Cheney defends Iraq war

`The right thing to do' even without WMD, he says

2001 - 2006 -- 9/11 -- Five Years

September 11, 2006|By McClatchy-Tribune

WASHINGTON -- Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday that he was wrong to predict a quicker end to fighting in Iraq but said the Bush administration would invade again -- even knowing that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction, the administration's primary rationale for war.

"It was the right thing to do, and if we had it to do over again, we'd do exactly the same thing," he said on NBC's Meet the Press.

Cheney defended not only the war in Iraq but also the war in Afghanistan, the detention and interrogation of suspected terrorists, the search for Osama bin Laden and progress building up U.S. defenses against terrorist attack.

"I think we've done a pretty good job of securing the nation against terrorists," he said, adding it is "no accident" that there has not been a terrorist attack in the country since Sept. 11, 2001.

On the Iraq war, he noted that it was former CIA Director George J. Tenet who assured President Bush that Saddam Hussein still had weapons of mass destruction.

"Clearly, the intelligence that said he did was wrong," Cheney said, without elaborating on his own role or the White House decision to later honor Tenet with the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Still, he said invasion was warranted, even without the stockpiled weapons, because Hussein was working around sanctions and eventually would have rebuilt his weapons programs.

Several times during the interview, Cheney was confronted with videotapes of his own assertions about the war that have since been proved to be false.

Among them:

His prediction that U.S. forces would be greeted by the Iraqi people as liberators. "We were," he said yesterday. "What obviously has developed after that, the insurgency, has been long and costly and bloody, no question."

His claim in 2005 that Iraqi insurgents were in their "last throes." "There's no question that the insurgency has gone on longer and been more difficult," he said yesterday.

His statement that Sept. 11 terrorist Mohamed Atta met with Iraqi forces, suggesting an Iraqi link to the attacks on the United States. "We've never been able to confirm any connection," he said yesterday, adding that it was the CIA that suggested an Iraq-Sept. 11 connection and that the CIA did not back off that suggestion until after Cheney spoke publicly.

Former intelligence officials have repeatedly challenged the idea that the CIA was promoting links between Iraq and Atta or wider connections between Iraq and al-Qaida.

Former White House counterterrorism official Richard A. Clarke said he was pressured by Cheney's former top aide, Lewis "Scooter" Libby, to accept as fact the Atta-Iraqi connection.

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