Cheney: Moves by Pelosi, Murtha would 'validate the al Qaeda strategy'
In an interview with ABC News today, Vice President Dick Cheney called the announcement that the British will begin withdrawing their troops in the spring “good news,” described the situation in southern Iraq as “dramatically improved,” and lambasted House Democrats for pursuing a course that will “validate the al Qaeda strategy.”
Cheney told ABC that the troop shuffle is evidence of improvement, “I look at it and see it is actually an affirmation that there are parts of Iraq where things are going pretty well.”
Cheney did not directly answer a question about whether the president, when drafting his plan, took into account the possibility that a reduction in foreign troops would commence so soon. But CNN is reporting that President Bush only learned of British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plan to begin withdrawal in April on Tuesday.
In the ABC interview, Cheney mostly confined his criticism of war opponents to House Democrats, who recently passed a resolution expressing disapproval of President Bush's plans to send 21,500 more U.S. troops to Iraq.
"Jack Murtha is an old friend of mine," Cheney said of the powerful Pennsylvania Democrat. "We've done a lot of business together over the years. When I was Secretary of Defense, he was perhaps my closest ally on Capitol Hill. Jack clearly has a different perspective. With respect to Iraq, I think he's dead wrong. I think, in fact, if we were to do what Speaker Pelosi and Congressman Murtha are suggesting, all we'll do is validate the al Qaeda strategy."
Cheney did float some criticism of Senate Democrats, who, because of parliamentary moves by Senate Republicans, have been unable to pass a resolution similar to the one that sailed through the House.
The vice president characterized the situation differently, saying that, in the Senate, "Democrats haven't agreed to allow our guys to vote on a resolution they'd like to have a vote on which would be a commitment not to reduce funding for the troops when they're in the field. So there's a certain amount of politics involved, I suppose."
In a speech today on the USS Kitty Hawk stationed in Japan, Cheney addressed the escalation, but not the British withdrawal plans, saying, "The terrorists have made Iraq the central front in this war. And right now our new force commander in Iraq, General Dave Petraeus, is carrying out a new strategy for victory on that front."
"We're moving in," Cheney explained, "to help Iraqis clear and secure Baghdad, to help them protect the local population, and to ensure that the Iraqi forces will be capable of providing the security necessary in their capital city."
In a statement released to RAW STORY, Senate Armed Services Chairman Carl Levin (D-MI) characterized the new troop alignment not as progress but as a dissolution of the alliance: "The British decision to withdraw up to 1,600 of its roughly 7,100 troops in southern Iraq in the next few months, followed by the Danish announcement that all of its 460 troops in Iraq would be out by August, accelerates the breakup of the coalition in Iraq."
But House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) noted the possible conflict between an American escalation and a British de-escalation in a statement released to RAW STORY:
“Why are thousands of additional American troops being sent to Iraq at the same time that British troops are planning to leave?” Pelosi asked.
"The announcement by the British government confirms the doubts in the minds of the American people about the President's decision to increase the number of U.S. soldiers in Iraq."
On a different topic, Cheney criticized Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) for his recent harsh remarks about former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who McCain blames for difficulties the United States has faced in Iraq.
Cheney noted that he also has been the target of McCain criticisms, but that McCain in the past has apologized for his public remarks.
He added, "I think he [Rumsfeld] did a superb job in terms of managing the Pentagon under extraordinarily difficult circumstances. He and John McCain had a number of dust-ups over policy, didn't have anything to do with Iraq -- other issues that were involved. John's entitled to his opinion. I just think he's wrong."
RAW STORY has not received comment from Senate Republican leadership, but will update this article in the event that we do.