Former Vice President Dick Cheney fired back Sunday after Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) criticised his position on Iraq. In an appearance on ABC’s “This Week,” Cheney argued Paul, who is widely seen as a potential presidential candidate in 2016, is an “isolationist” who doesn’t understand the “absolutely essential” need for America to be involved in the Middle East.
“Now, Rand Paul and — by my standards, as I look at his — his philosophy, is basically an isolationist. That didn’t work in the 1930s, it sure as heck won’t work in the aftermath of 9/11, when 19 guys armed with airline tickets and box cutters came all the way from Afghanistan and killed 3,000 of our citizens,” Cheney said, according to a rush transcript of the show.
Paul addressed Cheney’s position on Iraq in an interview with NBC that aired on “Meet The Press” Sunday. In that interview, Paul critiqued a Wall Street Journal op-ed written by Cheney and his daughter, Liz, that was critical of President Barack Obama’s foreign policy and handling of the crisis in Iraq. The Cheneys said Obama’s “rhetoric” about ending the Iraq War had “come crashing into reality” after troop withdrawals were followed by jihadists from the group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIS) taking territory in the country. Paul argued Cheney and others who supported the Iraq War were primarily to blame for many of the current issues in the Middle East.
“What’s going on now — I don’t blame on President Obama. Has he really got the solution? Maybe there is no solution. But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East,” Paul said. “I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran. These are the same people now who are petrified of what Iran may become, and I understand some of their worry.”
Cheney faced similar criticism of his op-ed in an appearance on Fox News Wednesday where host Megyn Kelly told him, “Time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well, sir.”
On ABC, Cheney dismissed Paul’s argument as overly focused on the past.
“If we spend our time debating what happened 11 or 12 years ago, we’re going to miss the threat that is growing and that we do face. Rand Paul, with all due respect, is basically an isolationist. He doesn’t believe we ought to be involved in that part of the world. I think it’s absolutely essential,” said Cheney. “One of the things I worried about 12 years ago and that I worry about today is that there will be another 9/11 attack and that the next time, it will be with weapons far deadlier than airline tickets and box cutters.”
In light of the debate sparked by his op-ed, ABC’s Jonathan Karl also pressed Cheney to articulate his own policy solutions for the crisis in Iraq. Cheney responded by arguing we should have left a force “behind” in Iraq rather than withdrawing. He also suggested President Obama was not currently sending enough troops into the country and should be helping rebels in Syria who could fight ISIS.
“What I would do now, John, is, among other things, be realistic about the nature of the threat. When we’re arguing over 300 advisers when the request had been for 20,000 in order to do the job right, I’m not sure we’ve really addressed the problem. I would definitely be helping the resistance up in Syria, in ISIS’ backyard, with training and weapons and so forth, in order to be able to do a more effective job on that end of the party,” Cheney said. “But I think at this point, there are no good, easy answers in Iraq. And, again, I think it’s very important to emphasise that the problem we’re faced with is a much broader one.”
Democrats were clearly not satisfied with Cheney’s comments. Shortly after his appearance, the Democratic National Committee issued a press release dismissing Cheney’s positions as “cowboy diplomacy.”
“All these years later, Mr. Cheney is still unable to admit the failures of his Administration’s foreign policy which are still reverberating in the Middle East today. Cheney’s latest diatribes are no substitute for a thoughtful foreign policy that puts the American people’s interests first,” DNC Press Secretary Michael Czin said. “The fact is, today’s Republican Party either longs for the days of go-it-alone, Cowboy diplomacy that Mr. Cheney champions or would have America fully retreat into isolationism, abandoning our allies and obligations around the world.”
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