Conservatives Used to Be Smart About Iraq -- in the 1990s


It seems almost odd in retrospect, but when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, John McCain was not an enthusiastic supporter of a military confrontation. At the time, McCain said, “To start putting American troops into that kind of meat grinder I just don’t think is a viable option.” As the first Bush administration began formulating plans to intervene, McCain wanted to limit the response to an air campaign.

The president chose a different direction, and McCain quickly fell in line. But the anecdote is a reminder that the McCain we see today, filled with neocon ideas and bellicose rhetoric, used to be far more cautious about putting U.S. troops in harm’s way.

The DNC’s research department highlighted an even more striking example, noting a 1991 interview between McCain and Larry King.
MCCAIN: …I’m not sure that if we did go in on the ground we could tell a Shiite from a Sunni, even from a Kurd. And who is it that we’d be fighting and battling against on the streets of Baghdad? And, if we got into Baghdad, we would lose all of our military supremacy and we would take casualties.
KING: If they’d welcome this-
Sen. McCAIN: One more point - real quick. I want to get rid of Saddam Hussein. There’s a few other dictators I’d like to get rid of, too. And I hate to use the phrase “slippery slope,” but if we’ve got to get rid of this dictator, which ones do we take on next?

That John McCain sure used to be smart, didn’t he?




It reminds me of a speech Dick Cheney gave in 1991, in which he noted the intense sectarian rivalries that dominate Iraqi society and the likely inability to maintain stability in Baghdad. As for replacing Saddam with a democracy, Cheney asked his audience, “How much credibility is that government going to have if it’s set up by the United States military when it’s there?” He added:
“The notion that we ought to now go to Baghdad and somehow take control of the country strikes me as an extremely serious one in terms of what we’d have to do once we got there. You’d probably have to put some new government in place. It’s not clear what kind of government that would be, how long you’d have to stay. For the U.S. to get involved militarily in determining the outcome of the struggle over who’s going to govern in Iraq strikes me as a classic definition of a quagmire.”

Then, in 1994, Cheney reiterated his position.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

Close
alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.