By Steven Donald Smith
WASHINGTON, Aug. 28, 2006 – American troops fighting in the war against terrorism are serving the highest ideals of the United States, such as freedom, justice, equality and the dignity of the individual, Vice President Dick Cheney said today in Reno, Nev. "And they are serving the vital security interests of America and the civilized world," Cheney told an audience at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention. "There is no denying that the work is difficult and that there is a great deal to be done. Yet we can harbor no illusions about the nature of the enemy we're fighting, or the ambitions they seek to achieve."
The enemy the U.S. faces wears no uniform, has no regard for the rules of warfare and is unconstrained by any standard of decency or morality, Cheney said. "They plot and plan in secret, target the defenseless, and rejoice at the death of innocent, unsuspecting human beings," he said. Islamic extremists seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to a narrow and hateful ideology, he said.
"This ideology rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of our society," he said. "Such beliefs can be imposed only through force and intimidation, so those who refuse to bow to the tyrants will be brutalized or killed -- and no person or group is exempt."
These extremists have a set of clear objectives, he said. They want to end all American and Western influence in the Middle East, seize control of a country so they have a base from which to launch attacks and to wage war against governments that do not meet their demands, he said. "The terrorists believe that by controlling one country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and ultimately to establish a totalitarian empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way around to Indonesia," the vice president said.
Islamic extremists also have made it known that they want to arm themselves with chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries and to cause mass death in the United States, he said. "Some might look at these ambitions and wave them off as extreme and mad. Well, these ambitions are extreme and they are mad," he said. "They are also real, and we must not wave them off. We must take them seriously. We must oppose them. And we must defeat them."
It is important to go on the offensive against terrorists in order to prevent future attacks against the United States, Cheney said. He also said it was important to deny terrorists access to safe havens, halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and to keep those weapons out of the hands of killers. "In the post-9/11 world, we have to confront such dangers before they fully materialize," Cheney said.
It is also vital to deny the terrorists control of any nation, which they would use as a home base and staging ground for terrorist attacks on others, he said. "That's why we continue to fight Taliban remnants and al Qaeda forces in Afghanistan," he said. "That's why we're working with President (Pervez) Musharraf to oppose and isolate the terrorist element in Pakistan. And that's why we are fighting with the remnants of Saddam Hussein's regime and terrorists in Iraq."
Retreat would convince the terrorists that free nations will change their policies, forsake their friends and abandon national interests whenever confronted with violence and blackmail, he said. "We have only two options in Iraq: victory or defeat," the vice president said. "And this nation will not pursue a policy of retreat. We will complete the mission, we will get it done right, and then we will return with honor."
Cheney said the terrorists have been weakened since Sept. 11, 2001, but are still lethal and still desperately trying to hit the U.S. "They hate us, they hate our country and they hate the liberties for which we stand," he said. "This is not a war we can win on the defensive. Either we are serious about this fight or we are not. And the enemies of America need to know we are serious, and we will not let down our guard."