Dick Cheney is an avowed supporter of military action against Iraq
US Vice President Dick Cheney is one of Washington's leading hawks. In August 2002 he made it clear that he had little faith in the ability of UN inspectors to limit Saddam Hussein's weapons programme.
In what was then widely seen as the strongest speech to date backing military action against Iraq, he aligned himself firmly with those who support a pre-emptive attack.
"The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action," he said.
But it was reported that his speech had not been vetted by the rest of the Bush administration - suggesting the vice president may have been speaking off message.
The 61 year-old Washington veteran has already won one Gulf War. As defence secretary under George Bush senior, he planned and co-ordinated the 1991 campaign along with Colin Powell, now secretary of state.
But this time round, the two have at times differed publicly over the value of UN resolutions and arms inspectors in confronting Saddam Hussein's regime.
Mr Cheney also toured Arab nations to shore up support for the US-led war on terror amid speculation that Iraq was next in the president's sights.
1969: Political staffer, Nixon administration
1975-77: Chief of staff to Gerald Ford
1989-93: Defence secretary
2001: Vice president
Then, six months after the 11 September attacks, many leaders warned that an assault on Iraq could destabilise the region, especially if the Israeli-Palestinian conflict was allowed to fester unabated.
But the tour passed without major rows or embarrassment.
Analysts say that in foreign affairs, Dick Cheney has been the main White House bridge between the Pentagon and the State Department - although he is thought to lean more towards to the more militaristic Pentagon.
The vice president has also been deeply involved in the oil industry for much of his career.
After serving under George Bush senior, he left the political limelight to become chairman and chief executive of the Texas-based energy company Halliburton between 1995 and 2000.
On returning to the politics, he was charged with developing a national energy policy as the head of an Energy Task Force commissioned by the president.
Born in Nebraska, Dick Cheney grew up in Casper, Wyoming. He won a scholarship to Yale but dropped out after a few terms and returned to Wyoming.
Mr Cheney later returned to college to get a masters at the University of Wyoming.
He became a political staffer in 1969, and six years later was appointed chief of staff in President Gerald Ford's White House - at the age of 34 he was the youngest person to have held the position.
His career then took him to Congress, where he became a staunch Reagan supporter before taking the job of defence secretary under George Bush senior.
The vice president's health remains a concern, particularly after he had major cardiac surgery in July 2001 - coming after a series of mild heart attacks in 1978, 1984, 1988 and again during the presidential campaign.