Buchanan, Peters call Cheney speech "candid," "accurate" despite discredited claims


Despite discredited claims made by Dick Cheney during his May 21 speech, Pat Buchanan referred to Cheney's remarks as "candid," while Ralph Peters said that "every single point [Cheney] raised was accurate."

Despite discredited claims made by former Vice President Dick Cheney during his May 21 speech to the American Enterprise Institute, MSNBC contributor Pat Buchanan subsequently referred to Cheney's remarks as "candid." Similarly, Fox News contributor Ralph Peters said of the speech, "every single point he raised was accurate. I am 100 percent behind him on this, because he's right." During his remarks, Cheney offered discredited assertions with respect to the relationship between interrogation techniques used at the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and Abu Ghraib prison, and whether detainees provided information without the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques."*

For instance, Cheney claimed that "there has been a strange and sometimes willful attempt to conflate what happened at Abu Ghraib prison with the top secret program of enhanced interrogations." He continued: "At Abu Ghraib, a few sadistic prison guards abused inmates in violation of American law, military regulations, and simple decency. For the harm they did, to Iraqi prisoners and to America's cause, they deserved and received Army justice. And it takes a deeply unfair cast of mind to equate the disgraces of Abu Ghraib with the lawful, skillful, and entirely honorable work of CIA personnel trained to deal with a few malevolent men."

However, as Media Matters for America documented, contrary to Cheney's claim that Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo were unfairly compared, a 2008 Senate Armed Services Committee report released jointly by chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) and ranking member Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) concluded that "Special Mission Unit (SMU) Task Force (TF) interrogation policies were influenced by the Secretary of Defense's December 2, 2002 approval of aggressive interrogation techniques for use at GTMO [Guantánamo]. SMU TF interrogation policies in Iraq included the use of aggressive interrogation techniques such as military working dogs and stress positions. SMU TF policies were a direct cause of detainee abuse and influenced interrogation policies at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq."

The report also stated that "[i]nterrogation techniques such as stripping detainees of their clothes, placing them in stress positions, and using military working dogs to intimidate them appeared in Iraq only after they had been approved for use in Afghanistan and at GTMO."

Moreover, Cheney suggested that detainees did not provide information before "enhanced interrogation techniques" were used, claiming that those techniques "were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed." He later added that "with many thousands of innocent lives potentially in the balance, we didn't think it made sense to let the terrorists answer questions in their own good time, if they answered them at all."

However, as Media Matters noted, former FBI agent Ali Soufan -- who interrogated Abu Zubaydah -- testified before a Senate Judiciary subcommittee on May 13 about the success of non-harsh interrogation methods, which he contrasted with the "ineffective" harsh techniques. Soufan stated in his written testimony that "the Informed Interrogation Approach outlined in the Army Field Manual is the most effective, reliable, and speedy approach we have for interrogating terrorists. It is legal and has worked time and again." He continued: "It was a mistake to abandon it in favor of harsh interrogation methods that are harmful, shameful, slower, unreliable, ineffective, and play directly into the enemy's handbook."

Soufan pointed to "[t]he case of the terrorist Abu Zubaydah" as "a good example of where the success of the Informed Interrogation Approach can be contrasted with the failure of the harsh technique approach." Soufan then presented a "timeline" of the Zubaydah interrogation, which he said showed that "many of the claims made in the memos about the success of the enhanced techniques are inaccurate." He added: "For example, it is untrue to claim Abu Zubaydah wasn't cooperating before August 1, 2002. The truth is that we got actionable intelligence from him in the first hour of interrogating him."

Soufan also testified about other uses and successes of the informed interrogation approach. He stated that his interrogation of Osama bin Laden's former chief bodyguard, Nasser Ahmad Nasser al-Bahri, also known as Abu Jandal, was "done completely by the book (including advising him of his rights)," and that, from it, "we obtained a treasure trove of highly significant actionable intelligence."

From the 11 a.m. hour of the May 21 edition of MSNBC Live:

MATTHEWS: Pat Buchanan, it's so ironic, having lived in this city during those years, and certainly --


MATTHEWS: -- those ones after we went into Iraq -- and to have watched this fearsome warfare between the vice president's office, led by Dick Cheney there, and the CIA, to see him embrace the operatives of the CIA, and claim that he is their supporter. It's strange --

BUCHANAN: Well, he not only --

MATTHEWS: -- strange move.

BUCHANAN: Well, he not only embraced them, he's emerged and cast himself as their defender --


BUCHANAN: -- against these attacks. He just -- Chris, I'll tell you --

MATTHEWS: But the attacks aren't on the CIA. The attacks are on Dick Cheney.

BUCHANAN: Well, look, what he's doing, though -- his attacks are on The New York Times --


BUCHANAN: -- and the media and the Obama administration as dishonest, deceitful, moralizing, not telling the whole truth. This was as rough, as candid, as anecdotal, and even though it is not as elegant a speech as Obama's, it is far more interesting.

We -- all of us were far more riveted, I think, here by what --


BUCHANAN: -- he was saying than what Obama was saying. And I tell you, Cheney has emerged -- I don't know what the breakdown of the country is -- he has emerged here as the leader of the tough line, we only waterboarded three of them. And I think -- I think the gauntlet was really thrown down --


BUCHANAN: -- it has never yet been by Vice President Cheney.

From the May 21 edition of Fox News' The Live Desk:

TRACE GALLAGHER (co-host): And, of course, every point deserves a counterpoint. No sooner did the president finish his speech, the former vice president began his. Same subject: national security. And Dick Cheney did not pull any punches, going after this administration while strongly defending decisions made during the Bush administration.

CHENEY [video clip]: In top-secret meetings about enhanced interrogations, I made my own beliefs clear. I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program. The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts had failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do.

GALLAGHER: You heard it there, right: Cheney standing very firm, saying flat out that these interrogation techniques kept millions of Americans safe. Listen.

CHENEY [video clip]: And to call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What's more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness, and would make the American people less safe.

GALLAGHER: Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Peters is a Fox News strategic analyst. And, Ralph, you heard the vice president, and I think he pretty much laid it out clearly. He says, either you believe that the post-9-11 strategy of the Bush administration worked and kept us safe, or that 9-11 was a fluke and these policies are no longer needed.

PETERS: Well, in the past, I have not been Vice President Cheney's biggest fan. I have often criticized him. But in his speech today, every single point he raised was accurate. I am 100 percent behind him on this, because he's right. And President Obama, he didn't sound like our president this morning. He sounded like a lawyer in a courtroom doing a summation. He's not at the Harvard Law Review anymore. He's our president. The election's over.

And President Obama needs to worry less about the rights of terrorists and more about the right of the American people to live in security. And this is getting utterly out of hand. It's -- it's crazy. Terrorists don't have rights. Terrorists are outside the human community. They're not prisoners of war. Obama's got it wrong. Cheney's got it right.

We've changed our commenting system to Disqus.
Instructions for signing up and claiming your comment history are located here.
Updated rules for commenting are here.