It was one of the most famous quotes from the early years of the war in Iraq and it came on Memorial Day five years ago. You’ve seen references, but here’s the relevant portion of the Larry King transcript of his interview with Vice President Dick Cheney on May 31, 2005. For the full transcript, go here, it’s filled with other amazing comments on Gitmo, John Bolton and the United Nations, and who-cares-about-Amnesty. Note: A little earlier today, the cost of our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan passed $1 trillion (according to calculations), just as the U.S. death toll in Afghanistan passed 1000.
KING: Speaking of Memorial Day. Every day it seems we hear of more deaths in Iraq — Iraqis, Americans. Does that give you pause? Did you ever say to yourself, maybe we shouldn’t have?
D. CHENEY: No. I’m absolutely convinced we did the right thing in Iraq. Obviously we wanted to get it over with as quickly as possible. We regret every loss of an American in combat any place in the world. One of the difficult things about the job the president has, for example, is he has to make those decisions about when to send young Americans in harm’s way. And it was necessary to do in Afghanistan and it was also necessary to do in Iraq.
But we’re making major progress there. I mean we’ve got a new government stood up now. They had elections, free elections, really for the first time in centuries in January of this year. They’re going to be writing a constitution this summer. That will lead to elections under that constitution. Later this year, there’ll be a brand new government in place, duly elected under a newly written constitution by the end of the year.
At the same time, we’re training Iraqis to take over the security requirements in Iraq.
KING: When do we leave?
D. CHENEY: We’ll leave as soon as the task is over with. We haven’t set a deadline or a date. It depends upon conditions. We have to achieve our objectives, complete the mission. And the two main requirements are, the Iraqis in a position to be able to govern themselves, and they’re well on their way to doing that, and the other is able to defend themselves, and they’re well on their way to doing that. They just announced that in the last day or two here, there’ve been stories about a major movement of some 40,000 Iraqi troops into Baghdad to focus specifically on the problem there.
KING: You expect it in your administration?
D. CHENEY: I do.
KING: To be removed. It’s not going to be — it’s not going to be a 10-year event?
D. CHENEY: No. I think we may well have some kind of presence there over a period of time. But I think the level of activity that we see today, from a military standpoint, I think will clearly decline. I think they’re in the last throes, if you will, of the insurgency. We’ve had reporting in recent days, Larry, about Zarqawi, who’s sort of the lead terrorist, outside terrorist, al Qaeda, head of al Qaeda for Iraq, may well have been seriously injured. We don’t know. We can’t confirm that. We’ve had reporting to that effect.
So I think we’re making major progress. And, unfortunately, as I say, it does involve sending young Americans in harm’s way. But America will be safer in the long run when Iraq and Afghanistan as well are no longer safe havens for terrorists or places where people can gather and plan and organize attacks against the United States.