Richard B. Cheney photo

Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity

June 15, 2006

Via Telephone

3:15 P.M. EDT

Q: Mr. Vice President, how are you?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, Sean.

Q: Well, I got to admit, these are good times for the administration. You got -- Zarqawi is dead, revenues are up significantly, the deficit has been cut significantly, the President's trip. And I'm also told there's some breaking news that a high-value insurgent has again been captured in Iraq just now.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, you're ahead of me on that one. I knew about all the other stuff, Sean, but I hadn't heard that one yet.

Q: See, that's why I'm here, to bring you good news.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's right. (Laughter.) I got to tune in every day to find out what's really going on in the world.

Q: Three hours a day, Mr. Vice President, is all we ask. Let's talk first about the Zarqawi memos and these documents that were captured by U.S. forces just before he was killed last week. Among other things, he's clearly worried the U.S. is winning the war in Iraq. Tell us about your awareness of him and what you think of him.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we need to make absolutely certain they're authentic at this stage, but they are fascinating, because they do reveal, obviously -- whoever wrote them, assuming they're authentic -- somebody who believes they're on the losing end of the engagement, I guess is the way I'd put it. I think the psychological business here is enormously important, as well, too. Somebody said the other day that the way we win is when they finally become convinced, the terrorists finally become convinced that we won't quit, that what they're betting on is obviously not that they can defeat us, because they can't, but that they can wear down our will. And I think the good news in these kinds of documents that you see here is a situation in which they obviously are increasingly concerned that they're not going to be able to sustain the effort.

Q: Can an argument be made, Mr. Vice President, that in fact they have worn down the will of some people in this country? Some people -- I don't know if you heard the comments, for example, of John Kerry. This was at the Take Back America conference that they had just earlier this week. And let me play it for you and get your reaction to it:

We were misled. We were given evidence that was not true. It was wrong, and I was wrong.

What are your thoughts on that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it's -- I guess I'm not surprised at John Kerry switching his position yet again. He's the man, of course -- he did, in fact, support our efforts in Iraq initially. As I say, he voted for the $87 billion before he voted against it. Now I suppose it's sort of a complete 180-degree turn that he started during the last campaign.

The fact of the matter is, they're making the charge, Kerry is now, that somehow he was misled. He wasn't misled. He saw the same intelligence all the rest of us saw. He knew what an evil actor Saddam Hussein was. He did, in fact, support the efforts at the outset.

This is hard stuff. It's very difficult to do what we're trying to do here. But we are getting it done. The troops are performing magnificently. They are doing this tremendous job. We're making significant progress. The Iraqis have put together their government under their new constitution. The President, of course, was just there this week for meetings -- I think major progress on the political front, but also on the security front. And the death of Zarqawi is proof positive that, in fact, our guys are getting the job done.

Q: But doesn't this really get to the debate -- and there is a distinct difference between the two parties. And you can hear it clearly in what John Kerry is saying. They have a debate going on in the House of Representatives today. This has everything to do with Iraq, the war against Islamic fascism. In many ways -- I guess the distinct difference is that you and the President -- and frankly, I agree with you -- have decided that the time is now and the place is Iraq. I ask most people on the other side of the aisle when I interview them or debate with them, well, do you believe at some point we are going to be at war with those people that have attacked us, that want to destroy our society. They say yes. They just disagree with the time and the place, no?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think that's right, Sean. The distinction I see here is that there's a failure on their part to understand, or refusal to understand, that this isn't just about Iraq, that it, in fact, is about the broader global war on terror, that this is a global conflict that everybody should be aware of by now. There have been attacks all over the world, in London and Madrid and Bali and Istanbul, as well as New York and Washington; that the key to our success to date has been to actively and aggressively go on offense. Pre-9/11, the policies that were pursued by the U.S. government were not aggressive at all. There was no price really extracted for those who launched attacks against the United States, right up until 9/11 -- 9/11, of course, and this President changed all that.

And Iraq is very much a part of that, in the sense the key is to change circumstances in that part of the world that in fact generated those people who have launched those attacks against the United States. Before 9/11, you might be able to think about retiring behind our oceans and being safe. After 9/11, we know that's not possible. We know 19 guys on 9/11 with box-cutters and airline tickets killed 3,000 Americans.

Iraq is important, just as Pakistan is important and Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan and all of those countries in that part of the world where we've seen terrorism blossom as it did in Afghanistan, obviously. We've gone in aggressively and dealt with it, and that's exactly what we're doing in Iraq. Iraq was a safe haven for terrorists, it had a guy running it who had started two wars, who had produced and used weapons of mass destruction. Taking down Saddam Hussein was exactly the right thing to do.

It's also, I think, in part responsible for the fact that we haven't been hit again in nearly five years. That's no accident. The fact is, we've taken the battle to the enemy. That's been the key to the safety and security of the American people these last few years, and we need to continue to do it. And we need to make certain that Iraq doesn't become a failed state, but instead the Iraqi people have an opportunity for self-government. And that's exactly what we're doing.

