WASHINGTON -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney hinted that, in the
waning days of the Bush administration, he had pushed for a military
strike to destroy Iran's nuclear-weapons program.
was probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my
colleagues," Dick Cheney said, regarding Iran and its nuclear ambitions.
an interview on Fox News Sunday, Mr. Cheney described himself as being
isolated among advisers to then-President George W. Bush, who
ultimately decided against direct military action.
"I was probably a bigger advocate of military action than any of my
colleagues," Mr. Cheney said in response to questions about whether the
Bush administration should have launched a pre-emptive attack prior to
handing over the White House to Barack Obama.
"I thought that negotiations could not possibly succeed unless the
Iranians really believed we were prepared to use military force," Mr.
Cheney said. "And to date, of course, they are still proceeding with
their nuclear program and the matter has not yet been resolved."
Mr. Cheney's views were at odds with those of other top officials at
the time. Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had
said repeatedly during those final months that a strike against Iran
would make the Middle East more unstable and would raise the risk on
American forces in neighboring Iraq and Afghanistan.
"This is a very unstable part of the world, and I don't need it to be more unstable," Adm. Mullen said in July 2008.
The Cheney interview focused mostly on Attorney General Eric
Holder's naming of a special prosecutor to assess whether, during the
Bush administration, Central Intelligence Agency interrogators' harsh
questioning of terror suspects illegally exceeded the guidance of
Justice Department lawyers.
Mr. Cheney said the legal review set a "terrible precedent" that
would shatter morale at the CIA and increase the likelihood of future
terror attacks. He accused President Obama of using the threat of
criminal charges to score political points with the left wing of the
"It's clearly a political move; there's no other rationale for them
to be doing this," the former vice president said of the Obama
Mr. Cheney was particularly critical of Mr. Obama's statement that
he had not influenced the attorney general's decision, and charged the
president with waffling on his earlier pledge not to unearth old
allegations. "I think he's trying to duck the responsibility for what's
going on here, and I think it's wrong," Mr. Cheney said of the
The White House declined to issue a statement responding to Mr.
Cheney's criticism. But an administration official, speaking
anonymously, denied that Mr. Obama has been inconsistent. The new
special prosecutor is only looking into cases where CIA agents
allegedly went beyond the interrogation guidance given by the Bush
"What the president said weeks ago is that he agrees with the
attorney general that those interrogators who followed the legal
guidance from DOJ in good faith in conducting interrogations should not
be prosecuted," the official said. "Nothing has changed in terms of
Mr. Cheney's comments drew sharp responses from some Democrats.
"Dick Cheney has shown over the years, frankly, a disrespect for the
Constitution," Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.) said on ABC's "This Week
with George Stephanopoulos."
Peter Spiegel contributed to this article.