Cheney defends policy on Iraq

WASHINGTON -- A day after President Bush struck a conciliatory tone toward critics of the Iraq war, Vice President Dick Cheney did the opposite yesterday, denouncing as "hogwash" the assertion that the administration has lost credibility because of blunders in Iraq.

Cheney defended the decision to invade Iraq nearly four years ago and insisted that "there's been a lot of success" since then. His comments came during a CNN interview, an exception to the vice president's more common practice of talking to conservative news media outlets.


"There's problems, ... but we have, in fact, accomplished our objectives of getting rid of the old regime," Cheney said. "There is a new regime in place that's been there for less than a year, far too soon for you guys to write them off."

In his annual State of the Union address the previous evening, Bush acknowledged that there had been a string of setbacks in Iraq over the past year but urged Congress not to give up.


"This is not the fight we entered in Iraq," Bush conceded, "but it is the fight we're in. Every one of us wishes this war were over and won."

However, Cheney suggested that critics were "dead wrong" about the war.

"For the first time, we've had elections, and majority rule will prevail there. But the notion that somehow the effort hasn't been worth it, or that we shouldn't go ahead and complete the task, is just dead wrong," Cheney said.

Recent opinion polls show increasing public dissatisfaction with the Iraq war, and most Americans say it was not worth the effort. In a Gallup poll this month, 58 percent of the respondents said the costs of the war outweigh its benefits and 59 percent said they oppose the president's plan to send more troops to stabilize Baghdad.

Cheney has long been a polarizing figure for the administration. But in recent months, Cheney has become an increasingly problematic figure even among stalwart Republicans, in part for his defense of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Rumsfeld, who drew the wrath of Republicans as well as Democrats for refusing to acknowledge failures or to shift strategy in Iraq, was forced to resign after Republican losses in November elections put control of Congress in Democrats' hands for the first time in Bush's presidency.

During the interview, CNN's Wolf Blitzer said that Democrats and some Republicans "are now seriously questioning your credibility because of the blunders, of the failures."

"Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question," Cheney responded. "I just think it's hogwash."


Cheney generally spoke in soothing tones during the televised interview, which touched on topics that included the possible whereabouts of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and whether Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, a New York Democrat, would make a good president.

But his words were combative.

"No, I don't," Cheney replied to the Clinton question.

"Why?" asked the interviewer.

"Because she's a Democrat," Cheney said. "I don't agree with her philosophically and from a policy standpoint."

Maura Reynolds writes for the Los Angeles Times.