11/01/2013 09:30 EDT | Updated 11/01/2013 09:54 EDT

Dick Cheney In Toronto: Obama 'Tar Sands' Policy 'Totally Foolish'


He got through his Toronto trip without getting arrested for torture, but not without tossing a few barbs Obama’s way over the Keystone XL pipeline.

Appearing at the Toronto Global Forum on Thursday, former Vice President Dick Cheney said the Obama administration’s reluctance to approve Keystone is “totally foolish policy,” and “there is no reason in the world we shouldn’t build that pipeline,” the Toronto Star reports.

Cheney accused Obama of waging “war” on coal and other fossil fuel industries, and said the president is trying to pick winners in the renewable energy field by way of subsidies, the Globe and Mail reported.

Interestingly, Cheney repeatedly referred to Alberta's bitumen deposits as the "tar sands," the National Post noted -- a term that is widely accepted in the U.S., but in Canada connotes opposition to the industry.

The former vice-president even took a few jabs at the public’s negative image of himself. Switching from energy policy to security issues, Cheney quipped, “I’m going to put back on my Darth Vader helmet.”

But that wasn’t a joke to the protesters outside the forum, who called on the police security presence to “do your duty” and arrest Cheney for violations of the United Nations Convention Against Torture, to which Canada is a signatory.

“It is a shame he is here,” demonstrator James Campbell told the Star. “Canada is aiding and abetting all of Dick Cheney’s crimes by letting him speak here.”

A group of activist lawyers earlier this week sent a letter to Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair, Ontario Attorney General John Gerretsen and Prime Minister Stephen Harper urging Cheney’s arrest under the UN torture convention or under Canadian laws against torture.

Evidence of Dick Cheney’s complicity in the widespread use of torture by the United States is well documented and widely available and Dick Cheney has publicly admitted to authorizing the use of torture,” the letter stated.

Much of the rest of Cheney’s appearance was devoted to the sort of harsh partisan political rhetoric for which he has come to be known.

Cheney said the threat from Al Qaeda is greater than ever, with evidence of new activity along the Iraq-Syria border.

He urged the U.S. and its allies to maintain its presence in Afghanistan, noting that, when the U.S. abandoned the country in the 1980s, the Taliban rose to power and gave Al Qaeda a safe haven.

“What do we think will happen when we turn our backs on Afghanistan again? Yet that is exactly what we are doing,” he said.

On the gridlock in Washington, Cheney blamed it all on Obama. He said Republicans shouldn’t compromise with Obama because the president’s policies are “fundamentally at odds” with American values.

Compromising with Obama would mean Republicans going “halfway down the road to damnation,” he said.

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