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Cheney Interview After Iraq Trip - May 10

FOX News Special Report With Brit Hume

BRET BAIER, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): In an exclusive interview in Abu Dhabi, Vice President Cheney said the administration is not deterred by sinking poll numbers about how the war is being handled or concerns from moderate Republicans.

CHENEY: We didn't get elected to be popular. We didn't get elected to worry just about the fate of the Republican party. Our mission is to do everything we can to prevail in what is now, we believe, a global conflict, a fundamental test of the character of the American people, whether or not we're going to be able to prevail against one of the most evil opponents we have ever faced.

BAIER: Cheney said al Qaeda has made Iraq the centerpiece of the global war on terrorism, and it's now largely up to the Iraqi leaders he met with over the past two days to get it right.

CHENEY: They have got a job to do. They have got to meet those requirements, in terms of being able to govern themselves, deal with the tough issues they have got before them, in terms of reconciliation and oil and so forth. I pushed very hard to make certain they understand that and --

BAIER (on camera): Do you think they get it?

CHENEY: I think so, but we will see. Time will tell. I came away from my two days in Iraq feeling pretty good about things, but they have got a lot to do and we have a lot to do.

BAIER: Former CIA Director George Tenet, in his new book, charges that there was never a serious discussion in this administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat or about the implications of this war. How do you respond to that?

CHENEY: It's just not true. I haven't read George's book, but to state that somehow the president didn't spend a lot of time thinking about this or talking about it -- we had extensive conversations. Maybe George wasn't included in those. But the fact of the matter is this decision was weighed as heavily and given as careful consideration as any I have ever been involved in and I have worked for four presidents.

BAIER: In his book, he takes particular aim at you and he says it was particularly difficult for him to listen to you on "Meet The Press" last fall and you said this.

CHENEY: When George Tenet sat in the Oval Office and the president of the United States asked him directly and said, George how good is the case against Saddam on weapons of mass destruction, and the director of the CIA said it is a slam dunk, Mr. President. It is a slam dunk.

BAIER: Why did you point to that one comment? It seemed to suggest that it was a tipping point in the decision to go to war?

CHENEY: That's an accurate reflection of what I said then. It's an accurate reflection of what happened. It is not to say that George walked in and said that and everybody decided to run off and go to war. Not by any means. We had been receiving evidence for months. I think this conversation occurred some time in late 2002, as I recall.

BAIER: The fall of 2002, yes.

CHENEY: We had been in office for almost two years and were receiving a steady flow of reports from the agency on what was going on in Iraq. By then we had received the National Intelligence Estimates, signed up to by George. He supervised putting that together. The president asked him that question specifically, how good is the evidence, George. And George said it is a slam dunk. That's an honest, accurate statement of what transpired.

BAIER: But not the tipping point --

CHENEY: No, I never said it was the tipping point.

BAIER: He would suggest that it was somehow pre-ordained that this administration was going to war with Iraq.

CHENEY: No, that's not true.

BAIER: Do you have any ill feelings towards George Tenet?

CHENEY: No, if I had ill feelings toward everybody that has written books, it would be a pretty long list.

BAIER: You are portrayed by your opponents and some in the media as a sinister figure, as this cold blooded war monger who doesn't care about the body bags coming back. I know you read the casualty reports every day, but how to you feel about the cost of this war in blood and treasure four years later?

CHENEY: Well, obviously any casualty is to be regretted. And when you see the wounded and the price they paid for their service and talk with the families of those who have been killed or wounded in action, it is a very emotional experience and it ought to be. Nobody should ever be in a position of authority to take that for granted. But I also have strong feelings about the cost if we don't act.

The real threat we face today is the possibility of an al Qaeda cell in the midst of one of our cities, armed with a nuclear weapon. If they were ever to pull that off and detonate a nuclear weapon in one of our major cities, it would rival all the casualties we have suffered in all the wars in over 200 years of American history.

So the question of saying we are suffering casualties, isn't the cost too high? I don't think it is when you lay it over against what it is we need to prevent.

BAIER (voice-over): In Abu Dhabi, Bret Baier, Fox News.

For more visit the FOX News Special Report web page.

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