WASHINGTON – Vice President Dick Cheney refused Friday to take back his charge that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's opposition to President Bush's Iraq war buildup is playing into the hands of the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
"If you're going to advocate a course of action that basically is withdrawal of our forces from Iraq, then you don't get to just do the fun part of that, that says, 'We'll, we're going to get out,' and appeal to your constituents on that basis," Cheney said.
The vice president had voiced the same criticism of Pelosi earlier this week during a visit to Japan, and the California Democrat accused the vice president of questioning her patriotism, saying she was going to call President Bush directly with her complaint.
"I hope the president will repudiate and distance himself from the vice president's remarks," Pelosi said. She ended up talking with White House chief of staff Josh Bolten instead of Bush.
The long-distance quarrel began in Tokyo, where Cheney earlier this week used an interview to criticize Pelosi and Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., over their plan to place restrictions on Bush's request for an additional $93 billion for the Iraq war to make it difficult or impossible to send 21,500 extra troops to Iraq.
During Friday's interview in Sydney, Cheney said, "I'm not sure what part of it is that Nancy disagreed with. She accused me of questioning her patriotism. I didn't question her patriotism. I questioned her judgment."
"You also have to be accountable for the results. What are the consequences of that? What happens if we withdraw from Iraq?," he said. "And the point I made and I'll make it again is that al-Qaida functions on the basis that they think they can break our will. That's their fundamental underlying strategy, that if they can kill enough Americans or cause enough havoc, create enough chaos in Iraq, then we'll quit and go home. And my statement was that if we adopt the Pelosi policy, that then we will validate the strategy of al-Qaida. I said it and I meant it."
Asked if he was willing to take back his criticism of Pelosi, Cheney replied, "I'm not backing down."