On 3rd December 2015 at the United States Capitol in Washington a statue was unveiled in honour of Richard “Dick” Cheney, former vice President to George W. Bush. In line with all other past vice-presidents a marble bust will now rest alongside all other United States vice-Presidents.
Coincidentally, the previous day witnessed the British parliament, specifically the House of Commons, inadvertently honour Cheney in the debate on whether to extend the military intervention aimed at ISIS in Iraq into ISIS’s supposed heartland in Syria.
In August 2002 to what is now the run-up to the British-American invasion of Iraq, Dick Cheney addressed the Veteran of Foreign Wars organisation wherein he premiered the “risk of inaction” argument. He first claimed that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction” before adding the coup de grace:
“Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined. The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action.”
Opening the debate in the House of Commons on 2nd December, Prime Minister David Cameron reformulated Cheney’s argument by insisting that past mistakes should not be “an excuse for indifference or inaction” before substantiating “inaction does not amount to a strategy for our security or that of the Syrian people, but inaction is a choice.”[i]
Former Defence Secretary (under the previous Cameron coalition government) Liam Fox, claimed that “to do nothing is a policy position which will have its own consequences.”[ii]
One of Tony Blair’s Foreign Secretary’s Margaret Beckett admonished on the “consequence of inaction” against ISIS before concluding “inaction too leads to death and destruction” as though Blair’s invasion of Iraq inaugurated a period of world peace.[iii]
Gisela Stuart, a Blairite politician and the only British Labour parliamentarian to support the re-election of George W. Bush in 2004 argued that “there are some things that we do know, and one of them is that just as actions have consequences, so does inaction.”[iv]
Dr. Sarah Wollaston, a Conservative also elaborated and warned of the “consequence of inaction” for the security of the United Kingdom.[v]
Angela Smith, a Labour politician rhetorically queried as though as it was the first time someone ever asked, “Does not this choice involve risk? The risk involved in doing something has to be balanced against the risk involved in doing nothing, which equally carries great risk for this country and for the world.” Clearly, she never thought of the risk of plagiarising Dick Cheney.[vi]
Wendy Morton, a newly elected Conservative thunderously decried that “We need military action, not inaction.”[vii]
Ruth Smeeth, Labour member and former PR guru for the British Israeli lobby group, BICOM, then picked up the baton to beam that “there is a cost of inaction, as much as there is a cost of action, and if we allow atrocities to go unpunished and unrestrained we will bear the burden.”[viii] Needless to say Smeeth is not on record noticing any of Israel’s atrocities in its occupation of Palestine over the last several decades.
Chloe Smith, a Conservative who was elected to parliament on the back of the previous Labour incumbent for her area being accused of nepotism, insisted that “no action is not an option. We all know there is history behind and there is risk ahead.”[ix]
Simon Hoare, another newly elected Conservative and Oxford University History graduate, reformulated “risk of inaction” pitch claiming that there was “nothing splendid in isolation.”[x] This was a clever play on words and history as the foreign policy of the British state in the late Victorian period was known as “splendid isolation.” That is the British Empire could afford to dwell in “splendid isolation” because they were more powerful than their two nearest global imperialist competitors France and Russia and had no need for allies, therefore Great Britain was in “splendid isolation”. The rise of Germany led the British elite to scurry and seek salvation in a “special relationship” with another rising power, its former colony, the United States.
Wrapping up the debate in support of David Cameron’s motion to supposedly attack ISIS in Syria, the current Foreign Secretary, Phillip Hammond emphasised that “We have to be clear—I think the right hon. Member for Derby South (i.e. Margaret Beckett) was the first to say this—that the risks of inaction are far greater than the risks of action.”[xi] Hammond was clearly not paying close attention to his leader as it was Cameron who began the “risk of inaction” ball rolling during the debate.
According to Bob Woodward, the world renowned investigative journalist, the “risk of inaction” formulation emanates from one of Cheney’s favourite military historians Victor Davis Hanson.[xii]
There must be something ‘rotten in the state of Denmark’ when the British Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary, former Defence Secretary and a former Foreign Secretary all employ and rehash an argument of a discredited, warmongering vice-President. Furthermore, not once in the debate did anyone question the credibility of a team of arsonist having any moral right in putting out the fire they had caused in the first place.
When Cheney employed the “risk of inaction” line it was to justify pre-emptive war on Iraq based on partly British supplied false intelligence. This time round, it was to justify further intervention in the Middle East in response to what the original invasion produced, al-Qaeda in Iraq, which became ISIS.
At the unveiling ceremony of the bust, Dick Cheney claimed the vice-President busts were “one shot at being remembered.” In the British parliament the previous day prominent politicians did more than remember him – they invoked him to vote for more imperialist war.
[i] House of Commons, Deb 2 December 2015, Vol 603, Col 339
[ii] ibid., Col 358
[iii] ibid., Col 363
[iv] ibid., Col 387
[v] ibid., Col 431-432
[vi] ibid., Col 453
[vii] ibid., Col 455
[viii] ibid., Col 462
[ix] ibid., Col 478
[x] ibid., Col 480
[xi] ibid., Col 489
[xii] Bob Woodward, Plan of Attack, (Simon & Schuster, London, 2004), pg. 428-429