Talking with Dick Cheney
Vice-President Cheney's book, In My Time, is an insightful autobiography. It chronicles his perspective on events in which he played a significant role over the last forty years. It is not written like a textbook; in fact the prologue reads like a Vince Flynn political thriller novel. American Thinker interviewed Mr. Cheney about his book and policies.
The first third of the book is devoted to his upbringing, his failure at Yale, his DUI arrests, and his early years in government. These chapters show how his political attitude and character were shaped by experiences such as his job as an electric ground worker, that "cultivated competence and taking pride in your performance," to being inspired by President Kennedy who visited the University of Wyoming in Laramie and told the crowd that satisfaction can come from working for the public good which helps build a better nation and world.
It was interesting to read how he was influenced by the different positions he held through out the four decades. As a Congressman from Wyoming, he found that public service was satisfying; as President Ford's White House Chief of Staff, he achieved his "big break" and developed life long friendships; as President Bush 41's Secretary of Defense, he saw the importance of team work and cohesiveness which led to the victory in Desert Storm, and as Vice-President where he transformed the position by becoming one of President Bush 43's most trusted advisors. He commented to American Thinker that both he and George W. Bush decided when "he asked me to serve as his VP, that it would be different than earlier Vice-Presidents."
American Thinker spoke with various sources about some of the controversies that emerged since the book has been published, and found that what the Vice-President said was true. He recounts the disputes he had with Colin Powell and Joe Wilson, but he never gets personal, just cites the facts. Mr. Cheney said in the book that Powell was attuned to public approval by seeming "more comfortable talking about the poll numbers than he was recommending military options." This statement seems to be confirmed, since Powell was described to American Thinker as "a manipulator, who leaked information to build up his image and make himself popular. At times he made decisions based on popular sentiment."
Regarding Joe Wilson, Valerie Plame's husband, Mr. Cheney wrote that the press was wrong in supporting Wilson, who asserted that the VP must have been briefed by the CIA. Wilson, as reported in the press, further accused Mr. Cheney's aide, Scooter Libby, of outing his wife, Valerie Plame. The sources agreed with the Vice-President that it was Rich Armitage, Colin Powell's aide who first leaked the information, that both Armitage and Libby wrongly assumed that Plame was not an overt employee, that the CIA Director at the time, George Tenet did not know Wilson was an envoy, and that Wilson only spoke with "the low levels at the counter proliferation division and went public for political reasons."
The latter part of the book is devoted to the War on Terror policies of the Bush Administration, including Guantanamo, trying the terrorists, interrogations, the greatness of the US military, and the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. The interview below with Vice-President Cheney discusses these issues. The reader will find that Mr. Cheney is unapologetic in his defense of these policies. He told American Thinker, "There is so much misinformation out there about the techniques and so forth. There are a lot of bad vibrations floating through the atmosphere. I was called the VP for torture. A lot of this was downright irresponsible. The interrogations produced the desired results of securing the nation, saving American lives, and preventing future attacks." A former high-ranking CIA official concurs stating, "enhanced interrogation produced credible information and that only a few were ever harshly interrogated. Torture was never authorized."
The book highlights Mr. Cheney as an avid family man, as he talks about the love and admiration he has for his wife, two daughters, many grandchildren, and dog. These feelings come across as he describes, in the book, his daughter Liz, who was his "collaborator and the CEO of our book team...It is a rare blessing to have a reason to spend so many hours of quality time telling your daughter about your life and work." In addition, his detailed descriptive recap of how the Kerry-Edwards campaign had a concerted effort to "remind viewers my daughter Mary was gay, to bring her into the debate and the campaign. I don't recall another instance of a candidate for the presidency attempting to use the child of an opponent for political gain." He told American Thinker about this issue, "I always believe very strongly in supporting my daughter Mary and letting her know how much we love her and what an important part of the family she is. Mary ran my 2004 Vice-Presidential campaign, and although she had some differences with the way the Administration treated this issue, she worked darn hard to get us re-elected. We never let it get in the middle of our relationship." His softer side, rarely seen, also comes across as he told the funny story, in the book, of his lab Dave's confrontation with President Bush's dog Barney.
This book offers a detailed description of Mr. Cheney's life. Eventually, history will see that the Vice-President as portrayed in the book, In My Time, had character, tried to do the right thing, and will be vindicated for what he supported and advised. This is an informative book where Vice-President Cheney makes a powerful case in defending his beliefs.
The following is the rest of the interview with Vice-President Cheney:
American Thinker (AT): In commenting about your book President Bush did not seem to be to concerned with the criticism when he said, "I'm glad members of my family are giving their version of what it was like to serve our country." How would you describe your relationship with the President, as a trusted advisor?
Vice-President Cheney (VP Cheney): The events of 9/11 had a significant impact as to how we worked together and I was proud to be part of his administration. There is no question that our relationship was solidified and enhanced by what we went through together.
AT: Do you think the media is out of touch with how the American people regard the enhanced interrogation techniques?
VP Cheney: I am glad you asked this. What I find as I get around the country and talk to people is that they overwhelmingly support the proposition of enhanced interrogation. Especially when you explain to them what it is you are talking about, what was done. A lot of folks have gone through training that included these techniques. Somehow that never got through and certainly the critics never mentioned it. There is this notion that hundreds of people have been put through waterboarding and that it was somehow torture. The fact of the matter is that there were only three people ever waterboarded.
