Yesterday, Dick Cheney said, “They see Iraq as the center of a new caliphate, from which they can stir extremism and violence throughout the region, and eventually carry out devastating attacks against the United States and others.” They, of course, being al Qaeda. Isn’t it high past the time that use the word “caliphate” is self-discrediting?

Al Qaeda isn’t a threat to America. It is a threat to Americans, particularly to Americans who we’ve sent to occupy Iraq. Because al Qaeda is obviously insufficient to give us the clash of civilizations that Cheney and his ideological fellow travelers so desperately crave, they have to market the “new caliphate” to justify their ongoing plans. Al Qaeda has never captured a bit of territory, or governed anything. The closest they’ve come is affiliating with groups like the Taliban in Afghanistan, Sunni insurgents in Iraq, and now separatist tribesmen in Pakistan who can make use of their money, guns, and supply of people willing to blow themselves up for the cause. Yet there are those who would have us believe that they are on the verge of establishing some kind of pan-Middle Eastern empire that could challenge the United States for supremacy on the global stage.

And they justify these insane assertions by quoting Osama bin Laden and others. Bin Laden is essentially a cult leader trying to recruit adherents to a perverse and lost cause. Like most cult leaders, he appeals to the misguided and fanatical by promising a piece of some deity’s new kingdom on earth. Our vice president professes to buy into bin Laden’s fantasies. The rest of us need not do the same.