For Immediate Release
March 29, 2006
Interview of the Vice President by Tony Snow
The Tony Snow Show
11:45 A.M. EST
Q Welcome back. Joining me now the Vice President of the United
States, Dick Cheney. Mr. Vice President, thanks for joining us.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Hello, Tony. It's good to talk to you.
Q So the Democrats now have a plan. They call it Real Security:
The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the
World. As far as I can tell, there is nothing in here that actually
talks about attacking the bad guys. But let's talk about some of the
things that at least have been mentioned in recent days and weeks by
Democrats -- number one, the idea of strategic withdrawal from Iraq in
order to "strengthen our position in the region."
My question to you is, is there any difference in your mind between
strategic withdrawal and retreat?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, and, frankly, that would be exactly what
Osama bin Laden and the al Qaeda types have been predicting and betting
on all along -- it's the idea that if they kill enough Americans, they
can force us to change our policy. It would be a strategic retreat. It
makes no sense at all to turn Iraq over to the terrorists. We can
succeed in Iraq. We can complete the mission. We are making progress
day by day. It's tough, hard work, but it's very important that we
prevail there, just as we're prevailing in Afghanistan.
Q You mentioned bin Laden who likes to talk about strong horse
versus weak horse. He has predicted that the United States would become
a weak horse. Are you saying that the Democrats, rather than as they
have promised to do, to capture bin Laden, that they'd be giving in to
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't think there's any question about that
if you were to withdraw from Iraq. The al Qaeda presence there is
significant. Mr. Zarqawi, the top terrorist in Iraq, is the head of al
Qaeda in Iraq. He's pledged loyalty to Osama bin Laden; that if we were
to withdraw from Iraq, I think the danger would be, obviously, that
you'd turn the country over to the worst possible elements, and it would
become a safe haven for terrorists. It makes no sense at all, and it's
Q I've talked to a number of people who have been in Iraq. The
same stories keep coming back, which is that Iraqis increasingly are
taking responsibility for military and police actions. Do you think
it's conceivable or even likely that by the end of this year, there will
be fewer American troops on the ground in Iraq?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that's a possibility, but we've
been very firm, Tony, in refusing to put a timetable on it. We talk
about it in terms of conditions on the ground. Obviously, there are a
number of things happening that should result in that kind of outcome
down the road. One is the progress that's being made on the political
front as the Iraqis put together a government under their new
constitution, and they're working on that very hard, day in and day out;
and the other is the progress that's being made training Iraqi security
forces and getting them into the fight.
They're now taking more and more responsibility for their own
security. And those two developments are key ultimately to our being
able to turn the situation over to them.
Q Today's release by Democrats contains a lot of second-guessing
about what led up to the war and the early execution of it, including
the notion that it was based on faulty security. Recently a number of
documents that had been retrieved from Iraq have been translated, and
what we're starting to get is a picture of Saddam Hussein actively
involved in training terrorists, and even talking about weapons of mass
destruction. Is it possible that we actually underestimated Saddam's
involvement in the international terror network?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, some of us didn't. I think there are --
there's been a debate, obviously, and we've got a lot of folks who don't
believe that there was any kind of a relationship there between al Qaeda
and Saddam Hussein. I think the record is abundantly clear that Saddam
Hussein was, in fact, a prime sponsor of terror. This is the guy who
was making $25,000 payments to the families of suicide bombers. This is
the guy who provided a safe haven for Abu Nidal. The track record there
is very clear.
George Tenet, Director of the CIA, went before the Senate Intel
Committee at one point and said there was a relationship between Iraq
and the al Qaeda that went back to the early '90s. So I think what
we'll find as we get a chance to go through and analyze these documents
-- there's some 50,000 boxes of them that are now being made available
here over the next few months -- that we'll see a pretty complete
picture that Saddam Hussein did, in fact, deal with some pretty
nefarious characters out there. And he was legitimately labeled by our
State Department as a state sponsor of terror.
Q Including Osama bin Laden?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Yes, we don't know the full scale of it there
yet, and I don't want to make a hard and fast prediction here. But
there is reporting, obviously, that we've seen over the years that there
was some kind of a relationship there between the Iraqis and Osama bin
Q I want to be clear because I've heard you say this, and I've
heard the President say it, but I want you to say it for my listeners,
which is that the White House has never argued that Saddam was directly
involved in September 11th, correct?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's correct. We had one report early on
from another intelligence service that suggested that the lead hijacker,
Mohamed Atta, had met with Iraqi intelligence officials in Prague,
Czechoslovakia. And that reporting waxed and waned where the degree of
confidence in it, and so forth, has been pretty well knocked down now at
this stage, that that meeting ever took place. So we've never made the
case, or argued the case that somehow Osama bin Laden [sic] was directly
involved in 9/11. That evidence has never been forthcoming. But there
-- that's a separate proposition from the question of whether or not
there was some kind of a relationship between the Iraqi government,
Iraqi intelligence services and the al Qaeda organization.
