Dick and Liz Cheney pan Obama's lack of leadership amid growing crisis in Iraq

This is a rush transcript from "The Kelly File," June 18, 2014. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

MEGYN KELLY, HOST: This morning, the man who helped lead us into Iraq in the first place penned a scathing op-ed in The Wall Street Journal questioning President Obama's leadership, accusing him of abandoning Iraq and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory there. This led to predictable outrage from many on the left.

Joining me now, former Vice President Dick Cheney and his daughter Liz Cheney, who co-wrote that op-ed in The Wall Street Journal. Thank you both so much for being here.

Mr. Vice President, let me start with this. This is from one item in The Washington Post posted by Paul Waldman today. Quote, "There is not a single person in America who has been more wrong and more shamelessly dishonest on the topic of Iraq than Dick Cheney, and now as the cascade of misery and death and chaos, he did so much to unleash raises anew, Mr. Cheney has the unadulterated gall to come before the country and tell us that it's all someone else's fault."

The suggestion is that you caused this mess, Mr. Vice President. What say you?

FMR. VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: Well, obviously I disagree. I think we went into Iraq for very good reasons. I think when we left office, we had a situation in Iraq that was very positive. We made major progress as a result of the decision President Bush made to go with the surge in '07 and '08. There had been a dramatic reduction in violence in the country. They were prepared for negotiations that would lead to a stay behind force of American trainers, people with intelligence and logistics capability, so that the Iraqi armed forces would be able to defend their own territory.

What happened was that Barack Obama came to office, and instead of negotiating a stay behind agreement, he basically walked away from it. Not only did the combat forces leave, but all of the other forces left as well. Our generals had recommended a level of 20,000 to stay behind, the White House said no and cut it ultimately to 3,000 and frankly that was inadequate to do the job, no agreement was ever reached. But the result was an Iraqi military that was unable to stand up to the terrorists when the ISIS came in from Syria a few days ago.

KELLY: In your op-ed, you write as follows, "Rarely has a U.S. president been so wrong about so much at the expense of so many." But time and time again, history has proven that you got it wrong as well in Iraq, sir. You said there were no doubts Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. You said we would greeted as liberators. You said the Iraq insurgency was in the last throes back in 2005. And you said that after our intervention, extremists would have to, quote, "rethink their strategy of Jihad."

Now, with almost a trillion dollars spent there with 4,500 American lives lost there, what do you say to those who say, you were so wrong about so much at the expense of so many?

D. CHENEY: No, I just fundamentally disagree, Megyn. You've got to go back and look at the track record. We inherited a situation where there was no doubt in anybody's mind about the extent of Saddam's involvement in weapons of mass destruction. We had a situation where if we -- after 9/11, we were concerned about a follow-up attack that would involve not just airline tickets and box cutters as the weapons, but rather something far deadlier, perhaps even a nuclear weapon.

Saddam Hussein had a track record that nearly everybody agreed to. We had an overwhelming vote of approval from the Congress, more votes for the action than we'd had in desert storm some 10 years before. Bill Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, numerous others spoke to the difficulties of the intelligence that all of us saw with respect to the threat that Saddam Hussein represented. It would have been irresponsible for us not to act. We did do the right thing, and I think the troops performed magnificently.

And now we're in a situation where what Liz and I posted in our op-ed this morning is it's not just Iraq, but it's a whole pattern of behavior over the last six years that has refused to recognize that there is a war on terror, that we've got to move very aggressively to be able to deal with that, and this administration has repeatedly demonstrated that they don't believe it. Barack Obama has stated repeatedly the terrorist threat is gone, we've got bin Laden. That's clearly not the truth case. That's not the truth. And in fact, we have a situation tonight where terrorism is potentially in charge of a larger part of the Middle East than ever before in our history.

KELLY: You mentioned that, you know, the status of forces agreement and President Obama has taken a lot of heat for not negotiating that with Maliki. However, critics point out that it was President Bush who did sign the deal that said we'd get all U.S. forces out of there by the end of 2011.

D. CHENEY: With a status forces agreement for a stay behind force.

KELLY: And when the President -- our current president sought to renegotiate that, al Maliki didn't want it, that's what the president's defenders say. That he tried, he wanted to keep some stay behind forces that would protect the gains our troops had made, but Maliki made it too tough.

D. CHENEY: No, that's not quite accurate, Megyn. What happened was our generals recommended a stay behind forces from 14,000 to 18,000. The White House rejected it. So the military came back with the recommendation of 10,000. The White House rejected it. They took it all the way down to 3,000. I think by the time they got to the level, the Iraqis looked at it and believed that we weren't serious, that Obama was absolutely committed to completely withdraw from Iraq, and they were unable to come to an agreement, but I think in part because the Iraqis didn't think he really wanted one and he certainly didn't push it. We have agreements like that with 40 nations around the world. They should have been able to come to an agreement with the Iraqis, and I think that failure to do so is what has precipitated the current crisis.

