Bush, General Casey say victory in Iraq will make world safer
By Ralph Dannheisser and Peggy B. Hu
March 20, 2006
Cheney was interviewed on CBS's Face the Nation March 19 on the third anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion that toppled dictator Saddam Hussein from power.
The vice president quoted the terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, as having said two years ago that if Iraqis succeeded in achieving a democratic government, "he'd have to pack up his bags and go elsewhere."
"So what we've seen is a serious effort by them to foment civil war, but I don't think they've been successful," Cheney said. Rather, he said, his view is that the insurgents have "reached a stage of desperation."
Army General George Casey, the commander of multinational forces in Iraq, said in separate talk show appearances the same day that civil war in Iraq is neither imminent nor inevitable.
Although there have been instances of sectarian violence, Casey said on Fox News Sunday, "it's primarily focused in the center of the country around Baghdad."
He noted that in 15 of Iraq's 18 provinces "there are six or less incidents of violence a day," and not all of that violence is sectarian.
"I believe that as the leadership of this country comes forward, forms a government of national unity and that begins to move forward, I believe you'll gradually see these tensions ebb," he said.
Casey acknowledged on NBC's Meet the Press that "[t]he situation here is fragile, and I suspect it will remain fragile here until we get ... a government of national unity formed."
He noted that "the leaders of Iraq are now discussing how to form a government that will represent the interests and rights of all the different ethnic and sectarian groups in Iraq, and that's something they haven't had to do before."
Cheney said he does not believe that a string of optimistic administration statements about progress in Iraq -- including his own comments at the war's outset that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators and, 10 months ago, that the insurgency was in its last throes -- have contributed to skepticism by the U.S. public about continued involvement there.
The optimistic statements have been "basically accurate, and reflect reality," he said, adding that public skepticism has been fueled by a focus by the news media on violent incidents, rather than on evidence of progress.
"There is a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad. It's not all the work that went on that day in 15 other provinces in terms of making progress towards rebuilding Iraq," Cheney said.
The reality of the situation is that the Iraqis "have met every single political deadline that's been set for them," and that, on the security front, "we've seen major progress in terms of training and equipping Iraqi forces...and it continues to improve day-by-day," he added.
Cheney said violence continues "because our adversaries understand what's at stake here, because they know that if we're successful in establishing a democratic government in Iraq, that that's going to put enormous pressure in that part of the world on all of those other regimes and governments."
Casey echoed Cheney's remarks, saying on CNN's Late Edition that "the terrorists and the foreign fighters and the insurgents are attempting, yet again, to [derail] this political process they have failed to stop in the January '05 elections, in the October referendum and in the December '05 elections."
As the number of experienced Iraqi security forces increases, the United States will gradually reduce its troop presence, Casey said, adding that such reductions will be done "in a gradual, not a precipitous way, so that we maintain the appropriate level of support here for the Iraqi security forces."
He said on NBC's Meet the Press that when Iraqi and coalition forces work together, the Iraqis "are in the lead still with our transition teams and still with some enabling support from us -- medical evacuation, some logistical support for a period of time, intelligence, indirect fire support -- those types of things. So they're not to the point where they are completely independent and completely able to conduct the counter-insurgency operations by themselves."
Casey said he believes coalition forces will succeed in Iraq and that Iraq "will emerge as a safe country here in the region that will deny itself as a base for terrorism."
"I believe the region will be safer, and I believe the United States of America will be safer when we succeed here," he said.
Cheney, in his Face the Nation interview, said that the administration's "aggressive, forward-leaning strategy" of taking the fight to terrorists "wherever we find them" has been instrumental in preventing any further attacks on U.S. soil since the September 11 assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001.
In a separate statement issued the same day, President Bush said that the coalition is "implementing a strategy that will lead to a victory in Iraq. And a victory in Iraq will make this country more secure, and will help lay the foundation of peace for generations to come."
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