Q Democrats also argue that they're going to improve
intelligence gathering, at the same time they have opposed the National
Security Agency's previous program of trying to conduct surveillance on
electronic communications from al Qaeda -- known al Qaeda operatives,
whether they're abroad or in the United States, and people within the
United States. If that program had not been in place, would Americans
THE VICE PRESIDENT: That's my opinion, Tony. I think, in fact,
the terrorist surveillance program has been very helpful in disrupting
attacks planned by the al Qaeda organization. I think it has, in fact,
The thing I'm intrigued by -- they talk about wanting to improve
intelligence -- one of their more prominent senators, Russ Feingold, has
introduced a resolution of censure, trying to censure the President
because he authorized this particular program. It's a great program.
It's very important to the safety and security of the United States. I
believe it has saved lives, and it ought to be supported, not
Q Would you like to see Senate leaders go ahead and call Senator
Feingold's bluff by bringing his censure resolution to the floor for a
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, they've got to decide how they're going
to handle that themselves. I, for one, am inclined to think that the
best way to treat it is with a certain amount of contempt. My guess is
that if it were to come to a vote, and that were the issue, then, in
fact, a vast majority of Democrats would vote against it. I think
they'd be embarrassed to have to even consider it.
Q The other thing -- one of the other striking things of the
Democratic plan is that they would get bin Laden. Do you think they
know how to do it?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think one of the difficulties we've
got is that a number of the prominent folks on the other side -- and I
don't question their patriotism or their loyalty -- but I do think many
of them what I call a pre-9/11 mind set. They've got a tendency to look
at the terrorist attacks, for example, in terms of law enforcement and
only law enforcement. We saw it back in the '90s where we had a series
of attacks against the U.S. or against our interests overseas, and no
effective response except in a few cases we were able to arrest
individuals and prosecute them; fired off a few cruise missiles once at
a training camp in Afghanistan.
But it was only after 9/11, and the President's determination to
very aggressively go after these guys, to go after the terrorists, to go
shut down their training camps, to go after states that sponsor terror,
like Afghanistan. It was only that aggressive posture, as well as the
homeland security measures we took here at home that I think have
protected the U.S. from another attack.
We can't guarantee there won't be another one, obviously, but we've
gone over four years now. And I think it's been because we've been
fighting them on their turf instead of having to fight them here on the
streets of our own cities. I don't think --
Q But you don't seriously think they've got a secret plan for
getting bin Laden?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I don't. And I don't believe that -- if you
look at John Kerry, who was their candidate in the last election, or Ted
Kennedy, I don't think they believe that the aggressive kind of posture
we've been pursuing is the right one. I happen to disagree with them.
I think being aggressive and using all of the means at our command to go
after the terrorists on their own turf is crucial.
Q Okay. A couple of things, I think a couple of minutes ago --
I want to make sure -- you said Osama bin Laden wasn't involved in 9/11
planning. You meant Saddam Hussein, correct? That Saddam Hussein was
not involved in September 11th?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Correct. Yes, sir.
THE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Thanks for straightening that out. I didn't
realize I'd done that. (Laughter.)
Q Yes. Well, otherwise we'd have a whole lot more stories to
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Oh, yes. All right. Well, I appreciate it.
Q Some radioactive stuff got across the border the other day.
We were doing a test, and it turned out that somebody faked some
paperwork. Are you confident that we are going to be able to put
together security measures that make it impossible -- or make it at
least unlikely that somebody is going to be able to bring into this
country the stuff necessary to create either a dirty bomb or a nuclear
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, we're spending a lot of time on that,
and I think we're getting better at it all the time. These kinds of
tests, I'm sure, were embarrassing for some folks. On the other hand,
it's the way you really pulse the system and find your weak spots. And
in this particular case, I'm told, and had a conversation with somebody
about it just this morning, that we were able to detect the material
coming across. What broke down was the people bringing it across had
some phony documents that were not detected.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: And so that leads us down another avenue in
terms of having to improve our overall systems. But I think that
running those kinds of tests is important. I think, clearly, they
uncovered a problem here and the problem is now being addressed.
Q What do you make of proposals to put up a wall between the
United States and Mexico? For it or against it?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I'm not sure it's the best way to
proceed. I think there are parts of the border down there where a fence
or a wall of some kind makes sense, and they've done some around San
Diego, for example, that have worked well. It depends. In an urban
setting, lots of times, that's the only effective way to be able to
control the border. There are other places -- out in the wide open
spaces -- that border is hundreds and hundreds of miles long -- where
you're better off using modern technology -- unmanned aerial vehicles,
for example, with night vision capability that lets you patrol large
areas and -- remotely and direct your assets and your resources more
effectively. So really it depends on the circumstances what the right
Q Mr. Vice President, got a half a minute, the last question --
do you think Democrats are playing with fire in this? Do you think this
attempt to come up with a security strategy is going to backfire on
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I think it is, because if you look at --
let me just give you one example. They talk about improving our
security, and yet, Harry Reid went out and bragged about killing the
Patriot Act. Fortunately, they didn't get it killed. We were able to
beat them on it. But their behavior has been totally inconsistent with
what they're now promising they're going to do.
Q All right, Mr. Vice President.
(Sound bite is played.)
Q Thanks for joining us.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: All right. Good to talk to you.
END 11:56 A.M. EST