Despite what people might think, Dick Cheney does not reflexively oppose everything Barack Obama does. In fact, the former VP spoke to CNN’s Candy Crowley in support of the strike that killed Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan, American citizens that joined al-Qaeda to support terrorist attacks against the US. Cheney told Crowley that Obama acted appropriately and made a correct wartime decision — and then said that perhaps Obama might want to apologize for not recognizing that as a candidate when attacking George Bush for doing the same thing:
Cheney took particular issue with the administration’s reluctance to describe the fight against al Qaeda as a “war” and Obama’s 2009 speech in Cairo where he walked back from many Bush administration policies.
“The thing I’m waiting for is for the administration to go back and correct something they said two years ago when they criticized us for ‘overreacting’ to the events of 9/11,” said Cheney. “They, in effect, said that we had walked away from our ideals, or taken policies contrary to our ideals when we had enhanced interrogation techniques.”
“Now they clearly had moved in the direction of taking robust action when they feel it is justified. I say in this case I think it was, but I think they need to go back and reconsider what the president said when he was in Cairo,” he added.
“If you’ve got the president of the United States out there saying we overreacted to 9/11 on our watch, that’s not good,” said Cheney.
When asked by CNN host Candy Crowley if Cheney expected an apology from the president, the former vice president said, “Well, I would. I think that would be not for me, but I think for the Bush administration, and that he misspoke when he gave that speech in Cairo two years ago.”
I want to clarify one point that seems to have been lost in the debate over the strike on Awlaki and Khan, which is that we’re not at war just because Obama, Cheney, or George Bush said we are. Congress authorized the use of military force against al-Qaeda, wherever it exists and whomever belongs in it:
SEC. 2. AUTHORIZATION FOR USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES.
(a) IN GENERAL- That the President is authorized to use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, in order to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or persons.
(b) War Powers Resolution Requirements-
(1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.
(2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supercedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.
By joining al-Qaeda, especially after the adoption of the AUMF, Awlaki and Khan made themselves targets at war. They became specific targets because of their success in waging war against the US — again, as defined by Congress in 2001 — and that does not obligate the US to treat them differently than any other officers or leaders of an entity waging war against us. And as the AUMF explicitly states, one of the primary purposes of this AUMF is to prevent future attacks of the kind that Awlaki was planning and for which Khan was recruiting.
Will Cheney get his apology? Undoubtedly not, but in fairness, Obama wasn’t really talking about this precise scenario when he criticized the Bush administration’s policies in the war, either. Obama should be apologizing for his accusations that Bush and Cheney refused to engage with Congress on military matters, which wasn’t true at all but is most certainly true of Obama in his handling of Libya this year. They won’t get that apology, either.