KELLY: You know, there's no question --

D. CHENEY: A it's a culmination of a policy that's gone on for six years now and he has not been willing to step forward and have the United States play a significant role in the world.

KELLY: But I want to ask you about that, because despite the fact that the Iraq war was so controversial, in part because of the things we've been discussing. When the President came into office, President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden came into office, the vice president was celebratory about the situation in Iraq, and said that it may be one of their greatest successes. That's how he described it in 2010. That Iraq could be one of the Obama administration's greatest successes he predicted. Do you think -- let me give this one to you, Liz. Do you think that that is a game changer in terms of the political way this is playing out from all the people who want to blame the Cheneys and the Bushs?

LIZ CHENEY, PRESIDENT, ALLIANCE FOR A STRONG AMERICA: Well, I think that what it demonstrates, Megyn, is that there was agreement. There was unanimity when the president came into office, that in fact, Iraq was in a stable situation. That in fact the surge had been successful. President Obama also said as a candidate in 2008 that the surge succeeded beyond their wildest dreams. So, there's no question but that the situation was one where the president had a job which was to negotiate a stay behind agreement, to leave enough forces there so that we could provide the kind of intelligence the Iraqis needed, the kind of training they needed, the kind of assistance and support and planning that they needed to be able to maintain the gains that had been so hard-won by American forces.

KELLY: He wanted out.


KELLY: He wanted out.

L. CHENEY: Yes. And there's no surprise, frankly that there are a lot of people now who would like to say, well, let's blame, you know, the Bush-Cheney administration for what happened. That's a pretty routine thing we hear from this administration. But your questions tonight, Megyn, in large part demonstrate why we've decided to form this organization, the Alliance for a Strong America. Because there's a lot out there that's being said frankly that is not true from this administration about the threat facing our country today. And we feel it's very important that people understand the threat that we face.

KELLY: And I want to give you a chance to respond to that. I mean, obviously these are questions that are out there and that are being raised and who better to respond to them than you. And I know that now you've formed this group and your group wants to reverse President Obama's policies, which I know you Mr. Vice President believe have endangered America's security. First, tell us how why you think that. Tell us how you think, you know, this non-profit group can do anything to stop a president.

D. CHENEY: Well, for one thing, Megyn, we think it's an opportunity to get out and talk about these issues in a very objective fashion, stand- up and point out the flaws in the administration's current effort. Liz and I had the opportunity back in March to make a swing through the Middle East and talk to people I've been dealing with for 25 years, since Desert Storm. And to a person, whether in Israel or in Egypt or the Peninsula Arab states, to a person they now doubt the willingness of the Americans to come to their assistance. They don't trust us anymore. They're all very fearful that this president will not keep his word.

And for years, they've been our partners and our allies, and now they believe basically that they can no longer count on that. They see the administration they think is supporting the Muslim Brotherhood. The group from which Al Qaeda and Egyptian Islamist Jihad and so many others were spin-offs. And tonight, if you look at the possibility, for example, that Barack Obama wants to work with the Iranians to get involved in Iraq, that's something that creates consternation and fear among all of our friends and allies in that part of the world. I think Iran is as big an enemy as Al Qaeda.

KELLY: Do you think that President Obama is dangerous?

L. CHENEY: Yes, I'll answer that one, Megyn. I think there's no question. I think that he is unique in terms of a president who is sitting in the Oval Office who has made very clear that his desire is to weaken the nation. And whether you say it's his intent, whether it's naiveté, you can now look at the results of the policy the last six and a half years and you've got the, you know, the black clad terrorists of ISIS now taking over city after city after city in Iraq.

KELLY: Flying flags.

L. CHENEY: You have Al Qaeda 58 percent more Al Qaeda, more jihadist groups now across the globe than we had in 2010. There's no question but that he's a dangerous president, and that we've got to fight back and we've got to ensure that people understand the importance of American power in securing our freedom and security.

KELLY: I got it. I have to leave it at that. I'll give you a quick last word, Mr. Vice President.

D. CHENEY: Last word. In the last four years, there has been a 58 percent increase in the number of jihadist groups around the world. That's according to a Rand Corporation study that came out two weeks ago. There's a dramatic increase in terrorism, a dramatic increase in their capability and a president who refuses to recognize that there is such a thing as the war on terror.

KELLY: Thank you both so much for being here. It's the Alliance for a Strong America, your new group. We appreciate the preview.

D. CHENEY: Thank you.

L. CHENEY: Thanks, Megyn.

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