Interview of the Vice President

WASHINGTON, Dec. 6 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- West Wing 10:35 A.M. EST Q It's an interesting time, so we really are eager to talk to you about especially a lot of the stuff that's happening on...


THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the way I think about it is that we embarked upon a new strategy after 9/11. We used to treat terrorist attacks as a law enforcement problem. We went out and arrested the bad guy, put him on trial, convicted him, and put him in the slammer. So one of the guys who helped organize the attacks on the World Trade Center is doing life out in Colorado. That was the old way of looking at the world, though. What we learned after 9/11 is we really were under attack. It was a strategic threat to the United States . It was bigger than just a law enforcement problem, and that we had to marshal our resources to go after the terrorists, to go after those who sponsor terror, to go after those who might provide them with more deadly capabilities than they had used up to that time, and that we needed to take steps here at home to be able to defend ourselves against future attacks.

And so we did things like the Terrorist Surveillance Program, which is now all caught up in the FISA statute, for example. We need a robust program for the interrogation of high-value detainees. When you capture Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, you need to know what he knows -- he's the guy who planned 9/11, killed 3,000 Americans -- what are your next plans? And these are all issues that are being debated as we go forward.

I think the policies we put in place in those areas have been directly responsible for our success at defeating all further attacks that have been launched against the United States since 9/11; being able to intercept and disrupt the operations of al Qaeda, as they've attempted them, whether it's launching aircraft out of England headed for the United States that you're going to blow up over the Atlantic, or over U.S. cities. And we've been very successful. It's not an accident; it's because those programs have been there.

If we look at the question of our involvement overseas -- Iraq , Afghanistan and so forth -- I believe the prime enemy we face there has been al Qaeda. I think that's been true in Iraq , as well. Al Qaeda in Iraq has been sort of the long pole in the tent, if you will, in terms of the opposition we face. There have been other elements involved -- we've had some Shia-on-Sunni conflict and so forth -- but a lot of that was stimulated by al Qaeda. Zarqawi goes and blows up the mosque at Samarrain order to precipitate Shia reaction against the Sunni. And for us in the global war on terror, Iraq has been the central front vis-a-vis al Qaeda. That's how they see it. That's what they say when they want to describe it.

If you look at their strategy, it hasn't changed a lot. It's based on the proposition not that they can defeat us, not that can beat us in a stand- up fight -- they can't, they never have -- it's based on the proposition that if they kill enough Americans, they can change American policy. And they cite, as examples of that, Beirut , 1983: Kill 241 Marines and you can get the Americans to withdraw from Lebanon . We did within a matter of months. Or Mogadishu in '93.

So with that basic fundamental proposition, if we were to withdraw precipitously from Iraq , for example, without completing the mission, I think that would validate the al Qaeda strategy. It would say to them they're right, that they're -- for the United States to conduct ourselves in a way that validates the al Qaeda strategy is exactly the wrong thing to do. I think, among other things, it would encourage them to launch further attacks. I think it would encourage them, if we were to operate in a way that said, you're right, if you kill enough Americans, you can change U.S. policy, they'll kill more Americans.

That's sort of the general view I have of the world. And I think in terms of going forward, it's very important for us to succeed in Iraq and Afghanistan ; that those are not isolated incidents. The notion that somehow Iraq is a bad war and Afghanistan is a good war and we're going to go fight in Afghanistan , we don't want to fight in Iraq is goofy, makes no sense at all.

You look at Zarqawi, who was Jordanian by birth, imprisoned in Jordan for terrorist activities, ultimately released in an amnesty, goes to Afghanistan and operates a training camp in Afghanistan to train terrorists how to do -- (inaudible) --. When we go into Afghanistan , he flees to Iraq and sets up operations in Baghdad . And when we go into Iraq , then he spends all of his time organizing al Qaeda in Iraq to come after Americans and to try to precipitate a conflict, civil conflict, inside.

Now, tell me, do you think national boundaries play into that? The fact of the matter is, in this conflict national boundaries don't have the kind of significance they might have had before, and you cannot say, well, we're going to go fight them in Afghanistan , we're not going to fight them in Iraq .