More than five years after leaving office, former US Vice President Dick Cheney sees the world in bad shape, especially the Middle East, and he blames President Obama (again) for most of it.
Crises in Syria, Iraq, Israel and the Palestinian territories, Ukraine and elsewhere, nuclear capabilities of Iran soon, rapid spread of terrorism: “I don’t like what I see happening”, Cheney said at a lunch hosted by Politico Magazine at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Monday.
For Cheney, Obama with his lackluster leadership is the prime suspect responsible for this mess. “He has created a situation in which our friends in the region are scared to death”, Cheney said, quoting Israeli and Arab “friends I have known for 25 years.”
Also speaking were Cheney’s wife Lynne and his daughter Liz. Just minutes into the conversation, things got nasty in the packed ballroom.
Protesters disrupted the on-stage event, shouting that Cheney needed to be held accountable for the war in Iraq.
“Dick Cheney — war criminal!” one woman shouted, holding a pink sign and handcuffs. The moderator tried to move on, but the woman continued shouting. “You destroyed Iraq, you’ll destroy this country!” and “Dick Cheney should be arrested!”
The woman, who belonged to the anti-war group Code Pink, was eventually escorted out by security agents. But just minutes later, other activists sitting in the audience repeated her protest.
Despite these awkward moments, the Cheneys stuck to their talking points during the discussion.
The former Vice President defended the Bush administration’s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, calling it “absolutely the right thing to do”. President Obama inherited a stable situation in that country from the Bush administration, but his desire for a full withdrawal of US troops has led to the situation today, Cheney said.
Cheney weighed in heavily on that decision by Obama, deriding him for believing he “can go in and declare the war is over.”
“I don’t think Obama ever had any intention of leaving anybody behind,” he added, saying that he thought Obama wasn’t fully committed to a Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq given his desire to get all troops out.
Cheney also ripped Obama for having “dramatically reduced the military,” and called cuts at the Pentagon “outrageous.” He then made a call for the next president to rebuild the military.
“Turn around the whole trend with the United State military,” Cheney said. “That ought to be our top priority for spending. Not food stamps, not highways, or anything else. Your number one responsibility as president is to support and defend the Constitution of the United States. He’s the commander-in-chief and he’s absolutely devastating the United States military today.”
Cheney has been harshly critical of the current administration’s foreign policy throughout Obama’s presidency, and has chimed in recently over the deteriorating situation in Iraq, where militants from the Islamic State of Syria and the Levant have taken over much of the northern and central parts of the country.
Cheney’s recent remarks and the creation of a political action committee to help advance his daughter Liz’ political ambitions have sparked a barrage of attacks from his political opponents and the media.
“When the Cheneys urge more of the same, it isn’t just as if they’ve missed the last decade, it’s also as if they never learned about opportunity costs. America should never again heed the foreign-policy advice of such incompetent analysts”, wrote The Atlantic monthly.