Cheney advocated attack on Iran, but Bush wanted diplomacy
Former VP tells Fox News Sunday that while he and Bush disagreed at times, he was free to give his view.
Former U.S. vice president Dick Cheney told Fox News Sunday that while he advocated taking military action against Iran's nuclear program, ultimately, it was not his choice to make.
When asked in the interview broadcast whether he considered it a mistake that the U.S. did not take out Iran's program, Cheney answered by describing himself as "a bigger advocate of military action than any of [his] colleagues."
Still, he said, "It was not my decision to make... The president made the decision and, obviously, we pursued the diplomatic avenues."
"I think it was very important that the military option be on the table," Cheney said. "I thought that negotiations could not possibly succeed unless the Iranians really believed we were prepared to use military force. And to date, of course, they are still proceeding with their nuclear program and the matter has not yet been resolved."
"We can speculate about what might have happened if we had followed a different course of action," added the former vice president. "As I say I was an advocate of a more robust policy than any of my colleagues, but I didn't make the decision."
Did they disagree on other national security policy decisions? Certainly. But was Cheney frustrated or even disappointed when overruled by his boss, President George W. Bush? Not at all, the former vice president says.
"The fact of the matter is, he encouraged me to give him my view on a whole range of issues. I did," Cheney said.
"Sometimes he agreed. Sometimes he did not. That was true from the very beginning of the administration," Cheney said.
Cheney said that while he supported taking military action against Iran's nuclear program, Bush, wanted to try engaging Iranian leaders first.
Earlier reports cast Bush and Cheney at opposite ends on several other issues. Cheney reportedly disagreed with Bush's decision to stop waterboarding terror suspects - a harsh interrogation tactic that critics call torture. He also reportedly differed with the president on whether to pursue diplomatic talks with North Korea.
On the flip side, Cheney reportedly agreed with Bush on closing secret prisons where interrogators have greater latitude to question terror suspects than at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay.
Asked directly about each, Cheney punted.
Does he feel Bush was less tough on foreign policy during his second term in office than in his first?
"I wouldn't say that," Cheney told Fox News.
Cheney also said the Obama administration shouldn't be driven by a deadline to leave Iraq if the country isn't stable enough by then to remain secure.
"I think there's a danger there that you're going to let the drive to get out overwhelm the good sense of staying long enough to make certain the outcome is what we want," he said.
However, the deadlines in the U.S. security agreement with Iraq - which calls for all American combat troops to leave by the end of 2011 - was negotiated by the Bush administration.
In the end, being a consummate Washington power player, Cheney plugged his upcoming book to provide the answers about where he butted heads with Bush.
"I think you are going to have wait and read my book," he said.
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