Former vice president Dick Cheney on Sunday called last week’s CIA drone strike against al-Qaeda operative Anwar Awlaki a validation of the George W. Bush administration’s terrorist-fighting strategy, and said that President Obama should apologize for his past criticism of those policies.
Cheney endorsed the killing of Awlaki as “justified,” despite Awlaki’s U.S. citizenship, and suggested that the Obama White House was being hypocritical when it approved a deadly strike against the New Mexico-born Awlaki while condemning Bush’s use of so-called enhanced interrogation methods of al-Qaeda prisoners.
“They’ve agreed they need to be tough and aggressive in defending the nation and using some of the same techniques that the Bush administration did,” Cheney said on CNN’s Sunday talk show “State of the Nation with Candy Crowley.” “And they need, as I say, to go back and reconsider some of the criticisms they offered about our policies.”
The Obama administration defended its decision to kill Awlaki, the first U.S. citizen to be added to the CIA’s target list, saying the al-Qaeda propagandist was part of a terrorist organization actively planning attacks on the United States. A Justice Department memo providing legal justification for the strike concluded that Awlaki was not entitled to normal legal protections because he was a combatant in a war against Americans.
But that reasoning rankled Cheney, who noted that Obama had criticized Bush-era decisions that justified the harsh treatment of al-Qaeda prisoners.
“They, in effect, said that we had walked away from our ideals, or taken policy contrary to our ideals, when we had enhanced interrogation techniques,” said Cheney, who has acknowledged supporting the Bush-era use of secret prisons and waterboarding for al-Qaeda suspects. “Now they clearly have moved in the direction of taking robust action when they think it is justified.”
Asked by host Crowley if he would like an apology, he replied: “Well, I would.”
But Cheney said that the Awlaki hit “was a good strike.”
On the same broadcast, the former head of the House Intelligence Committee called on the White House to release the legal memos justifying the use of lethal force against Awlaki. Former Rep. Jane Harman (D-Calif.) said Obama should allow a public debate about the legal basis for its fight against terrorism, avoiding what she said was excessive secrecy under Bush and Cheney.
Of Cheney’s request for an apology, she said: “I think Vice President Cheney has a rather thin skin for a guy who has been in the partisan wars as long as he has.”