WASHINGTON — The White House Monday rejected a call for an apology by ex-vice president Dick Cheney, who said a US strike against a top Al-Qaeda suspect in Yemen vindicated harsh Bush-era anti-terror policies.
Cheney had argued that the US drone attack last week that killed US-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaqi equated to tough treatment meted out by the previous administration to Al-Qaeda suspects, including enhanced interrogations.
But White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the Obama administration’s record on chasing down terror suspects showed that America could make itself safe without compromising its ideals.
“If specifically, he’s saying that an apology is called for because of measures that were taken that this president absolutely does not believe is the right way to go, he’s not going to apologize,” Carney said.
“We certainly don’t owe an apology for the fact that, under this administration’s policy, this president’s policy, the United States of America does not torture, does not engage in torture.
“It’s simply a flat-out position of this president that that’s unacceptable.”
“There is no reason to sacrifice our values when it comes to interrogation and torture. Because we don’t need to. We can win this battle without those kinds of measures.”
Within days of coming to office in 2009, Obama outlawed enhanced interrogation techniques including waterboarding which critics said equated to torture. Cheney still argues the practices fell short of torture.
Cheney described the raid which killed Awlaqi last week as a “very good strike” which was justified but said he wanted the administration to now correct previous criticisms of the previous White House’ anti-terror policy.
“They in effect said that we had walked away from our ideals, or taken policy contrary to our ideals when we had the enhanced interrogation techniques,” Cheney said on CNN.
“Now, they clearly have moved in the direction of taking robust action when they feel it’s justified.”
Asked by the CNN show’s host whether he would like an apology, Cheney said “Well, I would.”
Much of the controversy around the Awlaqi killing arose because the victim was a US citizen, raising questions about the president’s constitutional right to order the death of an American.
Awlaqi was also not offered due process or arrested, despite Obama’s initial attempts to frame a new legal system to deal with bringing terror suspects to justice, sometimes through the civil court system.