A Disassociated Press Report, Reno, Nevada, August 30, 2006
By Eric Mader
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, seizing on Democratic calls to pull out of Iraq, on Monday linked early withdrawal to the possibility of terrorist attacks in the U.S.
"Some in our own country want to give the terrorists a victory," Cheney told a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Reno. "A hasty withdrawal at this time would be a ruinous blow to the security of the United States. It would be even more ruinous than our initial decision to invade Iraq."
As Cheney and President George W. Bush try to help Republicans keep control of the U.S. Congress on Nov. 7, polls show public support for the war ebbing.
"When we went into Iraq, the number of young men there willing to commit suicide bombings was virtually zero," Cheney said. "Now they're lining up, waiting to blow up civilians. If we leave, they will only follow us out. They'll be on the next planes after ours, and they'll be armed with all the weapons Saddam left them in his arsenals which we didn't secure when we invaded because, well, we didn't think of it at the time."
Cheney denied that it was only the U.S. invasion that had made Iraq a front in the war on terror, saying that there were already enough terrorists in the world before the invasion to justify a strong U.S. response, wherever it was targeted.
"What people ignore is the fact that we weren't in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2001, but we were still attacked," he said. "Where did those terrorists come from? We didn't create them through our self-defeating invasion of Iraq, because we weren't there yet. I mean, Duhhh."
The vice president cited another important reason for staying the course.
"To withdraw from Iraq at present would be to admit to our real enemy that our initial Iraq policy was a terrible mistake," he said. "And by real enemy I mean of course the American voter, who'd see the enormity of our blunder and vote Democrat in the next election."
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld seemed to be quoting from the same playbook in remarks before the same veterans' group.
"Our enemies will see a U.S. withdrawal as a clear sign of faintheartedness," he said. "That we stay in Iraq even though we're now more or less just playing traffic cop in a Sunni-Shia civil war--that we continue to stay there shows our enemies we have what it takes."
"Constancy is a virtue," Rumsfeld explained. "At this point it's the only virtue we can claim."
Rumsfeld also said on Monday that the U.S. military could handle other engagements despite the huge deployment in Iraq.
"I get asked from time to time, 'if your forces are in Iraq, isn't the U.S. military stressed or strained to the point that it really couldn't deal or cope with a problem in another part of the world,'" Rumsfeld told troops at an air force base in Nevada.
"The answer is no, that's not correct," he said. "Should a soda machine break down in Seoul, or should a bar fight break out in Panama, we've got the resources to deal with it. And we'd deal with it promptly too. Shock and awe all the way."
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