Once again, CNN
Cheney told Burnett:
The right response to that would have been to go in immediately after it had gone down and destroy it. You can do that from the air. You can do that with a quick airstrike, and in effect make it impossible for them to benefit from having captured that drone. I was told that the president had three options on his desk. He rejected all of them. […]
They all involved sending somebody in to try to recover it, or if you can’t do that, admittedly that would be a difficult operation, you certainly could have gone in and destroyed it on the ground with an airstrike. But he didn’t take any of the options. He asked for them to return it. And they aren’t going to do that.
The former vice president has been insulting Obama since Inauguration Day, insisting his policies will make the country “less safe.” Two months into his administration, Cheney charged that the new president “is making some choices that, in my mind, will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack.” He’s accused Obama of “half measures” and “dithering” on foreign policy. And more than once he’s criticized the president for not taking a tougher stance on Iran.
Even after Obama authorized the successful mission to kill Osama bin Laden, who Bush and Cheney essentially let run free thanks to their discretionary war with Iraq, Cheney wasn’t happy. “I still am concerned about the fact that I think a lot of the techniques that we had used to keep the country safe for more than seven years are no longer available. That they’ve been sort of taken off the table, if you will.”
So Cheney’s carping is nothing new. But suggesting that the president launch “a quick airstrike” to retrieve the downed drone is ridiculous, even for Cheney. There’s no such thing. Cheney has to know that any new U.S. incursion, following on the drone discovery, would sharply escalate tension with Iran, and to do that to recover a drone isn’t at all worth the risk.
It was left to CBS Early Show co-anchor Rebecca Jarvis this morning to ask the follow-up question Burnett did not: “Would not, though, an airstrike on Iran have potentially led us into a war with them?” Cheney replied:
Well, if you look at what Iran has done over the years, they’ve been the prime backers of Hezbollah, of Hamas, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983 that cost us 241 American lives. These were Iranian-supported ventures. It’s not as though they haven’t already committed acts that some people would say come close to being acts of war.
For us to go in and take out the drone that crashed would have been, I think, a fairly simple operation, and it would have denied them the value of the intelligence they can collect by having that aircraft,” he said. “But the administrative basically limited itself to saying, ‘Please give it back,’ and the Iranians said no.
ThinkProgress made a good catch: When a U.S. spy plane ventured into Chinese airspace in April 2001 and crashed with a Chinese fighter jet, the Bush-Cheney administration wound up apologizing in order to get 11 soldiers released from Chinese custody. They didn’t send in “a quick airstrike.”
For the record, Cheney sounded bullish on Newt Gingrich in 2012, though he hasn’t endorsed anyone formally. “I wouldn’t underestimate him,” Cheney said, praising Gingrich’s political skills. “The thing I remember about Newt, we came to Congress together at the same time, ’78, and when Newt showed up, he said, ‘We can become the majority. We can take back the House of Representatives. We hadn’t had the House since the 1940s. And initially, none of us believed it, but he was persistent. And he was tenacious. He kept it up and kept it up and kept it up. And finally by ’94, he’s the newly elected speaker of the House of Representatives with a Republican majority.” Cheney declined to describe the way Gingrich crashed and burned in the years that followed. You’ve got to count that among the nicest things anyone who’s worked with Gingrich has said about him during the whole campaign. Stay tuned.