- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 6, 2005

Vice President Dick Cheney said yesterday that democracy in Iraq should not and will not mirror democracy in America because of historical differences, yet added that he is confident that the electoral process will not produce an Islamic theocracy.

“It’s not going to look like Wyoming or New York when they get their political process all put together,” Mr. Cheney said.

“They’re going to create a government, select a president, prime minister. They’re going to write a new constitution, there will be a referendum on that constitution, and a final election come fall.

“But they will do it their way. They will do it in accordance with their culture and their history and their beliefs and whatever role they decide they want to have for religion in their society. And that’s as it should be,” Mr. Cheney said.

The United Iraqi Alliance, the Shi’ite coalition dominated by religious groups, is leading in the election results with one-third of the votes counted. However, Mr. Cheney said leading clerics are being clear that they do not want to play a direct role in forming the government.

“I think the Iraqis have watched the Iranians operate for years and create a religious theocracy that has been a dismal failure, from the standpoint of the rights of individuals. They fought a bloody, eight-year war … against that kind of theocracy,” Mr. Cheney said.

“And I think there are a great many people involved in the political process in Iraq who will seek some kind of balance.”

In a wide-ranging, exclusive interview with “Fox News Sunday,” Mr. Cheney also discussed Social Security reform, Osama bin Laden, and whether he will run for president in 2008.

“I don’t plan to run for anything,” Mr. Cheney told host Chris Wallace.

“If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve,” he said, using the same words to repudiate political ambition as Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman and President Lyndon Johnson.

To emphasize the point, Mr. Cheney added: “Not only ‘no,’ but ‘hell no.’”

“I’ve got my plans laid out. I’m going to serve this president for the next four years, and then I’m out of here,” Mr. Cheney said. “I’ve still got a lot of rivers I’d like to fish and time I’d like to spend with my grandkids, and so this is my last tour.”

Asked about the whereabouts of bin Laden, Mr. Cheney declined to speculate but said the September 11 mastermind’s terror organization is “very diffused.”

“I think he is in hiding. I think he finds it very difficult to communicate with his organization,” Mr. Cheney said. “We have done enormous damage to al Qaeda.”

Democratic critics led by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts are demanding that the administration release a timeline on when the military will evacuate Iraq.

Mr. Cheney called it an “artificial deadline” that amounts to a “political compromise” and said the United States will leave when the job of building a functioning and democratic Iraqi state is completed.

“Once we’ve completed the mission, we’ve stood up an effective Iraqi government, and they have security forces in place to be able to take care of their own, then we’re out of there. We have no desire to stay a day longer than necessary,” Mr. Cheney said.

On domestic issues, Mr. Cheney defended the administration’s proposals, which President Bush made the centerpiece of last week’s State of the Union speech, to reform Social Security by letting workers invest some of their federal contributions in personal retirement accounts, a reform that would cost the Social Security system in the short term.

“The real cost over time is doing nothing, because if we do nothing, then the system’s going to go belly up, it’s going to go broke,” Mr. Cheney pointed out. “It won’t be there for today’s younger generation, so that when kids 20 years old now, starting out in the work force, get to be 65, they know full well that Social Security won’t be there for them because it is not then properly funded.”

The reform plans call for the government to borrow more than $750 billion over 10 years. Covering the initial cost of the accounts upfront, instead of borrowing the money, would force major tax increases that would “do serious damage” to the economy, Mr. Cheney said.

Proposed changes for personal retirement accounts do not affect people born before 1950.

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