Joe Biden is out there claiming victory in Iraq is Obama's achievement. Former V.P. Cheney answers that lie and much more:
Some highlights [transcript]:
CHENEY: I do see repeatedly examples that there are key members in the administration, like Eric Holder, for example, the attorney general, who still insists on thinking of terror attacks against the United States as criminal acts as opposed to acts of war, and that's a -- that's a huge distinction.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised by my friend, Joe Biden. I'm glad he now believes Iraq is a success. Of course, Obiden and -- Obama and Biden campaigned from one end of the country to the other for two years criticizing our Iraq policy.
They opposed the surge that was absolutely crucial to our getting to the point we're at now with respect to Iraq. And for them to try to take credit for what's happened in Iraq strikes me as a little strange. I think if -- if they had had their way, if we'd followed the policies they'd pursued from the outset or advocated from the outset, Saddam Hussein would still be in power in Baghdad today.
So if they're going to take credit for it, fair enough, for what they've done while they're there, but it ought to go with a healthy dose of "Thank you, George Bush" up front and a recognition that some of their early recommendations, with respect to prosecuting that war, we're just dead wrong.
I believe very deeply in the proposition that what we did in Iraq was the right thing to do. It was hard to do. It took a long time. There were significant costs involved.
But we got rid of one of the worst dictators of the 20th century. We took down his government, a man who'd produced and used weapons of mass destruction, a man who'd started two different wars, a man who had a relationship with terror. We're going to have a democracy in Iraq today. We do today. They're going to have another free election this March.
This has been an enormous achievement from the standpoint of peace and stability in the Middle East and ending a threat to the United States. Now, as I say, Joe Biden doesn't believe that. Joe Biden wants to take credit -- I'm not sure for what -- since he opposed that policy pretty much from the outset.
I think the biggest strategic threat the United States faces today is the possibility of another 9/11 with a nuclear weapon or a biological agent of some kind, and I think Al Qaida is out there even as we meet trying to figure out how to do that.
KARL: And do you think that the Obama administration is taking enough serious steps to prevent that?
CHENEY: I think they need to do everything they can to prevent it. And if the mindset is it's not likely, then it's difficult to mobilize the resources and get people to give it the kind of priority that it deserves.
KARL: If you have somebody in custody like Abdulmutallab, after just trying to blow up an airliner, and you think he has information on another attack, I mean, do you think that those enhanced interrogation techniques should have been -- should have been used? I mean, would you -- do you think that he should have been, for instance, subject to everything, including waterboarding?
CHENEY: Well, I think the -- the professionals need to make that judgment. We've got people in -- we had in our administration -- I'm sure they're still there -- many of them were career personnel -- who are expects in this subject. And they are the ones that you ought to turn somebody like Abdulmutallab over to, let them be the judge of whether or not he's prepared to cooperate and how they can best achieve his cooperation.
KARL: But you believe they should have had the option of everything up to and including waterboarding?
CHENEY: I think you ought to have all of those capabilities on the table. Now, President Obama has taken them off the table. He announced when he came in last year that they would never use anything other than the U.S. Army manual, which doesn't include those techniques. I think that's a mistake.
KARL: OK. So -- so was it a mistake when your administration took on the Richard Reid case? This is very similar. This was somebody that was trying to blow up an airliner with a shoe bomb, and he was within five minutes of getting taken off that plane read his Miranda rights, four times, in fact, in 48 hours, and tried through the civilian system. Was that a mistake?
CHENEY: Well, first of all, I believe he was not tried. He pled guilty. They never did end up having a trial.
Secondly, when this came up, as I recall, it was December of '01, just a couple of months after 9/11. We were not yet operational with the military commissions. We hadn't had all the Supreme Court decisions handed down about what we could and couldn't do with the commissions.
I want to come back again to the basic point I tried to make at the outset, John. And up until 9/11, all terrorist attacks were criminal acts. After 9/11, we made the decision that these were acts of war, these were strategic threats to the United States.
Once you make that judgment, then you can use a much broader range of tools, in terms of going after your adversary. You go after those who provide them safe harbor and sanctuary. You go after those who finance and those who provide weapons for them and those who train them. And you treat them as unlawful enemy combatants.
KARL: I'd like to ask you about the big terror case now, which is the KSM trial. The administration very much wants to see the mastermind of 9/11 tried in civilian courts here in the United States. New York has obviously objected.
Do you think that's going to happen? Do you think this will be a civilian trial? Or are they not going to be able to do it?
CHENEY: It looks to me like they're going to have great difficulty doing it in New York. I mean, even the mayor's come out against it now. I think trying Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York's a big -- big mistake. It gives him a huge platform to promulgate his -- his particular brand of propaganda around the world.
I think he ought to be at Guantanamo. I think he ought to be tried at Guantanamo in front of a military commission. They've got difficulties now, because my guess is they don't want to send him back to Guantanamo, because that would validate, if you will, the value of Guantanamo. They're trying to close it, clearly haven't been able to get it done.
But my guess is, in the end, he'll end up being tried in front of a military commission on a military facility some place.
KARL: We're almost out of time. We're going to get you very quickly on a few other subjects. First of all, one more on Palin. Is she qualified to be president?
CHENEY: I haven't made a decision yet on who I'm going to support for president the next time around. Whoever it is, is going to have to prove themselves capable of being president of the United States. And those tests will -- will come during the course of campaigns, obviously. I think -- well, I think all the prospective candidates out there have got a lot of work to do if, in fact, they're going to persuade a majority of Americans that they're ready to take on the world's toughest job.
A reunion between Bush and Cheney is on the schedule for later this month. It will be another reminder about the competent leadership America is currently missing!