McLEAN, Va. — In an interview with The Daily Caller on Monday, former Vice President Dick Cheney rebutted criticism from Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul that he deserves some blame for the recent chaos in Iraq, saying the Bush administration left Iraq in “good shape” before the Obama administration took over.
“I don’t buy it,” Cheney said of Paul’s criticism. “I think we went into Iraq for very good reasons. I strongly supported it then. I look back on it now and I’m still convinced it was the right thing to do. You got to remember that with the surge we implemented in Iraq in ’07 and ’08, by the time we left office, Iraq was in good shape. Relatively stable.”
Cheney’s comments come as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), a terrorist group, is conquering parts of Iraq.
They “had a relatively stable government,” Cheney continued. “They had a constitution. They had a number of elections. And even Barack Obama himself, as late as 2011, was saying Iraq was in good shape. So we left it in good shape for the administration coming in.”
Cheney blamed the Obama administration for not arranging a deal to leave troops in Iraq after 2011.
“The problem and where it fell down was they refused to negotiate, failed to negotiate a stay behind agreement, a status of forces agreement, that would have allowed us to leave some forces there to assist the Iraqis,” Cheney said. “We’ve got agreements like that in some 40 countries around the world. It’s a not a new idea.”
Asked about Cheney’s criticism of the Obama administration, Paul said on Meet the Press on Sunday, “I think the same questions could be asked of those who supported the Iraq War….I do blame the Iraq War on the chaos that is in the Middle East. I also blame those who are for the Iraq War for emboldening Iran.”
Cheney is doing interviews to promote the Alliance for a Strong America, the group he and his daughter, Liz, are forming to “advocate for a restoration of American strength and power.”
During the interview, Cheney was asked if he shares the concern expressed by South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham recently that the next 9/11 could be launched from the areas of Iraq and Syria under attack from Islamic militants.
“I do,” Cheney said.
“Just look at the facts,” Cheney said. “We had in the aftermath of 9/11 — we had reporting that al-Qaida was trying to get their hands on a nuclear device.”
The Daily Caller asked Cheney if, in retrospect, he thinks the process of de-Ba’athification — removing people from public sector jobs who had been affiliated with Saddam Hussein’s Baath party — was a mistake. Critics said it contributed to the sectarian tensions in Iraq.
“There was a theory that if we got rid of all the people at the top that were part of the Ba’athist movement, that below that you’d find a reasonably good and effective government,” Cheney said. “That turned out not to be true.”
“At this stage, you know, I’m not spending a lot of time looking back 12 or 14 years at what was or wasn’t done then,” Cheney said. “I’m concerned about the future. And about the threats were going to face and do face as a nation at this very moment.”
Asked what President Obama should now, and if ground troops or airstrikes should are necessary, Cheney replied: “There are no easy options in Iraq at this point.”
WATCH MORE: Cheney says there are no good options in Iraq now
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Videography by Grae Stafford. Katie Frates contributed photography, and Jane Bartlett Pappas contributed to this report.