By Michael A. Fletcher
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 4, 2006
COLORADO SPRINGS, Nov. 3 -- The Bush administration is determined to continue "full speed ahead" with its policy in Iraq, regardless of Tuesday's midterm elections, Vice President Cheney said Friday.
Cheney said in an interview with ABC News that the administration is convinced that it is pursuing the right path in Iraq.
"It may not be popular with the public. It doesn't matter, in the sense that we have to continue what we think is right," Cheney said. "That's exactly what we're doing. We're not running for office. We're doing what we think is right."
Iraq has been by far the largest issue in Tuesday's election, and many analysts say it has put at risk GOP majorities in both the House and Senate. Nonetheless, Cheney said, the administration is not considering a fundamentally different course.
"I think it'll have some effect perhaps in the Congress," he said of the election's outcome, "but the president's made clear what his objective is. It's victory in Iraq. And it's full speed ahead on that basis. And that's exactly what we're going to do."
Cheney also said that terrorists are banking not on defeating the United States militarily but rather on the nation growing tired of the war and walking away from the fight. And he suggested that a Democratic victory on Tuesday would also be a victory for terrorists.
"When they see something happen such as happened in Connecticut this year, where the Democratic Party purged Joe Lieberman primarily over his support of the president in the war, that shows to them their strategy is working," Cheney said.
The interview was taped for broadcast Sunday on "This Week." Excerpts were broadcast Friday on "World News With Charles Gibson."
The remarks came on a day when Cheney stumped in normally reliable Republican territory, first addressing troops recently returned from Iraq and then headlining a rally for a GOP congressional candidate.
Speaking at a packed hangar at Fort Carson, Cheney rallied about 5,000 troops and their families. The vice president refrained from any blatant political rhetoric in this military venue, as he praised the troops for their service and reminded them of the importance of their mission.
"The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. It's a battle worth fighting," Cheney said. "It's a battle we are going to win."
About 4,000 troops from Fort Carson returned this week from Iraq, where most of them trained Iraqi security forces. An additional 3,800 are serving in Iraq.
Cheney said the United States can ill afford to back off the war in Iraq, which he called central to the fight against terrorism. The only way to prevail, he said, is to be unwaveringly aggressive.
"Our only option against these enemies is to monitor them, to find them, to fight them and to destroy them," he said to loud applause.
Cheney warned that the nation can not be lulled in complacency simply because it has not suffered a terrorist attack in five years. And he made clear that he believes that the Bush administration's policies are responsible for that success.
"Getting through five years of wartime without an attack on the homeland took a lot more than luck," he said.
Cheney's appearance before troops was typical for the vice president, who polls indicate is unpopular among much of the general public but is well liked here in the mountain West and among military audiences.
On Thursday, Cheney headlined a rally in Idaho. He was the star of a rally for Colorado Republicans at the luxurious Broadmoor resort Friday evening. On Saturday, he is scheduled to address a GOP crowd in his home state of Wyoming before returning to Washington.