Q: Mr. Vice President, there seems to be a rush to judgment any time there's an allegation made against our troops. We have the Haditha incident that is ongoing right now. We have another incident. We had a father calling -- his son is a Marine, his son hasn't been charged, his son is in shackles in Camp Pendleton. We have the comments of John Murtha. Let me play him for you and get your reaction:

There was no -- there was no firefight. There was no IED that killed these innocent people. Our troops overreacted because of the pressure on them. And they killed innocent civilians in cold blood.

What are your thoughts when you hear that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm sorry to hear John -- Jack Murtha doing that. Jack is somebody I know well. We served together in the Congress many years ago. I think he's prejudging the outcome here. We have not yet seen the final results of that investigation. The people involved are entitled, I believe, to be presumed innocent until proven otherwise. It's very important that we not draw conclusions before we've seen the full results here. These individuals are entitled to be fairly treated, and there's a uniform code of military justice. And that's the way the matter ought to be handled.

I guess the other thing that bothers me, Sean, is that I hope people don't lose sight of the enormous talent and dedication and patriotism and skill of all our men and women out there in uniform. The danger here is sometimes that the mainstream media will take something like this and it becomes sort of the be-all and end-all of their coverage for a while, and creates the impression that somehow we've got a lot folks out there doing evil things, and that's just not the case. We've got thousands, hundreds of thousands of brave young Americans who are out there defending the country with their lives, and they deserve the support of all of us. And it's certainly not fair in any respect to suggest that somehow we've got a significant number of issues there where people are violating the law. There will be justice administered in this case, as it should be, and that's the way it needs to be.

Q: They deserve the presumption of innocence.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: They deserve the presumption of innocence, and I think it's also important for people to recognize this is the United States Marine Corps. This is one of the finest organizations in the history of the United States of America. They do have good, solid procedures for dealing with these kinds of issues, and I'm sure that's exactly what they'll do.

Q: Mr. Vice President, I guess the most dangerous and volatile situation that is emerging on the world front is the issue of Iran and nuclear weapons. Ahmadinejad has pledged to annihilate Israel, wipe it off the face of the earth. They've not been cooperative with the IAEA. We see the possibility of talks emerging. How do you prevent Iran from getting nuclear weapons? And is there a possibility it may take military action?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the effort that's underway right now is to persuade the Iranians that they don't need the capability to enrich uranium, that they should not pursue nuclear weapons. That's being done diplomatically, and hopefully it will produce the desired result.

The President has made it very clear, though, that no option is off the table, that, in fact, the important thing here is that we reach the desired outcome, and that a nation with the kind of background that the current government of Iran has, obviously, would be, I think, a source of instability were they to possess nuclear weapons. Everybody in that part of the world, and really almost on a global basis, I think, has arrived at the same consensus, that Iran does not need and should not possess nuclear weapons.

Q: Mr. Vice President, poll numbers have been tough of late, yet the economy is growing and surging. The revenues of the government have increased significantly. We've got elections coming up. We've had a huge victory with Zarqawi. Do you feel the momentum has shifted?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think it has, Sean, but the President and I have the basic attitude we've got jobs to do, and we're going to do them just as long as we're here. There are elections this year. That's an important part of the process. I'm spending a fair amount of time out helping our candidates, and the President has done some of it.

Q: Are you comfortable that the Republicans will win?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think we will. We've got some great candidates. It's going to be an interesting year, in terms of the issues that are before the country. I think you're right, that the economy is ticking along in very good shape. I think we are -- if you look at the track record of the President and the global war on terror, it is a very significant success. We've liberated 50 million people. We've shut down the black market nuclear weapons provider, A.Q. Khan, that provided technology to Libya. We've got significant progress in that part of the world in many, many respects. We protected the United States against further attacks from the terrorists. We can't guarantee there won't be another attack, but the track record, I think, is remarkable.

Q: The last question I have is, the biggest criticism I hear from conservatives about the President and the Vice President -- the administration, that's you -- is they're not happy with the proposal on immigration, and anything that would be any kind of forgiveness or amnesty for illegal immigrants. In the 40 seconds we have, your response.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we've said we're not for amnesty, either. We believe we need to do border enforcement -- that's got to be the top priority -- and beef up our capacity at the border. We've already turned back about six million people since we got here. We also think we need a temporary guest worker program that would allow people to come in for jobs that Americans won't take, and then return again, so we know who's here and we know what they're doing here. We have not supported amnesty and do not support amnesty.

Q: Mr. Vice President, we always appreciate having you on. Congratulations. It's been a good run. And last quick question: Do you think you'll be able to pull some troops out quick?

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I wouldn't want to speculate on that, Sean. I think the key question here is accomplishing the mission, and that's got to be the test.

Q: Vice President Cheney, thanks for being with us.

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good to talk to you.

END 3:27 P.M. EDT

Richard B. Cheney, Interview of the Vice President by Sean Hannity Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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