Published December 24, 2015
NEW YORK -- Former Vice President Dick Cheney said Tuesday that trying professed Sept. 11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed in New York City will make him "as important or more important than Usama bin Laden."
In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, Cheney said holding the trial in a lower Manhattan courtroom near ground zero will make Mohammed "a hero in certain circles, especially in the radical regions of Islam around the world."
"He'll be able to go in whenever he's up on the stand and proselytize, if you will, millions of people out there around the world including some of his radical Muslim friends and generate a whole new generation of terrorists,'' Cheney said.
The former vice president called Attorney General Eric Holder's decision in November to try Mohammed and four other 9/11 suspects in a civilian federal court near ground zero "a huge mistake."
The trial will put Mohammed "on the map," he contended.
"When you have a president who goes around and bows to his hosts and then proceeds to apologize profusely for the United States, I find that deeply disturbing,'' Cheney said. "That says to me this is a guy who doesn't fully understand or share that view of American exceptionalism that I think most of us believe in."
The former vice president also said Obama is a "more radical'' Democrat than he first appeared to be.
"I saw him when he got elected as a liberal Democrat, but conventional in the sense of sort of falling within the parameters of the national Democratic Party,'' Cheney told Hannity. "I think he's demonstrated pretty conclusively now during his first year in office that he's more radical than that, that he's farther outside the parameters if you will of what we've traditionally had in Democratic presidents in years past."
On Afghanistan, setting a 2011 date to begin withdrawal is "better than withdrawal now," he said, though he added that he thinks it vindicates Al Qaeda strategy that "if you kill enough Americans, you can change American policy."
"Everybody is watching. The Taliban are watching, the Al Qaeda are watching, the Afghans who are on our side are watching, and when they see hesitation, uncertainty, lack of clarity from an American president, they begin to think the Americans aren't going to be here very long," Cheney said.
"This notion of uncertainty, the difficult time he [President Obama] has putting it together, all of this feeds into the basic Al Qaeda strategy,'' Cheney said. "Remember the way Al Qaeda operates and what their underlying plan is -- 'if you kill enough Americans, you can change American policy.'"
"When they see [the president] announce in advance that there's going to be a withdrawal 18 months down the road, they come to the point where they feel like their strategy, their worldview has been validated and in the meantime, your task of trying to control the situation, trying to put down the Taliban and so forth, has simply gotten harder because you're weak and indecisive when you made the decision to do it,'' Cheney said.
When asked by Hannity who he thinks are contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, Cheney said: "At this point I'd be reluctant to pinpoint anybody. It might hurt them more than it would help them, coming from me."
The White House had no immediate comment on Cheney's remarks.