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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Cheney Defends Reasons For War

Aired July 24, 2003 - 19:08   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: In Washington today there was more debate over the U.S. decision to invade Iraq in the first place.
Vice President Dick Cheney offered a spirited defense of the war in what appears to be a part of a broad administration effort to counter continuing controversy.

Senior White House correspondent John King is standing by with the details -- John.

JOHN KING, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson, today an example of how the vice president, Dick Cheney, is often used as this administration's lead policy and political troubleshooter, the vice president's enormous task today, trying to quiet the controversy over the now discredited White House claim that Iraq had tried to buy uranium in Africa as part of what the administration insisted was an effort to revive its nuclear weapons program.

In making his case today, the vice president delivered a direct challenge to those who insist this administration ginned up the evidence and was wrong to go to war.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DICK CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: The ability to criticize is one of the great strengths of our democracy. But those who do so have an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi threat?

KING: The vice president called the case for war compelling, saying there was broad consensus among intelligence agencies that Iraq was actively pursuing chemical and biological weapons, was within a decade of developing a nuclear weapon and was obstructing United Nations weapons inspectors.

CHENEY: Knowing these things, how could we, I ask, have allowed that threat to stand?

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KING: But in citing that intelligence today, the vice president failed to mention that in the very same report, the State Department significantly questioned the claim that Iraq was trying to revive its nuclear weapons program.

And even after the vice president's speech today, Anderson, many of those critics saying if the vice president was so certain about the intelligence in the days leading up to the war, where are the weapons of mass destruction?

COOPER: All right. John King at the White House, thanks very much.

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