By Tina Alvey
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Addressing an assembly of business leaders at The Greenbrier, former Vice President Dick Cheney expressed great concern about the future of the planet, placing the blame firmly on the foreign policy failures of the current administration.
“I see an increase in threat level in many areas,” Cheney told some 300 people gathered in Colonial Hall on day two of the West Virginia Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Meeting and Business Summit.
Among those threats are regimes in Russia, which Cheney cautioned may have designs on re-acquiring the Baltics, and China, which he said is “massively increasing… military capability.” He warned, “Russia’s on the march, modernizing their military capabilities,” adding, “China’s on the march in the China Sea.”
A more recent, but no less deadly, threat is posed by ISIS, which is cutting a swath of terror across the Middle East. Cheney termed ISIS “a greater threat than al Qaida.” In connection with his comments on ISIS, he stated, “I’m convinced that there will be another mass attack on America.”
With a “dramatically reduced” defense budget, today’s America gives the appearance of weakness to the rest of the world, Cheney said, pointing to the aging equipment and weaponry being put into the field with U.S. military forces.
“It conveys a great sense of weakness… and weakness is provocative,” he said.
Cheney spoke at some length on China, saying, “They have aspirations to become a global power, not just a regional power.” Specifically, he said, “They are working on technologies that will counter our technologies. They’ve gotten very aggressive when it comes to cyber attacks.”
Cheney continued to be outspoken on the issue of American participation in a multinational pact with Iran — the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action — which on its face will end economic sanctions inexchange for restrictions on the Islamic nation’s nuclear program.
Despite his opposition to the JCPOA, Cheney said, “I think there ought to be a treaty.” But that treaty should be put before Congress for hearings and formal ratification, unlike the agreement now on the fast track to adoption, he said.
“A lot of what they told us about this agreement wasn’t true,” Cheney said, citing problems with timing and confirmation of compliance by Iran. He said the agreement will allow Iran to continue enriching uranium, while also lifting the current embargo on construction of ballistic missiles after five years. “They aren’t going to pay any attention to those (time) limits,” he said.
By also lifting the freeze on Iranian assets now held in foreign countries, the agreement will result in $150 billion flowing back into Iran’s coffers, Cheney said. That money can then be used by Iran to “sponsor major terror organizations in the Middle East,” he said, thereby leading to nuclear proliferation in an already troubled region.
“We’ll end up with a nuclear arms race in a volatile and unstable part of the world,” Cheney predicted. “I think it’s an extraordinarily bad deal.”
He added, “It will result in a far more dangerous world.”
The former VP’s daughter Liz Cheney, herself a former assistant secretary in the State Department, shared the stage with her father, and she also spoke out about the proposed treaty with Iran, maintaining, “It makes war more likely, not less likely.”
She said some people are concerned that the U.S. “can’t be the world’s policeman” any longer — that it is now “somebody else’s turn.” But, she asked her listeners, “Consider the cost of inaction.” If America were to step aside, that leadership vacuum could well be filled by China, Russia or a terrorist organization, she said.
Next year’s presidential election is especially crucial, Liz Cheney asserted, saying, “We are living at another hinge point of history.”
“Elections matter,” she said. “We all can make a huge and tremendous difference.”
The Cheneys co-authored the book “Exceptional: Why the World Needs a Powerful America,” which was released Monday.
Just before the Cheneys took the stage in Colonial Hall, the crowd came to its feet upon the appearance of Hershel “Woody” Williams, a Medal of Honor recipient from Cabell County. A brief film detailing Williams’ exploits in World War II preceded his introduction by Rep. Evan Jenkins, R-W.Va.
Williams led the Business Summit attendees in a properly-paced Pledge of Allegiance — with no pause
between the words “one nation” and “under God” — explaining to the audience that a schoolteacher taught him how to recite the pledge “correctly.”
Outside the gates of The Greenbrier, a group of protesters created some drama for local law enforcement.
Sgt. W.A. Pendleton of the Lewisburg detachment of the West Virginia State Police said four troopers assisted the White Sulphur Springs Police Department in dispersing between 30 and 40 people who were protesting, with some carrying signs. The protesters’ signs identified a variety of targets, including Vice President Cheney’s appearance at the Business Summit, right-to-work laws, fracking and other oil and gas industry issues.
State Police made one arrest, issuing a citation on the spot and releasing the individual when “he complied with officers,” Pendleton said, adding, “It was pretty peaceful for the most part.”
Police officers remained on the scene from around 11:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. — E-mail: [email protected]