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Cheney: Talk of blunders in Iraq is 'hogwash'

Story Highlights

• Cheney rejects premise of mistakes hurting credibility on Iraq
• Vice president says question about daughter is "out of line"
• Congressional opposition won't stop plan to increase troops, he says
• Pulling out of Iraq would validate terrorists' strategy, Cheney says
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney on Wednesday dismissed as "hogwash" the suggestion that blunders may have hurt the administration's credibility on Iraq and led members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to question President Bush's plan to send more troops to Baghdad.

In an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer, conducted a day after Bush delivered his State of the Union address, Cheney was asked to respond to some Republicans in Congress who "are now seriously questioning your credibility, because of the blunders and the failures."

To that, Cheney answered, "Wolf, Wolf, I simply don't accept the premise of your question. I just think it's hogwash."

Cheney said the administration is committed to moving ahead with its plan to send more troops to Baghdad, even if Congress passes a resolution in opposition. (Read a transcript of the interview PDF)

"It won't stop us," he said. "And it would be, I think, detrimental from the standpoint of the troops."

If U.S. forces were to pull out of Iraq, "we would simply validate the terrorists' strategy that says the Americans will not stay to complete the task ... that we don't have the stomach for the fight. That's the biggest threat."

He added, "The notion that somehow the effort hasn't been worth it, or that we shouldn't go ahead and complete the task, is just dead wrong."

Cheney said the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein was the right move. (Watch Cheney tell why the war is a success Video)

"The world is much safer today because of it," Cheney said.

"There have been three national elections in Iraq. There's a democracy established there, a constitution, a new democratically elected government.

"Saddam has been brought to justice and executed, his sons are dead, his government is gone. And the world is better off for it," he said.

Had Hussein been allowed to remain at the helm of Iraq, "he would, at this point, be engaged in a nuclear arms race with [Iranian President Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad, his blood enemy next door in Iran." (Watch Cheney warn against 'walking away' from Iraq Video)

Still, Cheney acknowledged "ongoing problems" in Iraq, where an insurgency is blamed for dozens of Iraqi deaths per day and there have been more than 3,000 U.S. military fatalities over the course of the nearly four-year-old war.

"There's problems -- ongoing problems. But we have, in fact, accomplished our objectives of getting rid of the old regime, and there is a new regime in place that's been there for less than a year, far too soon for you guys to write them off."

He added, "We still have more work to do to get a handle on the security situation, and the president's put a plan in place to do that." (Watch how the war in Iraq has changed Video)

Asked to describe the biggest mistake made by U.S. war planners, Cheney said, "I think we underestimated the extent to which 30 years of Saddam's rule had really hammered the population, especially the Shia population, into submissiveness. It's very hard for them to stand up and take responsibility, in part because anybody who's done that in the past have had their heads chopped off."

Asked about criticism from a conservative group about the pregnancy of his openly gay daughter Mary, who is in a relationship with a female partner, Cheney expressed irritation with the question. (Watch Cheney's response to questions about his daughter Video)

And the vice president carefully avoided talk about the 2008 presidential race beyond expressing outright opposition to Sen. Hillary Clinton of New York "because she's a Democrat" and saying he and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona "agree on many things and disagree on others."

While refusing otherwise to speculate on the 2008 campaign, Cheney said Clinton will not be president, and even if she were to win she wouldn't make a good chief executive.

"I don't agree with her philosophically and from a policy standpoint," the vice president said.

McCain, like Clinton a likely presidential aspirant, said last week that President Bush has "been very badly served by both the vice president and, most of all, [former] Secretary of Defense" Donald Rumsfeld.

But Cheney shrugged off McCain's comments, calling the Arizona senator a "good man."

Cheney defended Rumsfeld for doing a "superb job" in his six years in the Bush administration.


Vice President Dick Cheney said Wednesday that the White House will go forward with its Iraq troop increase.


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