Cheney: US more vulnerable

2009-03-15 22:29

Washington - President Barack Obama has made Americans more vulnerable to attack, former vice-president Dick Cheney said on Sunday in a trenchant defence of his own controversial stance in the "war on terror".

Asked by CNN if Obama had made the nation less safe through his reversal of key anti-terror policies, Cheney said bluntly: "I do."

In his first television interview since leaving office, president George W Bush's number two blasted Obama's decision to close down the Guantanano Bay prison camp, end harsh interrogations and close down secret CIA detention sites abroad.

In his latest scrapping of Bush policies, Obama on Friday dropped the "enemy combatant" designation for terror suspects and vowed to draw on international law for his administration's detention policy at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

"I think those programmes were absolutely essential to the success we enjoyed of being able to collect the intelligence that let us defeat all further attempts to launch attacks against the United States since 9/11," Cheney said.

"I think that's a great success story. It was done legally. It was done in accordance with our constitutional practices and principles," he said, though that stance is bitterly opposed by civil rights campaigners.

"President Obama campaigned against it all across the country. And now he is making some choices that in my mind will, in fact, raise the risk to the American people of another attack."

Cheney acknowledged that he had pressed Bush to take a harder line against Iran and North Korea, disagreeing with his former boss's emphasis on diplomacy, and trumpeted Iraq today as a success story.

He was equally blunt in denouncing Obama's pick to become the new US ambassador in Iraq, Christopher Hill, whose diplomatic dealings with the North Korean regime as chief nuclear negotiator angered Cheney.

"He's not the man I would have picked for that post. He doesn't have any experience in the region. He's never served in that part of the world before. He doesn't speak the language," the former vice-president said.

"He's got none of the skills and talents that Ryan Crocker had, who was our last ambassador, who did a superb job and deserves as much credit as (General) David Petraeus in terms of how that process worked during the surge that led to the success we've seen now in Iraq."

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