[This article was originally the cover story in the October 10 issue of HUMAN EVENTS newspaper.]
At the October 3 White House press briefing, reporters twice asked Press Secretary Jay Carney to respond to former Vice President Dick Cheney’s call on the Obama Administration to apologize for accusing the Bush-Cheney White House of overreacting to the 9/11 attacks, since, Cheney said, those policies contributed to the September 30 killing of Al Qaeda leader Anwar Al-Awlaki.
In his replay, Carney played the torture card.
“Well, we certainly don’t owe an apology for the fact that under this administration’s policy, this President’s policy, the United States of America does not torture, does not engage in torture. It’s simply a flat-out position of this President that that’s unacceptable,” he said.
In what seems to be White House communications SOP, Carney pretended to misunderstand the question and avoided reference to his boss’ June 4, 2009, speech in Egypt.
Hyped as the President’s address to the Muslim world, a key thrust of the speech was Obama’s reference to his predecessor’s mistakes.
“And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals,” the President said.
Read that again: Fear and anger led us to act contrary to our principles.
The leader of the free world continued: “We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.”
Carney knows the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay continues to operate and he also must know that the Obama Administration has exploited information gathered from sources and methods the Obama crowd has decried.
Rather than come clean, Carney doubled down.
“I think I made clear that if, specifically, he’s saying that there’s an apology called for because of measures that were taken that this President absolutely does not believe is the right way to go, he’s not going to apologize,” he said. “This administration, this President, have been able, quite effectively, to wage–take the fight to al Qaeda, keep the pressure on al Qaeda, remove leaders of al Qaeda from the battlefield and be very effective about it without having to resort to measures that we don’t think are the right way to go. So, we just disagree on that point.”
No Effective Interrogation
In an exclusive interview with HUMAN EVENTS, Cheney took the time to lay out his concerns about the Obama Administration’s approach to national security and noted why, in fact, an apology is in order.
“I have not been enthusiastic about the ways they have gone about their counter-terrorism responsibilities, said Cheney, who in addition to serving as Vice-President to President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2009 was also a White House chief of staff, a secretary of Defense and a congressman from his home state of Wyoming.
“They have gotten a couple of things right,” he said.
Cheney is pleased that some in this administration, such as then-CIA Director Leon Panetta, were vocal about the intelligence platform used by Obama, but built by Bush-Cheney, he said.
“Panetta said some of the information we got from enhanced interrogation provided key pieces of information that were useful in getting them off and running and getting after the couriers that Bin Laden was using,” he said. “That’s acceptable.”
The former Vice President is worried that after working through leads and cases built during his time in the White House, the current occupants are not using all the tools available to them to build new cases.
“The thing I worry about is that they don’t have an effective interrogation program in place,” he said.
“If they did capture somebody—what would they do with him?” he asked.
“It’s all not clear to me. They said when they cancelled our program, they would have a new program, but I have not seen any evidence of it. Just bold talk,” Cheney said.
“They got Osama Bin Laden, that’s all to the good, but part of that was made possible by the good work that a lot of professionals did on our watch in terms of tracking down the intelligence that eventually led to the capture of Bin Laden,” he said.
A report by the New America Foundation “The Year of the Drone,” gives lie to the claim that, unlike Bush, Obama was willing to use drones to kill our enemies inside Pakistan. The report shows that between 2004 and 2008, the Bush-Cheney Administration launched 42 individual such attacks compared Obama’s 53 in 2009 and 118 in 2010.
There is no question of an uptick under Obama that is more likely to be a function of advances in technology than any other factor. If the charge is that Obama used drones and Bush did not, that charge fails. If anything, it is another example of Obama’s carrying on policies in place when he took over.
“They are using drones effectively, but again, if they captured a high-value target, it is not clear to me that they have the capacity to exploit those resources,” Cheney said.
There are few charges that so strike to the heart of the Bush-Cheney legacy. That administration is defined by its Global War on Terror, but then in the 2000 election campaign it was hardly mentioned as an issue.
“It is true of all administrations, that each one ends up with a unique set of problems to deal with,” Cheney said.
