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Iraq Transition

Cheney chides Democrats for Iraq withdrawal plans

Story Highlights

• NEW: Pelosi says Cheney and Bush did a "disservice" to military personnel
• Vice president says talk of withdrawal from Iraq sends the wrong message
• Withdrawal from Iraq would invite terrorists to attack U.S., Cheney says
• House Democrats proposing bill that would withdraw troops by August 2008
From Rachel Streitfeld
CNN Washington Bureau
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Vice President Dick Cheney offered a sharp rebuke to congressional Democrats on Monday, warning that a drawdown of forces in Iraq would invite more attacks on the United States.

Cheney's warning comes as Democrats, along with some Republicans, are girding for a fight over more spending in Iraq -- a push planned even before President Bush's weekend request to deploy an extra 8,200 troops to Iraq and Afghanistan on top of the more than 20,000 additional troops he has previously said he'll send to Iraq.

House Democratic leaders introduced legislation last week that would set a deadline for withdrawal by August 2008, or sooner if the Iraq government fails to meet critical benchmarks.

The White House vowed to veto the bill if it reached the president's desk. (Full story)

In a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, Cheney said even discussion of a withdrawal tells "the enemy to watch the clock and wait us out."

And an actual pullout would send an even worse message, he said.

"If terrorists conclude attacks will change the behavior of a nation, they will attack the nation again and again," he said. "The only option for our security and survival is to go on the offensive ... until our enemy is destroyed."

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Cheney and Bush did "a disservice to our military personnel" by advocating what she called an open-ended commitment in Iraq. Pelosi said the administration brushed aside military leaders' arguments for a different tactic.

"As the vice president's remarks today prove again, the administration's answer to continuing violence in Iraq is more troops and more treasure from the American people," she said in a written statement.

Pelosi said the House Appropriations Committee will consider a plan this week that will take Iraq policy in a different direction.

"The bill will hold the Iraqi government to the president's own performance benchmarks, reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, honor our promises to our military personnel and veterans and refocus our efforts on Afghanistan and fighting terrorism," she said.

Last summer, the Bush administration acknowledged a reduction in the number of U.S. troops in Iraq was a possibility being considered, based on events on the ground. Bush, in speeches leading up to November's midterm elections, argued against sending more troops to Iraq.

But Bush has steadfastly opposed talk of a scheduled withdrawal from Iraq.

The American Israeli Public Affairs Committee hears often from top U.S. political figures. Two front-runners for the Democratic presidential nomination, Sens. Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, have addressed the group in recent weeks.

Cheney told the group Monday that morale among U.S. soldiers in the Middle East is high, and asserted, "America is the kind of country that fights for freedom ... and we will prevail."

He brushed off criticism about faulty U.S. intelligence in the lead-up to the Iraq war and quoted Osama bin Laden as saying a United States defeat in Iraq would embolden al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

"If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us," he said.

Cheney's remarks were met with hearty applause from members of the committee, a pro-Israeli lobbying group. The vice president emphasized President Bush's ties to the Jewish nation, saying Israel has never had a stronger supporter in the White House.


• Interactive: Who's who in Iraq
• Interactive: Sectarian divide


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