Former U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney began his life in politics during the administration of President Richard Nixon, eventually rising to the post of vice president 30 years later. In his new book, In My Time, Cheney discusses his extensive career, and the controversies surrounding his time in office. While promoting the book in Chicago, the former vice president opened up about his life, and his concerns about Iran and Iraq.
After speaking for almost 45 minutes about his experience serving five Republican presidents, the first question Dick Cheney fielded from an audience of about 400 people at the Union League Club, was about Iran.
“One of our attendees asks what you think the consequences of Iran acquiring a nuclear weapon would be and what can or should the United States do to prevent that from happening,” the moderator said.
“I am very concerned about that," Cheney admitted. "They have developed a system of centrifuges that are bigger, more modern, more efficient than the ones they used to operate, which means they should be able to enrich uranium faster than they could using the old technology. They are also putting a lot of their capabilities underground.
The Obama Administration echoed Cheney’s concerns at the opening of the general conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu accused the Iranian government of “deceit,” calling the underground enrichment facility near the city of Qom “provocative.”
“Expanding, and moving underground, its enrichment to this level marks a significant provocation and brings Iran still closer to having the capability to produce weapons grade uranium," Chu said. "Pursuing this course raises serious questions over Iran’s peaceful intent and its readiness to build confidence.”
During Cheney’s time in office, then-president George W. Bush labeled Iran part of an “axis of evil.”
Iraq was another member of the so-called “axis of evil.”
Cheney served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 1989-1993. As the top official at the Pentagon, he oversaw the U.S. led liberation of Kuwait from Iraqi forces in Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Twelve years later, while serving as Vice President in 2003, the United States invaded Iraq, toppling the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Speaking in Chicago, Cheney raised his concerns about the drawdown of current U.S. military forces in Iraq.
“I think it would be a tragedy if we in fact end up pulling everybody out where you then have a situation that develops where all the gains that have been made, elections that have been held, a constitution that has been written, a government that has been put in place, are scrapped by a resumption of the kind of terrorist activity that they had to overcome in order to get to that point, that we were able to help them overcome with the surge that President Bush put in place,” the former vice president said.
Cheney says military commanders should determine future U.S. troop levels in the country.
“My sense of it is that 3,000 is not enough, that you want more than that if you are going to have any kind of a significant capability,” Cheney said.
As protesters who gathered outside the Union League Club displayed signs that read “End Torture Now,” Cheney defended controversial interrogation techniques of terrorism suspects put in place while he was Vice President.
“Waterboarding is the issue that generates most of the controversy. A total of three people were water-boarded, that was it," he said. "To get them to cooperate, sometimes you needed more robust interrogation techniques than just reading them their Miranda rights. "
Dick Cheney served President George H.W. Bush as Secretary of Defense, and later George W. Bush as vice president. When asked which president was better to work for, the father or the son, Cheney smiled, and claimed that information was “classified.”