Q I want to ask you about Vice President Cheney's remarks yesterday. How can the White House justify him standing by his remarks that the insurgency is in the last throes? Can you just explain that, how that could --Okay, let's have a look at what the Big Dick Cheney actually said and decide for ourselves if we belive him/them:
MR. HADLEY: The Vice President explained it yesterday.
Q Well, then I didn't --
MR. HADLEY: You can talk to him about it; I thought it was a good explanation.
Q Why do you think it's a good explanation?
MR. HADLEY: It's a good explanation, it speaks for itself. I think it points to the fact the significance of what has happened politically over the last two years, that as he said, we are at a point where we have a duly-elected government, a constitution drafted and ratified by the Iraqi people, that is a unity government that has a plan for going forward. And I think you've seen in the last two weeks a lot of efforts by that new government to provide leadership. They're moving forward with a security initiative in Baghdad. They've talked about their objectives going forward, in terms of electricity and security. We are making great progress on this international compact, which you've been writing about.
I think what the Vice President was saying is things are happening that give in evidence, as our prior discussion does, that this new Iraqi government is stepping forward and taking responsibility. That's a good thing.
Q I'm sorry, how does that comport with the insurgency being in its last throes, all of what you just said?
MR. HADLEY: The Vice President talked about the significance of what we're talking about and what it will mean over time for the insurgency. It's what I think Tony showed, the fact that the Iraqi people are tired of it, they're ready for peace, they're talking about a reconciliation process, but a reconciliation process in which people lay down their arms.
They've also got a government that's stepping forward, taking responsibility for security and the leading of that reconciliation process. I think that's a big development of 2005, 2006, very important as we look forward in Iraq.
Q Just to be clear, the President would agree with the Vice President that the insurgency is in the last throes?
MR. HADLEY: What I said was the Vice President has explained his comments yesterday, and I have tried to provide a little bit more context for that explanation.
MR. SNOW: Let me add another point. He's not saying the war is over. You need to be clear about that. But, again, Steve is just pointing out you're seeing increasing evidence of assertiveness on the part of Iraqi citizens and the Iraqi government. You've got Operation Forward together, it involves 50,000 Iraqi police and military forces going into Baghdad. You've got other operations around the country.
You do have -- and our military commanders have talked about it -- increasing intelligence. We had another key al Qaeda operative who was taken out, I believe it was yesterday or today. General Caldwell was briefing on that this morning. The fact is that we're getting intelligence at a level that continues to increase and continues to be useful in going after them. Are they gone? No, of course not. But on the other hand, it does -- you do have a very clear sense that the Iraqi people are speaking not only at the ballot box, but also in cooperation with U.S. forces. And now that you've got Iraqi forces, they feel an even greater comfort level in talking with Iraqi forces and saying, [to their security forces] okay, you can find them [insurgents] over here.
Q About a year ago, you said that the insurgency in Iraq was in its final there throes. Do you still believe this?What a load of horse shit. What sort of definition of "last throes" is the Big Dick using here?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I do. What I was referring to was the series of events that took place in 1995 [sic]. I think the key turning point, when we get back 10 years from now, say, and look back on this period of time, and with respect to the campaign in Iraq, will be that series of events when the Iraqis increasingly took over responsibility for their own affairs. And there I point to the election in January of '05, when we set up the interim government; the drafting of the constitution in the summer of '05; the national referendum in the fall of '05, when the Iraqis overwhelmingly approved that constitution; and then the vote last December, when some 12 million Iraqis, in defiance of the car bombers and the terrorists went to the polls and voted in overwhelming numbers to set up a new government under that constitution, and that process of course has been completed recently with the appointment by Prime Minister Maliki of ministers to fill those jobs.
I think that will have been, from a historical turning point, the period that we'll be able to look at and say, that's when we turned the corner; that's when we began to get a handle on the long-term future of Iraq.
Q Do you think that you underestimated the insurgency's strength?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think so. I guess if I look back on it now, I don't think anybody anticipated the level of violence that we've encountered. I guess the other area that I look at, in terms of an area where I think we were faced with difficulties we didn't anticipate was the devastation that 30 years of Saddam's rule had wrought, if you will, on the psychology of the Iraqi people. Very, very hard to go from the way they were forced to live for a long period of time to a situation in which they have the opportunity for self-government, for setting up and operating their own free and democratically-elected society. That's a huge transition to make.
And if I look back on something that I underestimated, it would be the extent to which that society had been damaged by that series of events that had occurred over 30 years during Saddam's rule, up to and including the 1991 uprising where so many Iraqis rose up against the regime, and then were slaughtered by Saddam Hussein's forces.
Oh, and by the way, since when are there "rules" when we are talking about war?
Q I just wonder what, tactically, you make of that? You know, their abduction and their apparent death. Does it say anything about the tactics of the insurgents and terrorist groups at this point that may be changing in any fashion?All this rhetoric, but still no remorse for the hundreds and hundreds of innocent Iraqi civilians killed by American weapons. No surprise there.
MR. HADLEY: No, I think it's a reminder that this is a brutal enemy that does not follow any of the rules. It attacks civilians for political gain, it provokes sectarian violence and it really follows no rules of warfare. It's a very brutal enemy and it's a reminder to all of us about what we're up against. And, obviously, any loss of life is a source of great regret.
Oh, and any Iraqi or American who thinks that the US of A will be out of Iraq completely has their head so far dug into the sand they can't even breath. From this statement alone, we have to ask further, what exactly does standing up and standing down look like...and no doubt, the W, Rove and Co will be feed us the same old arbitrary answers:
Q Permanent military bases in Iraq, do you expect those?
MR. HADLEY: We haven't talked about that. What we've really been focusing on is this process of training, turning over responsibility for security at the military level, and then the taking of responsibility by political authorities in Iraq. That's what we really need to be focusing on, and that's what we focused on, and the progress, we hope, that that will afford in dealing with the security situation there. That's really what we've been focusing on.
Q I could be completely wrong about this, I think there was a New York Times story about bases not too long ago, and I don't think you guys have ever tried to dissuade us of the idea that there likely will be troops of some sort in Iraq for as long as we can foresee.
MR. HADLEY: We're going to have a relationship, we would hope, with a free and democratic Iraq for a long time. Iraq has an opportunity to come and be part of the family of nations, as the President -- of the democratic family of nations, as the President said, the example in the region and an ally in the war on terror. Does that mean that we expect to have good relations with Iraq going forward for a long time? You bet. Obviously, over time, it will become the kind of normal relationship we have with countries.