracy

Mary Ruth teaches college history and has a PhD.

This lesson will look at Vice-President Dick Cheney's role in the Iraq War. Cheney was a war hawk and advocated for the war, even going so far as to lie about the reasons of the U.S. invasion.

Dick Cheney

''We now know that Saddam Hussein has resumed his efforts to acquire nuclear weapons...Simply stated, there is no doubt that that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction. There is no doubt that he is amassing them to use against our friends, against our allies, and against us.''

Speaking in August 2002, Vice-President Dick Cheney was trying to justify a new war, one that would turn out to be unpopular, costly, and deadly. Let's look more closely at Dick Cheney and his role in the Iraq War.

Richard (''Dick'') Bruce Cheney was the 46th Vice-President of the United States. Born in Wyoming and raised in Nebraska, Cheney studied at Yale before graduating from the University of Wyoming. He began working for the national government during Richard Nixon's presidential administration, and then was Secretary of Defense under President George H.W. Bush, where he oversaw the First Gulf War and American operations against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein. In 2000, President George W. Bush (H.W.'s son) asked Cheney to be his running mate.

Vice-President Dick Cheney in 2005
Vice-President Dick Cheney

The Iraq War

After the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, President Bush responded by launching military operations against Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the attacks. Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan, where its leader Osama bin Laden had been living under the shelter of the Afghan government (known as the Taliban) since the late 1990s. However, some in Bush's administration wanted to make the response part of a broader War on Terror. These men, including Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, worked to convince President Bush that the war needed to be expanded into Iraq. They succeeded, and the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, beginning a drawn-out and unpopular conflict that would last until 2011.

Dick Cheney and the Iraq War

Dick Cheney was obsessed with Iraq. In 1992, after the First Gulf War, President George H.W. Bush decided not to remove Saddam Hussein from power. Hussein remained in power in Iraq throughout the 1990s even though the United States imposed sanctions and eventually made a regime change, removing Hussein from power and replacing him with someone more friendly to the United States. Cheney was a supporter of regime change at least since 1997, when he, Wolfowitz, Rumsfeld, and others founded the Project for a New American Century, a think tank that called for Hussein's ouster. So when the opportunity presented itself after 9/11, Cheney saw his chance.

There was a problem with this, though. There was no reason to go to war with Iraq.

The United States went to war against Al Qaeda in Afghanistan in retaliation for the 9/11 terrorist attacks, but Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with those, and there was not really any evidence that Hussein and Osama bin Laden were working together at all. But in order to go to war, there has to be a reason. And in the lead-up to the Iraq War, Vice-President Dick Cheney worked as hard as he could to figure out a reason to go to war.

First, Cheney tried to connect Al Qaeda to Iraq. Over and over again in the speeches he gave trying to sell the war to the American people, Cheney referred to the connection between the two, saying things like ''We know that he ] has a longstanding government with various terrorist groups, including the Al Qaeda organization'' and ''His regime aids and protects terrorists, including members of Al Qaeda.'' The problem with this was that two different groups had concluded that there was no link between the two. Both the 9/11 Commission (which was established to study the causes of the terrorist attacks) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) said that there was no proof that Al Qaeda and the Iraqi government were linked. Cheney ignored this intelligence and continued to make a false connection between the two.

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