By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Aug. 30, 2006 – The United States is fighting terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq to keep its pledge to the people there and to prevent future attacks on America, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said at a troop rally at an Air Force base yesterday. "We maintain forces in those countries because we're a nation that keeps its word and because we understand what is at stake in that part of the world," Cheney told servicemembers gathered at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb.
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, American and allied military forces displaced despotic regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, respectively. President Bush told Americans after 9/11 "that the struggle ahead would be global in nature, that it would be lengthy and difficult, that it would require our best effort and unfailing resolve," Cheney recalled. This, he said, is how the war against terror began.
During the past five years "some of the toughest, most urgent duties have come to our men and women in uniform," Cheney said. "Fortunately for America, you've never let us down, and the nation has an awful lot to be grateful for." The Taliban and al Qaeda elements were defeated in Afghanistan between Oct. 7, 2001 and March 2002. A U.S.-coalition military campaign was launched against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein on March 20, 2003. It resulted in the fall of Saddam's regime on April 9, 2003.
Afterward, the United States promised it would assist Afghans and Iraqis in establishing their new democratic institutions, Cheney said. This, he said, would "help build the freedom that leads to peace in the long run." Today, regenerated terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq want to overthrow those new democratic governments, Cheney said, and they've undertaken a campaign of violence and murder to achieve their aims. And, Iraq has become "the central front" in this phase of the war, he said.
Cheney acknowledged that expressing views on issues is an integral component of American democracy. But he drew the line regarding some opinions about the United States should proceed in Iraq. "There is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism," the vice president said. "We have only two options in Iraq - victory or defeat."
Terrorists only understand force and must therefore be militarily defeated, Cheney said, pointing to past failed U.S. government efforts tried prior to 9/11 that attempted to address terrorism through diplomacy. "This is not an enemy that can be ignored, or negotiated with, or appeased," Cheney said. Therefore, the United States has taken the offensive, he said, to pre-empt possible future attacks and to track down and defeat terrorists wherever they may be.
Any retreat from this policy, Cheney said, would put civilized nations at peril. To illustrate his point, he noted the recent failed terrorist plot that sought to down commercial airliners as they flew over the Atlantic Ocean en route to the U.S. from Great Britain. "Either we are serious about fighting this war or we are not," Cheney said. "And the enemies of America need to know: We are serious, we will not let down our guard."
America will soon mark the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks that killed more than 3,000 innocent people, Cheney said. Since then, "the people and the government of the United States have answered violence with justice, honor and moral courage," he said. Those ideals and the desire to confront oppression, Cheney pointed out, are embodied in American democracy and are embraced by its citizenry, to include the members of the U.S. armed services.
"America is a good, and decent, and generous country," the vice president said. "The ideals that gave life to this nation are the same ideals we uphold at home and that we serve abroad."