“We took over in 2000, and the President had campaigned on a program focused on domestic issues: Tax policy, No Child Left Behind, immigration and then, all of sudden, 9/11 hit and it all changed dramatically,” he said.
“We had to get to a lot of other stuff, but it took a tremendous amount time and effort keeping the nation safe,” he said.
Cheney is not a lone voice.
Prof. Tim Groseclose, who teaches political science at the University of California at Los Angeles, said he agrees with Cheney’s call for an apology.
“If anyone was acting like a renegade cowboy, ignoring the rule of law, it was Obama, not Bush. I think Cheney’s justified in asking for an apology,” he said.
“It is pretty remarkable when you compare the al-Awlaki and Kahlid Sheik Mohammed cases,” said the professor, whose most recent book, Left Turn: How Liberal Media Bias Distorts the American Mind, was released in July.
“First, the Bush Administration was kinder to Mohammed than the Obama administration was to al-Awlaki. After all, I think most people would rather be water-boarded than killed,” he said.
“Second, if anyone acted overly legalistic, it was the Bush Administration, not the Obama Administration. For instance, when the U.S. nabbed Mohammed, he had already been indicted by a U.S. court. Nothing like that was true for Awlaki,” the professor said.
“Third, the Bush Administration has been more transparent. We actually know who wrote the memos justifying water-boarding. To this day, one of the writers, John Yoo, is still harassed by left-wing protestors. Meanwhile, supposedly at least one lawyer in the Obama Justice Department wrote a memo justifying the killing of Awlaki. But Obama hasn’t released the memo. Nor do we know who wrote the memo.”
Army Maj. Gen. Jerry J. Curry, who retired in 1985 as the deputy commanding general of the Frankfurt, Germany-based V Corps, said in his conversations with current and retired general officers, that there was agreement that the Bush-Cheney response to the September 11 Attacks was correct.
“These were bad people and there was no question in our mind what had happened and what should happen, he said. “Our question was: What would be the response?”
A friend of Bush’s parents, Curry said he knew from his background that Bush would do the right thing—a view shared by his fellow generals. “We were all very pleased to see that Bush took a strong position.”
Obama’s Failed Leadership
Obama’s criticism of the Bush-Cheney Administration and failure to share credit for successes is a failure of leadership.
“I accept the fact that Obama has a lot of problems, but he wanted this job and he fought for this job,” he said.
Curry said every Army officer understands that taking command means ownership.
“When you walk in to take over you become the boss of everything,” he said. “You are responsible for everything that it does and fails to do, for everything it did or failed to do in the past.”
“There is no question that if President Bush did not build up the military infrastructure, we would not have it now,” he said. “If it was up to Obama, Obama would not build it,” he said.
It is not only the generals who were satisfied with Bush’s response to the Sept. 11 Attacks.
A Marine veteran of the 2003 liberation of the Iraqi people, Kieran M. Lalor, says he was proud to be part of the Bush-Cheney Global War on Terror.
Lalor founded the political action committee Afghanistan & Iraq Veterans for Congress and is currently a candidate for the New York State Assembly from the 102nd District.
“First of all, Obama owes the previous administration a ‘thank you’ for putting all of the right policies in place,” he said.
“Number two, he owes an apology for the entire campaign of 2008 and before that for when those policies were derided and were the focus of liberal outrage for years and years,” he says.
The former machine-gunner, who saw action around the Southern Iraqi city of Nasiriyah against Iraqi soldiers defending Saddam’s regime, says it is tough for Obama to claim he has done anything on his own.
“President Obama has very few accomplishments, but being President while Osama Bin Laden was killed by Navy SEALs was maybe his sole accomplishment and that would never have been possible but for all those policies that were put in place by the Bush-Cheney White House,” he says. “All those policies led to that great evening in May when we found out that Bin Laden was no longer among the living,”
There is one other man Obama and Carney should pay attention to: Dale Carnegie. In his book “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” Carnegie wrote that if you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
For an administration quickly losing both friends and influence, it might be time for the president to pick up the phone and dial a man in Texas and a man in Wyoming.