- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday accused Democrats of “corrupt and shameless” revisionism on the Iraq war and called their demands for a pullout “self-defeating pessimism.”

“It is a dangerous illusion to suppose that another retreat by the civilized world would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us alone,” Mr. Cheney said in a blistering speech to the American Enterprise Institute in Washington.

“A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for the terrorists, an invitation to further violence against free nations and a terrible blow to the future security of the United States of America,” he said.

Also yesterday, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton said in Rye Brook, N.Y., that an immediate U.S. withdrawal would be “a big mistake.”

“I think that would cause more problems for us in America,” she said. “It will matter to us if Iraq totally collapses into civil war, if it becomes a failed state the way Afghanistan was, where terrorists are free to basically set up camp and launch attacks against us.”

Mr. Cheney and Mrs. Clinton were responding to last week’s call by Rep. John P. Murtha, Pennsylvania Democrat, to begin withdrawing immediately America’s more than 150,000 troops from Iraq and to complete the pullout within six months.

Yesterday, the vice president countered, “I disagree with Jack and believe his proposal would not serve the best interests of this nation.”

In an appearance later yesterday on CNN, Mr. Murtha stood by his stance, but played down the personal angle, saying of Mr. Cheney, “We are old friends. But he hasn’t called me up, but I’m sure he will.

“I’m convinced that he will come around to my position,” he added. “This war cannot be won militarily. We have to turn it over to the Iraqis.”

Mr. Cheney devoted much of yesterday’s speech to denouncing Senate Democrats who have accused the president of distorting prewar intelligence to justify the invasion of Iraq.

The intelligence mistakenly warned that dictator Saddam Hussein had stockpiled weapons of mass destruction.

“The flaws in the intelligence are plain enough in hindsight, but any suggestion that prewar information was distorted, hyped or fabricated by the leader of the nation is utterly false,” Mr. Cheney said. “This is revisionism of the most corrupt and shameless variety. It has no place anywhere in American politics, much less in the United States Senate.”

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, refused to back down and even repeated his charge that “the administration distorted, misrepresented and manipulated the intelligence.”

As for Mr. Cheney’s insistence that the president did not manipulate intelligence, Mr. Kennedy noted, “The vice president carefully doesn’t say whether he or someone else distorted, hyped or fabricated that information and fed it to the president.”

Sen. Carl Levin, Michigan Democrat, dismissed the Cheney speech to the conservative think tank, saying, “It is easy to make assertions that prewar intelligence was not distorted, hyped, or fabricated before a friendly audience.”

The press office of Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, sent out a “Fact Check” on Mr. Cheney’s speech, saying he seemed at odds with the White House’s message.

“President Bush is trying to tone down the rhetoric. Did the vice president not get the memo?”

Despite Mr. Cheney’s objections to a pullout, he went out of his way to praise Mr. Murtha, calling him “a good man, a Marine, a patriot” who is “taking a clear stand in an entirely legitimate discussion.”

Such praise contrasted sharply with Mr. Murtha’s attack on the vice president last week. The Vietnam veteran mocked Mr. Cheney for obtaining “five deferments.”

“I like guys who’ve never been there that criticize us who’ve been there,” Mr. Murtha said sarcastically.

Mr. Murtha backed off those comments on yesterday’s “The Situation Room,” while acknowledging that “a lot of people like what I said.”

But he called his words “heated, and I feel bad about that actually, because … [Mr. Cheney] was in Congress for 10 years. He really has served this country. And he’s been a public servant when he would have been making a lot more money outside.”

Yesterday, Mr. Cheney said a pullout would let Iraq be taken over by terror leader Osama bin Laden; his second-in-command, Ayman al-Zawahri; and their top lieutenant in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi.

“Those who advocate a sudden withdrawal from Iraq should answer a few simple questions,” the vice president said. “Would the United States and other free nations be better off, or worse off, with Zarqawi, bin Laden, and Zawahri in control of Iraq? Would we be safer, or less safe, with Iraq ruled by men intent on the destruction of our country?”

• This article was based in part on wire service reports.

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