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Bush Administration Defends Iraqi Spending - 2003-09-14

The Bush administration is defending the high cost of the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. The latest administration statements come as a new opinion poll suggests most Americans have concerns about the president's request for $87 billion for military operations and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Three top administration officials appeared on American television Sunday to make the case for the administration's request for the additional funds.

On NBC's Meet the Press, Vice President Dick Cheney said, in effect, that the United States has no choice.

"It's a significant expense," he acknowledged. "No question about it. But it is going to be much more expensive down the road if we wait. It is less money, frankly, than the events of 9/11 imposed on us here in the United States."

Mr. Cheney hinted the White House may ultimately have to ask Congress for even more money, and he said he does not know how long American troops will be deployed in large numbers in Iraq. But he made clear there is no turning back.

"This is about a continuing operation in the war on terror. And it is very important that we get it right," he said.

Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld picked up the theme on the CBS program, Face the Nation.

"It's a lot better to be fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan than it is in the United States," defended Mr. Rumsfeld.

Mr. Rumsfeld was asked about a new poll conducted by The Washington Post newspaper and ABC television that indicates many Americans are concerned about the $87 billion spending request. Six out of 10 of those polled said they do not support the proposal. The secretary of defense said the public really has to understand that the goal extends far beyond rebuilding Iraq.

"What this proposal by the president really does is say, 'look, we have a chance to put that country on a path to democracy, a path towards representative government, a path so that you'll have a country that is friendly with its neighbors, instead of invading its neighbors. And that will be a very good thing for that region. It will be a very good thing for the world,'" he explained.

Also appearing Sunday on American television was Secretary of State Colin Powell, who spoke from Baghdad, where he met with senior officials of the Iraqi interim government and the U.S. led provisional authority. He talked about Bush administration efforts to get a new U.N. resolution on Iraq that would encourage international contributions of troops and money.

He said once again that a demand from France for a quick turnover to Iraqi control will not work, that more time is needed for a smooth transition. He went on to say that the job will get done sooner, if more foreign troops are sent to Iraq to help stabilize the country.

"We want more troops in from other nations, because the more troops you have, the quicker you can bring security throughout the country, and you can get the reconstruction going on a safe and secure basis," said Mr. Powell.

Mr. Powell went to Iraq after attending a meeting in Geneva of the five permanent U.N. Security Council members. He said the full council will discuss the matter on Monday.