On the eve of President Obama’s address to the nation about plans for an escalation of military action in Iraq, former Vice President Dick Cheney came to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge House Republicans to embrace a strong military and reject a rising isolationism in his party, but did not discuss the specifics of confronting the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.
Mr. Cheney, who was among the chief proponents of President George W. Bush’s decision to invade Iraq based on the flawed assumption that Saddam Hussein was harboring weapons of mass destruction and was tied to the Sept. 11 attacks, might have seemed an unlikely messenger of the moment.
But Republicans, for the most part, embraced him anew.
“We can argue over whatever about the Iraq war, but most of our guys believe Bush left in 2009 with the U.S. in position to win” the conflict, Representative Tom Cole, Republican of Oklahoma, said after the session. Mr. Cole added that six years into the presidency of Barack Obama, “at some point, it can’t be Bush and Cheney’s fault.”
Mr. Cheney’s brief talk during a closed-door meeting of the House Republican conference was mostly about the need for Republicans to push to maintain a strong military, but he also argued that his party needed to stop the establishment of a terrorist state in the Middle East.
He did not discuss the fact that many ISIS leaders were former Iraqi military officers who were imprisoned by American troops, nor did he dwell on the sectarian divisions and bloodletting since the 2003 American invasion. The crux of his argument, in fact, centered not on Mr. Obama, but on the isolationist voices on the rise in his party ahead of the 2016 presidential campaign, Republican lawmakers said.