For Immediate Release
Office of Media Affairs
May 3, 2004
Interview of the Vice President by Dave Elswick, KARN
ELSWICK: Mr. Vice President
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Yes Sir
ELSWICK: Hi, welcome to the Dave Elswick show in Little Rock. How are you today?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I'm good sir.
ELSWICK: I appreciate your time to talk to me and to talk to our listeners in Central Arkansas and would like to cover a variety of subjects with you on Iraq, the economy, and some of the things about terrorism.
Let's start with Iraq. It has been a bloody few weeks in Iraq - in Fallujah and some of the other areas. And Arkansas has mingled our blood with other fallen soldiers in Iraq now we have lost a total of 7 guardsmen in the last several weeks.
I was wondering if you had words for the families and for our listeners who have loved ones who are serving over there.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I was aware of the guys we lost in the 39th infantry brigade. I just talked with Governor Huckabee about that this morning. Obviously we are in a situation from now until June 30 when we are able to stand up an interim Iraqi government and transfer sovereign authority to it where there will be every effort made by the enemy in this case. The terrorist network, the former regime elements will try to derail this process and make certain that we are not successful at completing the project in Iraq.
We regret every single life lost obviously in service to our nation. It is a difficult set of circumstances. I always remember that we lost 3,000 people in two hours that morning on 9/11. it is very important that we complete the task we started in Afghanistan and Iraq so that they will never again become safe havens for terrorists and that we can have stable governments there that won't be a threat to the United States or anyone else.
It is a vitally important piece of business and unfortunately it has also been a dangerous one for our folks in uniform.
ELSWICK: With the upsurge in the insurgents that have attacked us in Fallujah and some of the other cities around Iraq, and this is a minority of citizenry we understand, but with June 30 coming up and with sovereignty being passed over to the interim government, as we move into next year when there is going to be elections do you think that the violence might even escalate more at that time.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: It is hard to predict. One of the other things we're doing here obviously as we stand up civilian authority is standing up Iraqi security forces so ultimately they've got to be prepared to fight this fight themselves . They've got to be the ones who provide for their own security.
You've seen some of that work done in recent days in Fallujah where they brought back in some folks who had been previously been involved in the Iraqi military but we believe they are reasonably clean, that is not guilty of any crimes and standing up a brigade there to take on the responsibility for policing Fallujah. WE need to do more of that around the country so hopefully by the time you get down to elections, the burden of providing security across the country will increasingly be Iraqi and not American.
ELSWICK: Saturday was the one year mark from when the President said that most of the military fighting was done. We understand that there was still other things that needed to be done, but are we happy with where we are at? Is it where we thought we would be at? Or how do you all vision this right now?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: I think it is fair to say that we've made enormous progress when you consider that over the last couple of years we've liberated some 50 million people in Afghanistan and Iraq. We've wrapped up thousands of Al Qaeda, taken down Saddam Hussein's government, ended the immediate threat that - the possibility of a linkage between the terrorist and Saddam's past experience of developing weapons of mass destruction.
All of this has been I think impressive. In Afghanistan you have an interim government under Mr. Karzai in place. They've written a constitution and there will be elections later this year. In Iraq they've reached agreement and signed up for this transitional administrative law and here in the next few weeks we expect to have people who will move in and serve in those senior government positions.
We've made a lot of progress . The problem is obviously is that we still have a long ways to go in the sense that the security threat is still significant and the enemies in Iraq understand that if we succeed here that it's curtains for them. I think they well recognize what's at stake. If we are able to stand up a government in Iraq that represents the people and doesn't have to rely on the type of violence and oppression and heavy-handedness that it did in the past and doesn't represent a threat to its neighbors, that will create a dramatic set of circumstances on the ground in the Middle East. That is why they are going to push as hard as they can I think over the next couple months to derail the progress and that is what we are having to deal with now.
Was it expected? No, not in its entirety, certainly. ON the other hand, we knew that this would take a long time. It isn't the type of thing you can wrap up in a couple months given the enormous damage that has been done in Iraq over the years - over the 30 years of Saddam's rule, the bloody nature of his regime - he was one of the worst dictators in history. It takes time to put a society back together.
ELSWICK: Over the weekend and over this past week some disturbing images coming out of Iraq of some of our military members perhaps taking part in abuse of Iraqi prisoners. This is something that Al Jazeera and some of the other Arab propaganda machines are going to use against us. Your thoughts on this and what the military should do - should these people be brought to justice as quickly and as swiftly as possible.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: There are very clear rules and regulations in terms of how you treat prisoners. And it would appear based on the photographs that are coming out that clearly those rules were violated. And if that is the case then the people responsible need to be dealt with under the uniform code of military justice and the various provisions that they sign up to when they agree to serve.
Also, they have rights obviously - a free trial and a fair trial and it is important that we not prejudice those rights by passing judgment in any one individual here. But it looks like there was a serious problem there and I'm confident that the Department of Defense and the military will move to see to it that justice is done.
