Cheney on Fox News: Criticism of War Plan Undercuts Troops — And Iran, Watch Out

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By: E&P Staff

Appearing on Fox News this morning, VicePresident Dick Cheney said that attempts to stem President Bush’s new Iraq plan, announced this week, were undercutting U.S. troops in Iraq.

He also said that any “sense of Congress” passed in the days ahead would not halt the president’s troop escalation in Iraq, adding that he had not yet heard a “coherent” Democratic plan on Iraq. Bush, after all, is “commander in chief” and “you can’t fight a war by committee.”

Cheney denied the White House felt isolated or embattled, adding “I’ve seen embattled administrations, and this isn’t one of them.” Nevertheless, he would only answer questions on Sunday at the media outlet most friendly with the administration.

He boasted that even though the president on Wednesday cited “unacceptable” conditions in Iraq, “We have in fact made enormous progress.”

On new U.S. moves against Iran, Cheney said: ?Iran is fishing in troubled waters inside Iraq….We do not want them doing what they can to destabilize the situation inside Iraq.”

Cheney also defended the domestic spying program, involving the CIA and the Pentagon, revealed this weekend by The New York Times.

And he acknowledged that he had invited his former chief aide, “Scooter” Libby, to his Christmas party in December, even though his trial in the CIA leak case is about to begin, with the vice president faced with testifying. “He’s a friend. He’s a good man. He is one of the finest individuals I’ve ever known,” Cheney explained. “I believe he’s one of the more honest men I know.”

Asked three times by host Chris Wallace to deny rumors that the U.S. might be considering a replacement for Iraqi leader al-Maliki, Cheney refused to answer the question, saying the administration was focusing on its present plan instead.

Cheney brought Osama bin Laden in to the argument, saying that attempts to reverse U.S. policy on Iraq was exactly “what he wants.” He claimed that al-Qaeda pays a good deal of attention to criticism in Congress and polls. He said war decisions can’t be based on polls. Reminded by Wallace this it was more than polls — voters had spoken loudly in November — Cheney said that didn’t change the matter.

When Wallace pointed out that many Republicans opposed the latest plan, Cheney said, “Chuck Hagel hasn’t been with us for a long time.”

The military and the CIA have long been restricted in their spying inside this country and are barred from conducting traditional domestic law enforcement work here. But Cheney confirmed the main outlines of the New York Times report and defended the Pentagon and CIA activities as legal and necessary to protect military installations inside the United States.

“This is a dramatic story, but I think it’s important for people to understand here this is a legitimate security effort that’s been underway for a long time and it does not represent a new departure from the standpoint of our efforts to protect ourselves against terrorist attack,” he said. He called the spying “a perfectly legitimate activity” that “doesn’t violate people’s civil rights, and if an institution that receives one of these national security letters disagrees with it, they’re free to go to court to try to stop its execution.”

Appearing on ABC’s “This Week” today, Stephen Hadley, the president’s national security adviser, also talked tough against Iran: ?What the president made very clear is these are activities that are going on in Iraq that are unacceptable. They put our people at risk. He said very clearly that we will take action against those. We will interdict their operations, we will disrupt their supply lines, we will disrupt these attacks. We are going to need to deal with what Iran is doing inside Iraq.?

Hadley side-stepped a question about whether U.S. forces would move across the border to pursue Iranians who are helping Iraqi insurgents. He said the priority ?is what?s going on inside Iraq. … That?s where we?re going to deal with his problem.?

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