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Cheney Says U.S. Right to Overthrow Saddam

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 10, 2006 – Iraq is the major front in the war on terror, and even though no weapons of mass destruction have been found there, it was still the right call to overthrow Saddam Hussein, Vice President Dick Cheney said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” today.

With Saddam in power, Iraq was a major state sponsor of terrorism, Cheney said. “Saddam Hussein was providing payments for the families of suicide bombers,” he said. “He had a history of starting two wars. He had produced and used weapons of mass destruction. It was one of the worst regimes of modern times.

“Today, you have Saddam in jail, where he is being prosecuted for having butchered thousands of people,” The vice president added.

Since Saddam’s ouster, three elections have brought a democratic government to power for the first time in the nation’s history. “We’ve got almost 300,000 Iraqis trained and equipped in the security forces,” Cheney said. “That’s significant progress by anyone’s standards.”

Cheney, who served as defense secretary from 1989 to 1993, said there is still major work ahead for the United States in Iraq, but “it’s obvious that the world is better off today” because Saddam is no longer ruling the country.

The threat to America from terrorism is still serious, but U.S. officials learned a lot from the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Cheney said. “We saw in spite of the hundreds of billions of dollars we spent on national security up to 9-11, on that morning 19 men with box cutters and airline tickets came in to the country and killed 3,000 people,” he said.

If al Qaeda terrorists had access to weapons of mass destruction, they would use them. “The real threat is the possibility of a cell of al Qaeda in the midst of one of our cities with a nuclear weapon or a biological agent,” Cheney said. “On 9-11, if they had had that instead of airplanes you’d be looking at a casualty toll that would rival all the deaths in all the wars in America’s 230 years.”

Saddam’s Iraq had ties to terrorist groups, he said. The regime sheltered the Abu Nidal group and provided a safe haven for Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi after he was driven from Afghanistan. Saddam had defied the international community, violated 16 U.N. Security Council resolutions, started two wars, “produced and used weapons of mass destruction and was deemed by the intelligence community to have resumed his WMD programs when he kicked out the (U.N.) inspectors,” Cheney said.

And, he added, if Saddam Hussein were still in power, the situation in the war on terror would be much worse. “You’d have a man who demonstrated capacity for violence who had started two wars, who had produced and used weapons of mass destruction, who had every intention of going back to it when sanctions were lifted, and at this point -- especially with (Iranian President Mahmud) Ahmadinejad living next door in Iran pursuing nuclear weapons -- there is no doubt in my mind that if Saddam Hussein were still in power he’d have a very robust (nuclear) program under way to do exactly the same thing.”

Cheney reiterated that the world is better off with Saddam in jail rather than in power. The U.S. decision to go into Iraq “was the right thing to do,” he said. “And if we had to do it all over again, we’d do exactly the same thing.”

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