ELSWICK: A report coming out of the State Department that in 2003 it was the fewest number of attacks in international terrorism since 1969. Your thoughts on that. Has the war on terrorism begun to show some real rewards for us?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, I think we have clearly had a significant impact. For a long time, I think that terrorists could look at the United States and we had a series of attacks back in 1983 in Beirut, 1993 at the World Trade Center in New York, 1995 in Riyadh, 1996 Khobar Towers , 1998, 2000 the USS Cole - there were a series of attacks here where there was never a really strong US response. And more oftentimes as a result of the attacks, the US would change policy.
For example withdrawing from Somalia in 1993 or Beirut in 83. I think the terrorists were stunned with the reaction they got after 9/11. The American people rallied around the President and he provided some very aggressive leadership and obviously we moved first on the Taliban and the Al Qaeda in Afghanistan and I think they were surprised by that. I don't think they expected the United States to respond as strongly as we did.
That might have well dampened down terrorism in some places around the world. But it would be a mistake for us to assume that somehow that we are over the hump here and we can relax now. We know they are still out there trying to attack the United States. We saw what they did in Madrid when they went in and killed a couple hundred people a few days before the election. I think they probably believe they altered the outcome of that election. They might try the same thing here in the US.
We estimate at least 20,000 terrorists trained in those camps in Afghanistan in the late 90s and most of them have subsequently returned back to their home turf. And we have seen attacks subsequently in Casablanca Riyadh, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Istanbul. So it is a continuing, ongoing problem. So while the actual numbers of incidents declined, I think it would be a mistake for us to assume that we've turned the corner.
We've got a difficult struggle ahead of us. We'll do everything we can to defend the homeland but we also have to go on offense. There is no such thing as a perfect defense and even if we are successful 99 percent of the time, that one percent can certainly kill you.
And the way you have to deal with that is to go aggressively as we have in Afghanistan and also in Iraq and change the circumstances and in affect green the swamp, change the ground over there where terrorism breeds.
ELSWICK: We only have a few moments left. I wanted to ask you about the economy. Can you give us a feeling about job creation. The stock market has been basically white hot. It had a little turn last week, but it came back today. Your thoughts on that.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: The economy I think is headed in the right direction. If you look at all the key indicators. Inflation is low, interest rates are low, home ownership is at an all time high, manufacturing is picking up, employment is increasing. We've added 300,000 jobs in March, 750,000 jobs since last August.
The rate of growth in the economy over the last three-quarters now is about 5 percent which is the best since the first term of the Reagan administration. So we're clearly got things moving in the right direction. We still have more to do. We've still got some folks out there who need to find work and they haven't been able to find it. But on balance we've got everything going in the right direction.
We've come through a rough patch . We went through a recession, and then the attack on 9/11 which obviously shook the economy but I think overall we feel very good about where we are at.
ELSWICK: In Arkansas, a lot of people are into farming, a lot of people are truckers, gas prices are hurting them. Any thoughts for those folks and those industries?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Well, we need to continue to work on and adopt a national energy policy that will among other things allow for increased production here at home so we're less dependent on foreign sources. We've been trying to do this for several years and it is an endless source of frustration that Congress has thus far been unwilling to adopt legislation that would allow us to produce more energy here at home.
We will always be to some extent on foreign sources for some of our energy but we are so dependent now on the international market, we get this situation where we get gas prices up at these levels. But it is more than anything else it is due to significant demand out there - there is significant demand worldwide. And the amount that we produce here at home as a percentage of our total demand continues to decline year by year because vast parts of our country are off limits to development.
We've tried to get approval for ANWR - to develop that field in the North Slope of Alaska . We know it is there and developed the field next to it. We know we can do it in an environmentally sound way but to date we haven't been able to get it through the Senate. The Senate has blocked it. We have to continue to work on those kinds of measures if we are going to have adequate supplies or reasonable prices.
ELSWICK: Mr. Vice President. Final question for you. Arkansas is going to be a battle ground state for this administration. You won it back in 2000. What is it going to take for you to win in 2004?
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: We'll do everything we can to earn the vote of the voters of Arkansas. I've been here and the President has been here quite a bit. We think the American people are going to have a pretty clear cut choice come November between our approach both in the economic and the national security area which I think are going to be the defining issues and the approach that Senator Kerry would probably take based on his years in the Senate. He's got a 20 year record to look at and evaluate in economic and national security policies.
So it will be an important election - maybe the most important in many a year. It is vital that we have these debates and make these decisions in going forward. I think the President is going to do very well. We will expect to win but won't take anything for granted . We think it will be a tough, hard fought contest and that is how it should be.
ELSWICK: Mr. Vice President, thank you for sharing your time with us here on KARN and with my listeners and with my show specifically. When you are through the Natural State again we hope that you will come on in and sit down in the studio with us for awhile.
VICE PRESIDENT CHENEY: Alright, thanks Dave.