Rand Paul Defends President Obama From Dick Cheney

by Joel Gehrke

Sen. Rand Paul (R., Ky.) defended President Obama from former vice president Dick Cheney’s critiques of his policy in Iraq, saying that he faults Cheney and the rest of President George W. Bush’s team for launching an invasion of Iraq that ultimately strengthened Iran.

“What’s going on now, I don’t blame on President Obama,” Paul told NBC’s David Gregory. “But I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who were for the Iraq war for emboldening Iran.”

Paul explained that “Iran is much more of a threat because of the Iraq war than they were before. Before, there was a standoff between Sunnis and Shiites; now, there is Iranian hegemony throughout the region.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) made a similar point while dismissing Secretary of State John Kerry’s suggestion that the United States could collaborate with Iran on a response to the militants now storming Iraq. Pelosi, noting that Saddam Hussein’s regime was a counterweight to Iran in the region, said that Iran is now ”free and clear because we took out their main check.”

Fox News’ Megyn Kelly raked Cheney over the coals for the mistakes made in the lead-up and during the Iraq War.

“But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir,” Kelly told him.  “You said there were no doubts Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.  You said we would greeted as liberators.  You said the Iraq insurgency was in the last throes back in 2005.  And you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to, quote, ‘rethink their strategy of Jihad.’  Now with almost a trillion dollars spent there with 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say, you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?” 

Cheney responded that no one, in the lead-up to the invasion, doubted that Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. “We had a situation where if we — after 9/11, we were concerned about a follow-up  attack, it would involve not just airline tickets and box cutters as the weapons, but rather something far deadlier, perhaps even a nuclear weapon,” he said.

Paul has hit Cheney over his support for the Iraq War before.  ”I think there’s at least the appearance and the chance of a conflict of interest,” Paul said of Cheney’s work with Halliburton. ”And in his case, there was a policy of thinking it was a bad idea to invade Baghdad — then going to work in private for a contractor, coming back and now saying it was good. I don’t know what his thought process is, and I’m not trying to say. I’m just saying there’s an appearance that there could be a conflict of interest.”

The comment was made in 2009, but didn’t receive much attention until Mother Jones published the video in April, at which point Paul emphasized that he didn’t believe Cheney supported the war in order to benefit his old company.

“The point I was trying to make is one similar to one Eisenhower made,” Paul told Business Insider. ”He said that the military-industrial complex — beware, because then they could be influencing policy by people who make money off government contracts. I wasn’t intending really to impugn his personal motives. I think he is a patriot as much as anyone else, and wants what’s best for the country. I don’t always agree with him, but I don’t question his motives.”

Charles Krauthammer explains how Obama bears responsibility for failing to secure a status of forces agreement that would have helped prevent the current instability by leaving United States forces in Iraq.

“David Petraeus had won the war. Obama’s one task was to conclude a status-of-forces agreement (SOFA) to solidify the gains. By Obama’s own admission — in the case he’s now making for a status-of-forces agreement with Afghanistan — such agreements are necessary ‘because after all the sacrifices we’ve made, we want to preserve the gains’ achieved by war,” Krauthammer wrote. “Which is what made his failure to do so in Iraq so disastrous. His excuse was his inability to get immunity for U.S. soldiers. Nonsense. Bush had worked out a compromise in his 2008 SOFA, as we have done with allies everywhere. The real problem was Obama’s reluctance to maintain any significant presence in Iraq.”