Dick Cheney, NBC, "Meet the Press,"
NBC - MEET THE PRESS
Dick Cheney, NBC, "Meet the Press,"
Tue Apr 6 02:53:09 2004
63.228.145.202

What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think I’ve just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?

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Interview with Vice-President Dick Cheney, NBC, "Meet the Press," Transcript for March 16, 2003.
http://www.mtholyoke.edu/acad/intrel/bush/cheneymeetthepress.htm

What do you think is the most important rationale for going to war with Iraq?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I think I’ve just given it, Tim, in terms of the combination of his development and use of chemical weapons, his development of biological weapons, his pursuit of nuclear weapons.

MR. RUSSERT: And even though the International Atomic Energy Agency said he does not have a nuclear program, we disagree?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree, yes. And you’ll find the CIA, for example, and other key parts of our intelligence community disagree. Let’s talk about the nuclear proposition for a minute. We’ve got, again, a long record here. It’s not as though this is a fresh issue. In the late ’70s, Saddam Hussein acquired nuclear reactors from the French. 1981, the Israelis took out the Osirak reactor and stopped his nuclear weapons development at the time. Throughout the ’80s, he mounted a new effort. I was told when I was defense secretary before the Gulf War that he was eight to 10 years away from a nuclear weapon. And we found out after the Gulf War that he was within one or two years of having a nuclear weapon because he had a massive effort under way that involved four or five different technologies for enriching uranium to produce fissile material.

We know that based on intelligence that he has been very, very good at hiding these kinds of efforts. He’s had years to get good at it and we know he has been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons. And we believe he has, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. I think Mr. ElBaradei frankly is wrong. And I think if you look at the track record of the International Atomic Energy Agency and this kind of issue, especially where Iraq’s concerned, they have consistently underestimated or missed what it was Saddam Hussein was doing. I don’t have any reason to believe they’re any more valid this time than they’ve been in the past.

MR. RUSSERT: During the 2000 campaign you were on the program when we were talking about the Persian Gulf War and looking back and I asked whether you had any regrets about taking Saddam out at that time. And you said no. And then you added this, and I want to talk about it. Let’s watch:

(Videotape, August 27, 2000):

MR. CHENEY: Conversations I had with leaders in the region afterwards, they all supported the decision that was made not to go to Baghdad. They were concerned that we not get into a position where we shifted, instead of being the leader of an international coalition to roll back Iraqi aggression, to one in which we were an imperialist power willy-nilly moving into capitals in that part of the world taking down governments.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: “Imperialist power,” “moving willy-nilly,” “taking down governments.” Is that how we’re going to be perceived this time?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I hope not, Tim. Of course, in ’91, there was a general consensus that we’d gone as far as we should. We’d achieved our objectives when we liberated Kuwait and that we shouldn’t go on to Baghdad. But there were several assumptions that was based on. One that all those U.N. Security Council resolutions would be enforced. None of them has been. That’s the major difference. And it was based on the proposition that Saddam Hussein probably wouldn’t survive. Most of the experts believed based upon the severe drubbing we administered to his forces in Kuwait that he was likely to be overthrown or ousted. Of course, that didn’t happen. He’s proven to be a much tougher customer than anybody expected.

We’re now faced with a situation, especially in the aftermath of 9/11, where the threat to the United States is increasing. And over time, given Saddam’s posture there, given the fact that he has a significant flow of cash as a result of the oil production of Iraq, it’s only a matter of time until he acquires nuclear weapons. And in light of that, we have to be prepared, I think, to take the action that is being contemplated. Doesn’t insist that he be disarmed and if the U.N. won’t do it, then the United States and other partners of the coalition will have to do that.

Now, I think things have gotten so bad inside Iraq, from the standpoint of the Iraqi people, my belief is we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators. And the president’s made it very clear that our purpose there is, if we are forced to do this, will in fact be to stand up a government that’s representative of the Iraqi people, hopefully democratic due respect for human rights, and it, obviously, involves a major commitment by the United States, but we think it’s a commitment worth making. And we don’t have the option anymore of simply laying back and hoping that events in Iraq will not constitute a threat to the U.S. Clearly, 12 years after the Gulf War, we’re back in a situation where he does constitute a threat.

