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Cheney Admits He 'Misspoke' on Iraqi Arms

September 18, 2003

Re "White House's Cynical Iraq Ploy: 'Misspeak' First, 'Correct' It Later," Commentary, Sept. 16: Robert Scheer's dismissal of 9/11 as a world-changing event prevents him from considering any reasonable justification for the war in Iraq.

He is convinced that President Bush lied and deceived America to go to war, but no sensible motivation for the deception is presented. His one-sided condemnation of the Bush administration presumes that it knew a perfect solution but instead decided to lie.

A more parsimonious explanation involves risk assessment. Life rarely provides sure bets for complicated problems. Rather, one must choose between competing risks -- in the case of terrorism, whether to underestimate the risk and remain unprepared and unsafe, or to overestimate the risk and waste resources but increase safety. If Scheer thinks eliminating Saddam Hussein and encouraging democracy in the Middle East is a "stupid and craven thing being done in the name of protecting us," then I say up with craven stupidity!

James D. Belluzzi

Irvine

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Vice President Dick Cheney said to Tim Russert on Sept. 14: "Yeah, I did misspeak.... We never had any evidence that [Hussein] had acquired a nuclear weapon."

"Misspeak," a euphemistic neologism I remember from the Reagan years, is defined in online dictionaries as "to pronounce incorrectly," "to speak in a way that is inaccurate, or unclear." It implies a verbal stumble, with no more personal responsibility than a physical stumble. Please, can we voters be treated to a higher standard?

Mr. Cheney, if you misspoke, did you lie, or mislead or not know what you were talking about? I refuse to believe the words just tumbled out of your mouth in a confusing way that you were not responsible for. I wouldn't buy that excuse from my children, and here you are, the second-highest elected official in the country.

Lynda Little

Palmdale

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The misspeakers in the White House have gotten us into a "wingdinger" of a misadventure in Iraq. They have squandered every bit of the world's goodwill after 9/11, like drunken revelers painting the town red.

Now, having misspent national resources, they return, pockets turned out, asking for more. Their cynicism and arrogance is beyond the pale. We should not allow any more misappropriation of money or manpower. Show these misspeakers to the door. They are obviously miscast.

Joseph Gius

Los Angeles

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Secretary of State Colin Powell, visiting Iraq, mourned the atrocities inflicted by Hussein on his own people (Sept. 16). In 1988, toward the end of Iraq's war with Iran, chemical weapons killed 5,000 or more Kurds. Our words of compassion would have sounded much more sincere if they had been uttered shortly after these acts were committed. However, at that time humanitarian considerations played a negligible role in our foreign policy: Only our perceived national interest as viewed through the lens of the Cold War mattered. Until Iraq invaded Kuwait, we never hesitated to deal with the same brutal Hussein we have now deposed.

Ralph S. Mavrogordato

La Jolla

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