March 19, 2008 — -- Five years after the start of the war in Iraq, Vice President Dick Cheney offered a positive assessment of the current situation and called last year's troop surge a "major success."
"On the security front, I think there's a general consensus that we've made major progress, that the surge has worked. That's been a major success," Cheney told ABC News' Martha Raddatz during an exclusive interview in Oman.
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When asked how that assessment comports with recent polls that show about two-thirds of Americans say the fight in Iraq is not worth it, Cheney replied, "So?"
"You don't care what the American people think?" Raddatz asked the vice president.
"You can't be blown off course by polls," said Cheney, who is currently on a tour of the Middle East. "This president is very courageous and determined to go the course. There has been a huge fundamental change and transformation for the better. That's a huge accomplishment."
Despite that, he says the Iraqi government has made "some progress, not as much as we would like," citing specifically hydrocarbons law and provincial powers legislation as two bills stalling in passage.
Since the war began, nearly 4,000 U.S. troops have been killed and more than 29,000 have been injured in the war, which has so far cost the United States roughly $600 billion, according to the Pentagon.
Cheney said he was unsure how he would have involved the nation to a greater degree.
Pressed on the question of what sacrifice most Americans have made to the war effort, Cheney touted the strength of a volunteer force, pushing away the idea of an instituted draft.
"I suppose you could have created a sense of sacrifice if you'd gone back to the draft, but that would have, in my opinion, done serious damage to the state of our military," Cheney said.
Cheney aligned sacrifice with war funding.
"Obviously, we've expended considerable public funds on this enterprise, and those are funds that could have been used for some other purpose. But we think this is the most important use we could put them to. The country has, in fact, supported financially the endeavors we've been involved in."