MR. RUSSERT: If we do in fact go into Iraq, would a military operation be successful without the apprehension or death of Saddam Hussein?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Our objective will be, if we go in, to defeat whatever forces oppose us, to take down the government of Saddam Hussein, and then to follow on with a series of actions such as eliminating all the weapons of mass destruction, finding where they are and destroying them, preserving the territorial integrity of Turkey. As I say, standing up a broadly representative government that’s preserving the territorial integrity of Iraq and standing up a broadly representative government of the Iraqi people. Those will be our objectives.

Now, what happens to Saddam Hussein, obviously, is of great interest. My guess is under those circumstances, he’s likely to be captured if he’s not first killed, perhaps by his own people. But the objective isn’t necessarily him per se, but it clearly is to get rid of his government and to put a new one in its place. And that’s what we think is required in order to achieve the objectives of eliminating his WMD, etc.

But I don’t want to say, you know—I can’t predict what’s going to happen to Saddam Hussein, in particular. Conceivably, he could be captured and ultimately held for trial by the Iraqi government, maybe treated as a war criminal. There are lots of possibilities. He might flee, which, obviously, would be an improvement over the current situation.

MR. RUSSERT: But no Iraqi would step forward as an alternative as long as Saddam Hussein is hovering out there not captured?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: That’s possible. But I’m not sure where he would go. I mean, the fact of the matter is this is not a man who is an aesthetic like Osama bin Laden who is willing to go live in a cave for a long period of time and be cut off from the outside world. This is a man who’s used to his palaces and his luxuries. I think he would find it very difficult. I also think that the hatred and animosity of the Iraqi people towards Saddam Hussein, based on the fact that he has been responsible—Human Rights Watch estimates he’s been responsible for the death of as many as a million Iraqi citizens over the course of his tenure. And given his track record of absolute brutality, with respect to his opponents, I think the people in Iraq today, whatever group they are affiliated with, whatever part of the country they live in, the vast majority of them would turn him in in a minute if, in fact, they thought they could do so safely.

MR. RUSSERT: If your analysis is not correct, and we’re not treated as liberators, but as conquerors, and the Iraqis begin to resist, particularly in Baghdad, do you think the American people are prepared for a long, costly, and bloody battle with significant American casualties?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, I don’t think it’s likely to unfold that way, Tim, because I really do believe that we will be greeted as liberators. I’ve talked with a lot of Iraqis in the last several months myself, had them to the White House. The president and I have met with them, various groups and individuals, people who have devoted their lives from the outside to trying to change things inside Iraq. And like Kanan Makiya who’s a professor at Brandeis, but an Iraqi, he’s written great books about the subject, knows the country intimately, and is a part of the democratic opposition and resistance. The read we get on the people of Iraq is there is no question but what they want to the get rid of Saddam Hussein and they will welcome as liberators the United States when we come to do that.

Now, if we get into a significant battle in Baghdad, I think it would be under circumstances in which the security forces around Saddam Hussein, the special Republican Guard, and the special security organization, several thousand strong, that in effect are the close-in defenders of the regime, they might, in fact, try to put up such a struggle. I think the regular army will not. My guess is even significant elements of the Republican Guard are likely as well to want to avoid conflict with the U.S. forces, and are likely to step aside.

Now, I can’t say with certainty that there will be no battle for Baghdad. We have to be prepared for that possibility. But, again, I don’t want to convey to the American people the idea that this is a cost-free operation. Nobody can say that. I do think there’s no doubt about the outcome. There’s no question about who is going to prevail if there is military action. And there’s no question but what it is going to be cheaper and less costly to do it now than it will be to wait a year or two years or three years until he’s developed even more deadly weapons, perhaps nuclear weapons. And the consequences then of having to deal with him would be far more costly than will be the circumstances today. Delay does not help.

MR. RUSSERT: The army’s top general said that we would have to have several hundred thousand troops there for several years in order to maintain stability.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I disagree. We need, obviously, a large force and we’ve deployed a large force. To prevail, from a military standpoint, to achieve our objectives, we will need a significant presence there until such time as we can turn things over to the Iraqis themselves. But to suggest that we need several hundred thousand troops there after military operations cease, after the conflict ends, I don’t think is accurate. I think that’s an overstatement.

