$87 billion funding bid being led by Cheney Believes banned weapons will be found in Iraq
by Tim Harper
Washington-U.S. Vice-President Dick Cheney led the charge yesterday as the Bush administration sought to justify its $87 billion funding request for Iraq in the face of rising American skepticism.
Cheney, U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and American Secretary of State Colin Powell all took to the airwaves to tell the country the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan pale in comparison to the costs of another terrorist attack on U.S. soil.
But neither Cheney nor Rumsfeld would say whether the request from U.S. President George W. Bush would be the last bill presented to the U.S. Congress before the 2004 election. And neither man would say how long the American occupation in Iraq would last.
A national poll done for the Washington Post and ABC News released yesterday showed six in 10 Americans do not support Bush's funding request, ending an unbroken string of support for terrorist-related initiatives by the U.S. president since Sept. 11, 200l.
Barely half the respondents -- 52 per cent -- said they approved of the way Bush is handling the situation in Iraq, down 23 percentage points since major combat was declared over by the president at the beginning of May.
"The idea that we can't defend America, or we can't go do what needs to be done in Iraq and Afghanistan ... so they never again become safe havens for terrorists is silly," Cheney said on NBC's Meet the Press.
"The cost of one attack on 9/11 is greater than what we are spending in Iraq."
But he would not say whether he and Bush would be back for more before the 2004 election.
"I can't say that," Cheney said. "It's all we think we'll need for the foreseeable future, for this year. What's the cost if we don't act? What's the cost if we do nothing? What's the cost if we don't succeed with respect to our current operation in Iraq? I think that's far higher than getting the job done right here."
Cheney gave no ground in a lengthy interview when he was pressed on his contention of alleged links between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda, the threat to the United States posed by Iraq, the search for weapons of mass destruction and his prediction that U.S. troops would be welcomed as liberators.
In the view of the vice-president, a leading proponent of the war and one of the loudest pre-invasion voices on the threat posed by Iraq, most U.S. troops were welcomed as liberators.
Weapons of mass destruction, he said, are buried in the Iraqi civilian infrastructure, and will be found. And Cheney said he was certain Saddam Hussein will be found by U.S. troops.
He also left little doubt as to what he saw as the defining issue as he and Bush seek re-election next year.
"This president is betting his presidency on fighting the war on terror," Cheney said.
On the CBS program Face the Nation, Rumsfeld maintained the Iraqi reconstruction effort is moving rapidly -- "four and a half months is just 4 1/2months."
Powell, making his first visit to Iraq since Saddam was toppled, spoke to Fox News from Baghdad.
"Things look relatively calm and normal," Powell said. "And with each passing day, there's more traffic on the street, there's more commerce starting up. The electrical power is slowly approaching pre-war levels and will exceed pre-war levels before the fall is out."
Cheney said 372 Americans have died fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, an acceptable number given the 3,000 lives lost in the September, 2001, terrorist attacks -- again linking the Iraqi invasion to the suicide hijackings.
The vice-president even suggested that Bush may not have been wrong when he told the American public last January that Saddam was seeking uranium from Niger in order to reconstitute his nuclear weapons program. The White House had said the claim was wrong, but Cheney pointed out a British parliamentary committee "revalidated" the Niger claim in its report released last week.
Cheney also denied two charges most often levelled at him.
He said he has not profited from the Iraqi reconstruction contracts awarded to his former company, Halliburton, and said he had had nothing to do with the firm for three years.
He also denied that he had tried to influence pre-war intelligence reports to tailor them to back the Bush government`s stated intention to invade Iraq.
"I'm not willing at all at this point to buy the proposition that somehow Saddam was innocent and he had no weapons of mass destruction and some guy out at the CIA, because I called him, cooked up a report.
[Source: The Toronto Star, Mon, Sept 15, 2003]
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