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Inside Politics

Cheney uses WMD report to defend Iraq war

'The notion we could have waited ... doesn't make any sense'

Vice President Dick Cheney and his wife, Lynne, speak to supporters Thursday in Miami.
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Dick Cheney

MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- While Democrats seized on the Iraq Survey Group's report that Iraq had no weapons of mass destruction before the U.S. invasion, Vice President Dick Cheney on Thursday grabbed the report's findings that Saddam Hussein was "actively undermining" the U.N. oil-for-food program.

At a town hall-style campaign event in Miami, Cheney said that point was enough to justify the invasion.

"He was using [the oil-for-food program] to siphon off billions," he said. "He was, in effect, corrupting the program in such a way that he was trying to buy support from countries outside Iraq so they would support lifting sanctions imposed on Iraq. ...

"The notion we could have waited, not done anything, and sooner or later Saddam would not be on the scene doesn't make any sense."

The Iraq Survey Group's report indicated that Saddam hoped to have the sanctions covering his country lifted and then restart his weapons programs. (Report: No WMD stockpiles in Iraq)

But the report said that "the former regime had no formal written strategy or plan for the revival of WMD after the sanctions."

As for nuclear weapons, the report found that Iraq's "ability to reconstitute a nuclear weapons program progressively decayed" after the Persian Gulf War ended in 1991.

President Bush, speaking from the White House lawn before departing on a campaign trip to Wisconsin, also did not budge from his position that Saddam had to go.

"He was a threat we had to confront, and America and the world are safer for our actions," the president said. (Iraq WMD report enters political fray)

Cheney also stuck to the position that the former Iraqi dictator was a threat because of his connections to terrorists, including a relationship with al Qaeda.

"This was a place where if there was a potential nexus between the terrorists and one hand and access to knowledge and the technology of WMD on the other, it's Iraq," he said.

Cheney's remarks were briefly interrupted by a woman from Ralph Nader's campaign, whose protest was buried beneath the heavily pro-Bush audiences' chant of "Four more years."

"Treat them with kindness. Maybe we can convert them," Cheney said as two people were led out.

Cheney also pushed the idea that the Democratic presidential ticket doesn't have what it takes to fight the war on terror -- the theme he and Bush tried to make stick during the first two debates. (Special Report: America Votes 2004, the debates)

"What we will hear from them and are hearing during the course of the debates is a lot of tough talk, about how aggressively they will pursue the war on terror," the vice president said. "But there is nothing in their background to indicate they have the seriousness of purpose required to successfully prosecute the war on terror."

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