AT: Do you think those critics of enhanced interrogation do not understand the circumstances surrounding the time shortly after 9/11?
VP Cheney: There can be a debate with those people who did not want to see us waterboard KSM and the two others, but if you take that position, fine, but then tell me what intelligence you were willing to give up or whose life were you going to sacrifice in order to be true to your beliefs. I think the vast majority of American people would say waterboard them and supported it. I would eventually like to run a campaign against candidates on the other side of the issue. I think those of us that believe in putting Americans first in terms of protecting and safe guarding American lives would win that kind of a competition hands down.
AT: How do you answer the criticism against enhanced interrogation, that America's enemies will do it to our intelligence officers and military?
VP Cheney: They will not waterboard them, they will cut their heads off. For example, when I was the ranking Republican back in the 1980's on the Iran-Contra Committee, Buckley was the CIA station chief in Beirut. He was tortured in a terrible way and ultimately very brutally murdered by his captors.
AT: Did you intend to have your prologue read like Vince Flynn's book Transfer of Power?
VP Cheney: We were not trying to imitate Vince Flynn although I think Vince is a good writer. He really picks up on reality. The drama was built-in because those were the kind of events we had to deal with. Occasionally I read fiction, not only Vince, but Dan Silva as well. They write good stuff. 9/11 is one of those times when the real world events can exceed anything you can imagine.
AT: I think about the regimes in Syria and Pakistan, and the former regime in Libya and how a new government formed could be extremist and acquire WMD's. Should I be concerned?
VP Cheney: You are right to be concerned about it. Even before 9/11 that was one of my biggest concerns. I did an interview in the Spring of '01 where I said that I thought the biggest threat we faced was the possibility of terrorists acquiring WMD's. I think that is still very much the case today. One of the things I think we did well in the first term was taking down Saddam Hussein so he was never again going to be in a position where he can produce and use this stuff as he had previously. When we took Hussein down, Muammar Gaddafi got religion and decided he did not want to be next, so he surrendered all of his material and designs that he acquired from a guy named A. Q. Khan, the father of the Pakistani nuclear program. Khan went into business for himself, black market sales of nuclear technology, where the Libyans were his biggest customers. We were able to take down those threats. It was a great success. However, we obviously did not get it all because North Korea continues to be a problem.
AT: Do you think some in the administration became 'gun shy' which is why they were not harsher with North Korea, Syria, and Iran?
VP Cheney: The North Koreans, all of a sudden, had built a reactor for the Syrians. Now the North Koreans were in the business of building weapons. All of a sudden you have a big problem that exists out there that we have not yet dealt with and that in particular is North Korea. One of the reasons why I advocated taking out the Syrian reactor was that it would send a very strong signal, not only to the Syrians and North Koreans, but it would also send a very strong signal to the Iranians. This would have showed we meant business. By falling back on diplomacy we did not get any of the side benefits that would have demonstrated that the US is putting a red line down and people would understand they could not cross it.
AT: I thought you had a great quote in the book, "Rather than compromising on policies that were in our national interest out of concern that we would offend other nations, we should do what served our security best..." Can you explain it?
VP Cheney: I was a strong advocate of preserving the military option against Iran. One of the problems I came up against, which I write about in my book, is that some of my colleagues did not share my view. Bob Gates, after he became Secretary of Defense, told the Saudis that President Bush could not be involved in taking out the nuclear program because he would be impeached. That was a unilateral move to take the military option off the table. One I thought that was unwise and inappropriate.
AT: You quoted Henry Kissinger saying this about troop withdrawals in Iraq, "Withdrawals are like salted peanuts, once you start you can't stop." Does this apply to Afghanistan as well?
VP Cheney: It does. President Obama made the right decision when he surged forces in Afghanistan, but the understanding was it was going to be for two fighting seasons. In that part of the world you have to be very careful because you can only launch fighting situations during certain times of the year, otherwise the weather gets too rough. After having announced he was putting the troops in he has now announced that he is going to take out a good portion of the surge troops, in the middle of the next fighting season. The only reason to do that is politics; to be able to say before the election next fall that he has withdrawn troops from Afghanistan. I think that is a big mistake.
AT: Do you think the terrorists should be tried in military commissions?
VP Cheney: Yes. We ended up in a situation in which the Supreme Court reversed the earlier decision. Once the court got involved that delayed everything because we had to go back to Congress and get approval. It took a large amount of time to try to sort it all out. We are beyond the point now where it makes any sense for there to be any further delays. I think we need to get on with the business of bringing these people to trial.
AT: My older son is gay and he asked me, 'mom how can you support the Republicans who treat gays as pariahs?' Don't you think the Republican Presidential candidates should concentrate on more important issues?
VP Cheney: Yeah. I made a statement in my first debate with Joe Lieberman, which explains my general philosophy: We believe in freedom and that has to mean freedom for everybody. You should not treat anybody with anything other than complete respect. The notion that somehow we are going to discriminate against any particular group in our society is not what we are about as Americans. My daughter Mary basically takes the approach that the Republicans are not perfect but the Democrats are way off the field when it comes to a whole range of other issues.
AT: Thank you for your time and insight.