- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 14, 2003

Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday said that the $87 billion price tag for military action and rebuilding in Iraq is a “significant expense,” but that the cost of inaction would be even higher.

“It’s going to be much more expensive down the road if we wait. It’s less money, frankly, than the events of September 11 imposed on us here in the United States,” Mr. Cheney said.

Appearing on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. Cheney said it has been difficult to predict a dollar figure for the war effort and suggested the price tag could climb even higher.

“We have not tried to hide it under a bushel, and the president’s been very direct. We’re working closely with the Congress in putting the request together,” Mr. Cheney said.

One-fourth of the $87 billion will be used to rebuild the war-torn country while the remaining three-fourths will support military operations there, with a portion set aside for ongoing military activities in Afghanistan.

Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts said the cost should be paid by all Americans and is planning to legislatively link the $87 billion cost to a tax increase by eliminating the Bush tax cut.

“We believe that the American people expect that if we’re going to have to ante up money additionally in order to safeguard our troops and get this job done, then there should be a shared sacrifice in America,” Mr. Kerry said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

If the tax-cut elimination measure fails, Mr. Kerry said he would still vote to authorize the $87 billion. Not doing so, he said, would be “irresponsible.”

Mr. Kerry, who is lagging in the polls, also accused the administration of recklessness and failed leadership in the Iraqi war.

“The $87 billion is the price tag for their arrogance and their miscalculation, and I believe that is continuing,” Mr. Kerry said. “We’re paying the price for the reckless way in which this president approached this. It’s a failure of diplomacy, and today it’s a failure of leadership.”

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said the $87 billion is part of the global war on terrorism, which he and Mr. Cheney said is better fought in Iraq and Afghanistan than the United States.

“Twenty-three million Iraqis have been liberated — that’s an impressive accomplishment, and I think Congress will approve the funds,” Mr. Rumsfeld said on CBS.

Criticism that the U.S. military is “bogged down” in Iraq, and that the mission has become a quagmire is far-reaching, Mr. Rumsfeld said.

He compared the liberation and rebuilding process to that in Germany after World War II, where he said it took three years to establish a central bank, 14 months to build a police network, three years to approve a new currency and 14 months to establish a Cabinet. All of that already has been accomplished in Iraq.

Mr. Cheney denied published reports he is profiteering in the war through his former company, Halliburton, which has won nearly $2 billion in contracts for the rebuilding effort.

Mr. Cheney ran Halliburton before taking office as vice president and said he has severed all ties to the company.

“I don’t know any of the details of the contract because I deliberately stay away from any information on that,” Mr. Cheney said.

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