MR. RUSSERT: We have had 50,000 troops in Kosovo for several years, a country of just five million people. This is a country of 23 million people. It will take a lot in order to secure it.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, but we’ve significantly drawn down our forces in Kosovo and in the Balkans. There’s no question but what we’ll have to have a presence there for a period of time. It is difficult now to specify how long. We will clearly want to take on responsibilities in addition to conducting military operations and eliminating Saddam Hussein’s regime. We need to be prepared to provide humanitarian assistance, medical care, food, all of those other things that are required to have Iraq up and running again. And we are well-equipped to do that. We have got a lot of effort that’s gone into that.

But the—again, I come back to this proposition—Is it cost-free? Absolutely not. But the cost is far less than it will be if we get hit, for example, with a weapon that Saddam Hussein might provide to al-Qaeda, the cost to the United States of what happened on 9/11 with billions and billions of dollars and 3,000 lives. And the cost will be much greater in a future attack if the terrorists have access to the kinds of capabilities that Saddam Hussein has developed.

MR. RUSSERT: Every analysis said this war itself would cost about $80 billion, recovery of Baghdad, perhaps of Iraq, about $10 billion per year. We should expect as American citizens that this would cost at least $100 billion for a two-year involvement.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I can’t say that, Tim. There are estimates out there. It’s important, though, to recognize that we’ve got a different set of circumstances than we’ve had in Afghanistan. In Afghanistan you’ve got a nation without significant resources. In Iraq you’ve got a nation that’s got the second-largest oil reserves in the world, second only to Saudi Arabia. It will generate billions of dollars a year in cash flow if they get back to their production of roughly three million barrels of oil a day, in the relatively near future. And that flow of resources, obviously, belongs to the Iraqi people, needs to be put to use by the Iraqi people for the Iraqi people and that will be one of our major objectives.

But the point is this is not a nation without resources, and when it comes time to rebuild and to make the kinds of investments that are going to be required to give them a shot at achieving a truly representative government, a successful government, a government that can defend itself and protect its territorial integrity and look to the interests of its people, Iraq starts with significant advantages. It’s got a well- trained middle class, a highly literate work force, a high degree of technical sophistication. This is a country that I think, but for the rule of Saddam Hussein and his brutality and his diversion of the nation’s resources and his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction, can be one of the leading, perhaps the leading state in that part of the world in terms of developing a modern state and the kind of lifestyle that its people are entitled to.

MR. RUSSERT: And you are convinced the Kurds, the Sunnis, the Shiites will come together in a democracy?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: They have so far. One of the things that many people forget is that the Kurds in the north have been operating now for over 10 years under a sort of U.S.-provided umbrella with respect to the no-fly zone, and they have established a very strong, viable society with elements of democracy an important part of it. They’ve had significant successes in that regard and they’re eager to work with the rest of Iraq, that portion of it that still governs Saddam Hussein. And if you look at the opposition, they’ve come together, I think, very effectively, with representatives from Shia, Sunni and Kurdish elements in the population. They understand the importance of preserving and building on an Iraqi national identity. They don’t like to have the U.S., for example, come in and insist on dealing with people sort of on a hyphenated basis—the Iraqi-Shia, Iraqi-Sunni—but rather to focus on Iraq as a nation and all that it can accomplish as a nation, and we try to be sensible to those concerns. I think the prospects of being able to achieve this kind of success, if you will, from a political standpoint, are probably better than they would be for virtually any other country and under similar circumstances in that part of the world.

MR. RUSSERT: Ten days ago, the president had a news conference and said this, and let me show you:

(Videotape, March 6, 2003):

PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: No matter what the whip count is, we’re calling for the vote. We want to see people stand up and say what their opinion is about Saddam Hussein and the utility of the United Nations Security Council, and so you bet. It’s time for people to show their cards, let the world know where they stand when it comes to Saddam.

(End videotape)

MR. RUSSERT: Are we going to demand a second vote in the United Nations to show their cards?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: Well, it has a certain appeal, Tim. The president will address that issue today when he meets in the Azores with Prime Minister Aznar from Spain and Prime Minster Blair from Great Britain. The dec



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