Yesterday, Joe Biden’s own intelligence community dropped the news that the “Russian bounties” story used to target President Trump was absolute garbage. Of course, some of us knew it before the 2020 election and reported that (see That ‘Bombshell’ Russian Bounty Story Was Just Officially Shown to Be Garbage). Once again, “right-wing” news outlets were proven right while CNN and other “unbiased” outlets were made to look like the unreliable, partisan sources they are.
But on the political side, there was one figure who went all-in on the nonsense in order to try to keep the perpetual war in Afghanistan going. That person was Rep. Liz Cheney. As I wrote at the time, her behavior was beyond the pale.
If reporting about Russian bounties on US forces is true, the White House must explain:
1. Why weren’t the president or vice president briefed? Was the info in the PDB?
2. Who did know and when?
3. What has been done in response to protect our forces & hold Putin accountable?
— Liz Cheney (@Liz_Cheney) June 28, 2020
Here was my critique when she first dropped that tweet.
There’s not actually a lot of mystery here. The reason the President and Vice President weren’t briefed on it is that it’s likely one of the thousands of pieces of raw intelligence that the intel community handles a day. Given that this came from one source and was leaked to the Times, the odds are that it’s unverified and was not deemed worthy to discuss or act on at this time. As for who did know and when, the obvious answer is the analysts who dealt with the information, and they didn’t see it as important enough to pass it on to the administration right away.
But it’s Cheney’s third question that really gets under my skin. What has been done to protect our forces? Well, for starters, we could try not being in Afghanistan for 20 years, deployment of troops that Cheney and many establishment Republicans still support for reasons that are completely obscured at this point. What’s the end goal? What’s the exit strategy? What’s being accomplished? Good luck getting anything but platitudes in response to those questions.
Proclaiming that Putin must be “held accountable” is also typical beltway jargon that grew old long ago. What would Cheney like to do? Put sanctions on our sanctions that we’ve already put on top of our other sanctions? The reality is that we can’t “hold Putin accountable” because he’s a dictator in a major country that has nuclear weapons. Perhaps a strongly worded letter is in order?
Cheney could have taken a skeptical approach when that clearly false story dropped. The idea that the Russians were paying bounties to the Taliban never made a bit of sense. The Taliban didn’t need financial payments to try to kill U.S. troops. We were in a direct war. Shooting each other is what both sides do, bounties need not apply. Further, such a scheme would not help the Russians at all. It would only put them in diplomatic peril if they got caught. Lastly, the United States remaining in the quagmire of Afghanistan was within the interests of the Russians. Increasing casualties and the will to leave would have worked against that.
But Cheney, being the anti-Trump zealot she is, swallowed an unverified, nonsensical, single-sourced leak to the Times and immediately ran to virtue signal about it instead of waiting for the facts. This person is the 3rd most powerful Republican in the House. Something is wrong with that picture, and now with the latest news showing how wrong she was about the bounties story, Cheney is nowhere to be found. You’ll also notice that she hasn’t gone nuts on Joe Biden for pulling out of Afghanistan, something she did do when Trump was announcing the initial withdrawal.
Republicans deserve better leadership than this. They deserve figures that aren’t going to cling to the neo-conservative fantasies of two decades ago and that won’t immediately turn on their own party over a report in a liberal rag. Cheney is not that person, and it’s why she needs to go.