MR. GIGOT: Guantanamo's still open, military tribunals of enemy combatants are being pursued. A lot of the things that were very, very contentious in your administration have been maintained. And yet, they're not so controversial now. What do you make of that?
MR. CHENEY: They campaigned against most of those programs. They're reluctant converts. But I think they've made the right decision with respect to Guantanamo. It's still open.
There are reasons why we did what we did, and they're still valid. And I think they've learned, over time, the benefit of that. And I'll give them credit for the enhanced drone program and the fact that they have been very successful in terms of taking out additional targets.
MR. GIGOT: You spent a lot of time on Iran and their nuclear program when you were in office. They are back in the news again with the recent U.N. report that they are pursuing a weapons system. Do you have any doubts that they are intent upon getting a bomb?
MR. CHENEY: I don't. I think they clearly are committed.
MR. GIGOT: Remember in 2007, the national intelligence estimate which said with high confidence that Iran had abandoned their program in 2003. How do we get from 2007 to now 2011 where the U.N. essentially says, "Yes, they have been pursuing it across this whole period"?
MR. CHENEY: I remember when the N.I.E. came out, I was actually confronted by friends of the U.S. who suggested that we had arranged for that finding to alleviate any requirement we might have felt to do something about the Iranian nuclear program. That's not what we were doing.
What the N.I.E. process produced was clearly a flawed result. It, in part, flowed out of the continuing legacy, if you will, of the national intelligence estimate on Iraq [weapons of mass destruction] that turned out to be wrong as well. There's a process that had been adhered to. But it produced a flawed result, without question.
MR. GIGOT: We have news reports that Israel is thinking again about a strike on the Iranian nuclear facilities. You faced a similar situation regarding Syria. From your memoir, I know that the Israeli officials came to you and said, "Here's the intelligence we have about Syria." Tell us how it played out inside the administration.
MR. CHENEY: This would have been early 2007. We acquired intelligence that said the North Koreans had assisted the Syrians in building a nuclear reactor in eastern Syria. We, I, had great confidence that this was good intelligence. I advocated a course of action that would have involved a military strike by the U.S. to take it out.
It was a target all by itself in the desert. There wasn't likely to be any collateral damage. The reactor had not yet been fueled, so there wasn't likely to be any radioactive fallout. It was a very doable proposition.
The decision was made not to do that. The president was reluctant. Partly, there were doubts about, "How good's the intelligence?" Again, part of the legacy of the earlier failures on Iraq WMD.
The Israelis decided they'd take it out, and they did. It worked perfectly. There was never any word at that time. It was a great opportunity for us to demonstrate to the Iranians that we were prepared to use military force, if necessary, to block proliferation or the acquisition of a terrorist-sponsoring state of nuclear capability. Unfortunately, I lost the argument.
MR. GIGOT: Do you have any doubt that if the Israelis conclude the U.S. will not act militarily against Iran, they will strike on their own?
MR. CHENEY: I think there's a very good possibility that the Israelis view this as a fundamental threat to their existence and that they will act.
MR. GIGOT: If you were president, what would you do to dissuade them?
MR. CHENEY: I'm not sure I would. If they decide they need to do that, I would like to think the U.S. would be supportive.
Glenn Greenwald, commenting on Cheney's lavish praise of Obama wrote the following a few hours ago:
Along with most neocon figures from the Bush era, Cheney has lavished Obama with praise before for his Terrorism and civil liberties policies, but this is the first time that he so graciously expressed his gratitude for being fully shielded for his crimes. Indeed, we should all be grateful, because as President Obama has taught us (though not the Indonesians) — and just as Chancellor Katehi today teaches — the only way we can begin healing and moving forward is if we all band together to shield those in power (but nobody else) from the consequences of their wrongdoing.Greenwald is so right about this. One of the commenters at one of the two previous post (I have hours of papers still to grade) linked Iraq War apologist Jonathan Chait about why Obama is such a transformationally positive figure in American politics. Greenwald goes after Chait (and other anti-Democracy American exceptionalism apologists) as well as Cheney:
Jonathan Chait, whose career (like the magazine that long employed him) has been devoted to complaining that liberals are so unreasonable and unSerious (that is when he and his magazine wern’t cheerleading for the Iraq War and vowing to re-make the Democratic Party in the image of Joe Lieberman), today complains that liberals are so unreasonable because they don’t swoon for Obama the way he does; maybe Chait could ask Dick Cheney to explain to him why this is so. Meanwhile, Andrew Sullivan today observes that Chait, David Frum and himself all adore Obama and believe he has done an absolutely superb job, and just cannot for the life of him understand why many liberals don’t share this sentiment. Aside from the fact that the question sort of answers itself — is it really baffling that a President viewed with such adoration by David Frum, Andrew Sullivan and the permanently-New-Republick-ed Jonathan Chait doesn’t provoke the same level of giddiness among many liberals? — perhaps Sullivan also could ask Dick Cheney to explain this to him, or ask Tom Friedman, Morris Davis, Jack Goldsmith, Anthony Romero, Paul Krugman, Eric Schneiderman, or this consensus of experts (or, for that matter, Andrew Sullivan or Andrew Sullivan).Go, Glenzilla!