White House of Horrors

By MAUREEN DOWD

New York Times

October 28, 2004

Dick Cheney peaked too soon. We've still got a few days left until Halloween.

It was scary enough when we thought the vice president had created his own reality for spin purposes. But if he actually believes that Iraq is "a remarkable success story,'' it's downright spooky. He's already got his persona for Sunday: he's the mad scientist in the haunted mansion, fiddling with test tubes to force the world to conform to his twisted vision.

After 9/11, Mr. Cheney swirled his big black cape and hunkered down in his undisclosed dungeon, reading books about smallpox and plague and worst-case terrorist scenarios. His ghoulish imagination ran wild, and he dragged the untested president and jittery country into his house of horrors, painting a gory picture of how Iraq could let fearsome munitions fall into the hands of evildoers.

He yanked America into war to preclude that chilling bloodbath. But in a spine-tingling switch, the administration's misbegotten invasion of Iraq has let fearsome munitions fall into the hands of evildoers. It's also forged the links between Al Qaeda and the Sunni Baathists that Mr. Cheney and his crazy-eyed Igors at the Pentagon had fantasized about to justify their hunger to remake the Middle East.

It's often seen in scary movies: you play God to create something in your own image, and the monster you make ends up coming after you.

Determined to throw a good scare into the Arab world, the vice president ended up scaring up the swarm of jihadist evil spirits he had conjured, like the overreaching sorcerer in "Fantasia." The Pentagon bungled the occupation so badly, it caused the insurgency to grow like the Blob.

Just as Catherine Deneuve had bizarre hallucinations in the horror classic "Repulsion,'' Mr. Cheney and the neocons were in a deranged ideological psychosis, obsessing about imaginary weapons while allowing enemies to spirit the real ones away.

The officials charged with protecting us set off so many false alarms that they ignored all the real ones.

President Bush is like one of the blissfully ignorant teenagers in "Friday the 13th'' movies, spouting slogans like "Freedom is on the march'' while Freddy Krueger is in the closet, ready to claw his skin off.

Mr. Bush ignored his own experts' warnings that Osama bin Laden planned to attack inside the U.S., that an invasion of Iraq could create a toxic partnership between outside terrorists and Baathists and create sympathy for them across the Islamic world, that Donald Rumsfeld was planning a war and occupation without enough troops, that Saddam's aluminum tubes were not for nuclear purposes, that U.S. troops should safeguard 380 tons of sealed explosives that could bring down planes and buildings, and that, after the invasion, Iraq could erupt into civil war.

And, of course, the president ignored Colin Powell's Pottery Barn warning: if you break it, you own it.

Their Iraqi puppet, Ayad Allawi, turned on Mr. Cheney and Mr. Bush this week, in a scene right out of "Chucky.'' Mr. Allawi accused coalition forces of "major negligence'' for not protecting the unarmed Iraqi National Guard trainees who were slaughtered by insurgents wearing Iraqi police uniforms. Iraqi recruits are getting killed so fast we can't even pretend that we're going to turn the country over to them.

If you really want to be chilled to the bone this Halloween, listen to what Peter W. Galbraith, a former diplomat who helped advance the case for an Iraq invasion at the request of Paul Wolfowitz, said in a column yesterday in The Boston Globe.

He said he'd told Mr. Wolfowitz about "the catastrophic aftermath of the invasion, the unchecked looting of every public institution in Baghdad, the devastation of Iraq's cultural heritage, the anger of ordinary Iraqis who couldn't understand why the world's only superpower was letting this happen.'' He told Mr. Wolfowitz that mobs were looting Iraqi labs of live H.I.V. and black fever viruses and making off with barrels of yellowcake.

"Even after my briefing, the Pentagon leaders did nothing to safeguard Iraq's nuclear sites,'' he said.

In his column, Mr. Galbraith said weapons looted from the arms site called Al Qaqaa might have wound up in Iran, which could obviously use them to pursue nuclear weapons.

In April 2003 in Baghdad, he said, he told a young U.S. lieutenant stationed across the street that H.I.V. and black fever viruses had just been looted. The soldier had been devastated and said, "I hope I'm not responsible for Armageddon.''

Too bad that never occurred to Dr. Cheneystein.


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