AC: "...but are you willing to endure what will follow?"

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Length: 8:07


LARRY KING: Wouldn't you like to be liked?

DICK CHENEY: Well, up to a point. But, if you wanted to be liked, I should never have gotten involved in politics in the first place. Remember, success for a politician is 50 percent plus one. You don't have to have everybody on board.


ANDERSON COOPER: Real talk from Dick Cheney.

The vice president sat down for an exclusive interview with Larry King earlier. Cheney basically said he didn't care what Americans think of him. He also said Alberto Gonzales is a good man and he's standing by the U.S. Attorney General. He called questions about the firings of federal prosecutors a congressional witch-hunt.

But it's his blunt opinion of the war in Iraq has that gotten a lot of people's attention.

Here's Vice President Cheney in his own words.


KING: OK. Let's go back. On this program, May of 2005, you said the Iraq insurgency was in the last throes.

CHENEY: Right.

KING: Why were you wrong?

CHENEY: I think my estimate at the time -- and it was wrong; it turned out to be incorrect -- was the fact that we were in the midst of holding three elections in Iraq, elected an interim government, then ratifying a constitution, then electing a permanent government; that they had had significant success. We had rounded up Saddam Hussein.

I thought there were a series of these milestones that would in fact undermine the insurgency and make it less than it was at that point. That clearly didn't happen. I think the insurgency turned out to be more robust.

And the other thing that happened, of course -- this was prior to the actions of al Qaeda in Iraq -- Abu Musab al Zarqawi with his bombing of the mosque up at Samarra in early '06, that, in effect, helped to precipitate some of the sectarian conflict that led to a lot of the Shia on Sunni battles.

KING: In that same interview, you said that the Iraqis were well on their way to being able to defend themselves.

Why not? Why aren't they? Why aren't we gone?

CHENEY: They're not there yet -- because the job is not done yet, Larry.

When you think about what's been accomplished -- in, what, about four years now since we originally launched in there -- they have in fact held three national elections, and written a constitution. There are a significant number of Iraqis now serving in the armed forces, serving as part of the security forces. We have made progress on that front.

We have also obviously with the surge the President decided on last January, I think, made significant progress now into the course of the summer.

The real test is whether or not the strategy that was put in place for this year will in fact produce the desired results.

KING: Will those results be in place on that day in '09 when you leave?

CHENEY: I believe so. I think we're seeing already from others -- don't take it from me, look at the piece that appeared yesterday in "The New York Times," not exactly a friendly publication -- but a piece by Mr. O'Hanlon and Mr. Pollack on the situation in Iraq.

They're just back from visiting over there. They both have been strong critics of the war. Both worked in the prior administration, but now saying that they think there's a possibility, indeed, that we could be successful. So, we will know a lot more in September, when General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker come back and report sort of to the Congress and the president on the situation in Iraq and whether or not we're making progress.

Obviously, we want to get it done as quickly as possible.

KING: You don't know what to expect, though, do you? Or do you?

CHENEY: Well, I think it's going to show that we will have made significant progress. The reports I'm hearing from people whose views I respect indicate that indeed the Petraeus plan is in fact producing results.


COOPER: We, of course, haven't been talking to Mr. Cheney's intelligence sources; on the other hand, we have got Michael Ware, who has been there in Baghdad and all across Iraq almost nonstop since before the fighting began. Right now, he's embedded with American forces in Diyala Province, coming to us through a nightscope camera. Because of the danger there, they're not allowed to turn on any camera lights.

Michael, you just heard the vice president saying that he expects General Petraeus to report significant progress when he gives his assessment come September.

What do you think of the vice president's evaluation?

MICHAEL WARE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, there is progress. And that's indisputable. Sectarian violence is down in certain pockets. There are areas of great instability in this country that are at last finding some stability.

The point, though, is, at what price? What we're seeing is, to a degree, some sleight of hand. What America needs to come clean about is that it's achieving these successes by cutting deals primarily with its enemies. We have all heard the administration praise the work of the tribal sheiks in turning against al Qaeda. Well, this is just a euphemism for the Sunni insurgency. That's who has turned against al Qaeda.

And why? Because they offered America terms in 2003 to do this. And it's taken America four years of war to come round to the Sunnis' terms. And, principally, that means cutting the Iraqi government out of the loop. By achieving these successes, America is building Sunni militias.

Yes, they're targeting al Qaeda, but these are also anti- government forces opposed to the very government that America created. And another thing to remember, Anderson: yes, sectarian violence is down, but let's have a look at that. More than two million people have fled this country. Fifty thousand are still fleeing every month, according to the United Nations. So, there's less people to be killed.

And those who stay increasingly are in ethnically cleansed neighborhoods. They have been segregated.

COOPER: Well, the vice president also referred to this "New York Times" op-ed written by -- by Ken Pollack and Michael O'Hanlon, who returned from Iraq. They were applauding the military progress and the Iraqi security forces' ability to hold areas and keep insurgents out.

How much have the Iraqi troops themselves actually improved?

WARE: Well, there has been improvement in the Iraqi troops. They are standing up, to a greater degree, in certain pockets.

But, honestly, Anderson, it is a myth to believe that the Iraqi forces have been rid of their sectarian or militia ties. No matter how much any commander wants to tell you, the minute the American forces turn their backs, these guys revert to form, be that Sunni or Shia lines, Kurdish ethnic lines, or be it militia lines.

So, there is still no sense of unity. And, without America to act as the big baby-sitter, this thing is not going to last. So, all these successes that O'Hanlon and Pollack point to exist. They're real. But the report is very one-dimensional. It doesn't look at what's being done to achieve this and what long-term sustainability there is.

I mean, these guys, unfortunately, were only in the country for eight days. And they point to a success story of a neighborhood in Baghdad called Ghazaliya. They say, "it's peaceful. We could walk around in a Sunni area."

Yes, that's because it's divided. And the Iraqi army troops won't let the Shia in. And they're Shia army troops. Just last week, there was an incident where the Iraqi commander of those troops went to remove all the furniture from a Sunni's house. And when a fellow Shia protested, he arrested that Shia.

That's the success we're talking about. The question is, is America prepared to pay this price? Yes, it will give you the numbers on pieces of paper that will allow your Congress to let you leave, but are you willing to endure what will follow?

COOPER: Michael Ware, embedded with U.S. forces -- Michael, stay safe.

WARE: Thank you, Anderson.