Cheney Holds Firm on Iraq, Pelosi Comments

Vice President Dick Cheney continued his war of words with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi in an exclusive interview with ABC News today.

"My statement was that if we adopt the Pelosi policy, is that we will validate the strategy of al Qaeda," Cheney said. "I said it, and I meant it."

Cheney first made that allegation regarding Pelosi's call for a withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq on Wednesday, prompting Pelosi to call the White House to ask President Bush to repudiate the comments.

Pelosi called Cheney's words "beneath the dignity of the debate we're engaged in and a disservice to our men and women in uniform, whom we all support."

But Cheney is holding firm on his original comments.

"I am not sure what part of it that Nancy disagreed with," Cheney told ABC News during an interview today in Sydney, Australia. "She accused me of questioning her patriotism. I didn't question her patriotism, I questioned her judgment."

Cheney said: "The point I made, and I'll make it again, is that al Qaeda functions on the basis that they think they can break our will. That's their fundamental underlying strategy, that if they can kill enough Americans or cause enough havoc, create enough chaos in Iraq, then we'll quit and go home."

Touts Progress in Iraq

When asked whether the Bush administration had a failed strategy in Iraq, Cheney pushed back hard, insisting there had been significant progress.

"A failed strategy? Let's see. We didn't fail when we got rid of Saddam," Cheney said. "We didn't fail when we held elections. We didn't fail when we got a constitution written. Those are all success stories."

Asked whether it had been a failure to see more than 3,000 American soldiers killed and a virtual civil war raging, Cheney stood his ground.

"You wish there was never a casualty," he said. "Always regret when you have casualties, but we are at war. And we have to succeed where we've begun this venture. And we can."

Cheney also defended the recent nuclear agreement with North Korea. Under the agreement, North Korea will receive energy assistance in exchange for shutting down its Yongbyon nuclear power plant.

Conservatives have criticized the agreement for rewarding North Korea before it gives up its nuclear weapons.

"I think the decision that we made to try this approach is the right one," Cheney said. "If you're going to be able to squeeze North Korea effectively to get them to change policy, China is in the best position to do it. And China is a part of this agreement. Now, can I guarantee it's going to work? Of course not."

Former U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, a longtime Cheney ally, has been especially critical of the deal, calling it "a huge mistake."

"John's a good friend of mine," Cheney said, "and he's entitled to his opinion. I think that it's worth the effort. The president believes it's worth the effort, and we've been working to try to get the six-party talks to produce results, especially working with China, Japan and South Korea. And we'll see."

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