GREEN BAY, Wis. – Vice President Dick Cheney (search) told supporters Friday that democracy is on the way to Iraq, saying the country's prime minister probably will visit the United Nations in New York.
Cheney, in an interview with a newspaper, also explained that a remark he made earlier this week — that "the wrong choice" in November could lead to another terrorist attack — did not mean the United States will be hit again if voters elect Democratic candidate John Kerry (search).
Iraqi Prime Minister Ayad Allawi probably will come to New York for a U.N. General Assembly meeting, Cheney said, but he called the visit "still an open question." Officials are planning elections in Iraq for January.
Sitting down for coffee with a dozen supporters in this swing state, Cheney described upcoming elections in Afghanistan and compared progress there with progress in Iraq.
"They'll have a democratically elected government in place by the end of the year and it's a huge change from what was there just three years ago, when that was the place where Al Qaeda launched the attack that killed 3,000 Americans," Cheney said of Afghanistan. "In Iraq, we're attempting the same basic operation."
Cheney linked U.S. involvement in the two countries, saying the goals are similar, although many argue the justification for war in Afghanistan — where the Taliban harbored Al Qaeda — was stronger than in Iraq.
"Both in Afghanistan and Iraq now we're actively involved in standing up new governments and new security forces," he said. "We're also spending a lot of time and effort training the Iraqis and Afghans to deal with their own security problem."
Cheney made no mention of U.S. military deaths in Iraq, now totaling more than 1,000, or the insurgent attacks that have wracked the nation in the months since the U.S. handover.
Drinking coffee at the Golden Basket Restaurant with Green Bay Packers legend Bart Starr marked the start of a daylong bus trip across Wisconsin for the vice president. He planned two town hall meetings with supporters and a tour of a sausage factory. Starr took Cheney on a private tour of the Packer Hall of Fame.
In an interview published Friday in the Cincinnati Enquirer, explaining that he wanted to "clean up" the controversy he sparked this week, Cheney said the country must brace for a potential terrorist attack no matter who is elected president.
On Tuesday, while campaigning in Iowa, Cheney said: "It's absolutely essential that eight weeks from today, on Nov. 2, we make the right choice, because if we make the wrong choice then the danger is that we'll get hit again and we'll be hit in a way that will be devastating from the standpoint of the United States."
Electing Democratic candidate John Kerry does not mean the United States will be hit again, Cheney told the Enquirer.
"I did not say if Kerry is elected, we will be hit by a terrorist attack," he said. "Whoever is elected president has to anticipate more attacks. My point was the question before us is: Will we have the most effective policy in place to deal with that threat? George Bush will pursue a more effective policy than John Kerry."
Democrats and others pounced on the earlier statement, with Democratic opponent John Edwards calling Cheney's comments un-American, undignified and divisive. President Bush declined to respond when he was asked whether he agreed with his running mate.
Cheney was in Cincinnati for a "town hall" meeting with about 500 invited supporters. In the public forum, he did not address his earlier remarks, although he repeated the assertion that the United States cannot view terrorism as it views ordinary crime.