By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
March 29, 2007 – An arbitrary U.S. withdrawal from Iraq would tell al Qaeda's leaders they've been right all along and would embolden the terror organization to launch more audacious attacks against the United States, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said last night. In a speech to the Republican Jewish Coalition Leadership in Manalapan, Fla., Cheney said some people believe pulling out of Iraq before the country can fend for itself would strengthen the hand of the United States in the war on terror.
"This myth is dangerous because it represents a complete validation of the al Qaeda strategy," he said. "The terrorists do not expect to be able to beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have, and they're not likely to try. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon the mission -- and the terrorists do believe that they can force that outcome.
"Time after time, they have predicted that the American people do not have the stomach for a long-term fight," he continued. "They've cited the cases of Beirut in the '80s and Somalia in the '90s. These examples, they believe, show that we are weak and decadent, and that if we're hit hard enough, we'll pack it in and retreat."
The result, Cheney said, would be greater danger for the United States, because terrorists who believe attacks can change a nation's behavior will attack that nation again and again.
"And believing they can break our will, they'll become more audacious in their tactics, ever more determined to strike and kill our citizens, and ever more bold in their ambitions of conquest and empire," he said.
If the coalition abandons its effort in Iraq, radical factions would battle for dominance, and violence would spread throughout the country, Cheney said.
"Having tasted victory in Iraq, jihadists would look for new missions," he said. "Many would head for Afghanistan and fight alongside the Taliban. Others would set out for capitals across the Middle East, spreading more sorrow and discord as they eliminate dissenters and work to undermine moderate governments. Still others would find their targets and victims in other countries on other continents."
Cheney rejected the notion that the war in Iraq has noting to do with the war on terror and that it's diverting attention and resources from fighting al Qaeda.
"Our Marines tonight are fighting al Qaeda terrorists in al Anbar province," he said. "U.S. and Iraqi forces recently killed a number of al Qaeda terrorists in Baghdad who were responsible for numerous car-bomb attacks. Iraq's relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain. Here at home, that makes one thing, above all, very clear: If you support the war on terror, then it only makes sense to support it where the terrorists are fighting us."
Noting the battle on Capitol Hill over a supplemental funding measure for the war, Cheney blasted a House bill that sets a deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat troops from Iraq, saying it would hinder the war effort and interfere with the president's authority with military commanders.
"It's counterproductive," he said. "It sends exactly the wrong message because of the limitations that are written into the legislation. When members of Congress pursue an anti-war strategy that's been called 'slow bleed,' they're not supporting the troops, they're undermining them. And when members of Congress speak not of victory but of time limits, deadlines or other arbitrary measures, they're telling the enemy simply to run out the clock and wait us out."
Cheney said the goal in Iraq is for the country to be a democratic nation that upholds the rule of law, respects the rights of its people, provides them security, and is an ally in the war on terror. The Iraqi government needs the space and time to work toward those goals, he added, and the security situation, especially in Baghdad, needs to improve for their efforts to succeed.
He noted that the Senate only weeks ago unanimously confirmed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus to be the new commander of coalition forces in Iraq.
"Our coalition is pursuing a new strategy that brings in reinforcements to help Iraqi forces secure the capital, so that nation can move forward and the political process can turn toward reconciliation," he said. "General Dave Petraeus and his troops are in the midst of some extremely tough, intense, and dangerous work. They are doing a brilliant job, and they need to know this country is behind them all the way."
Cheney said the nation's values would see it through on the tough road ahead.
"We can be confident in the outcome of this struggle," he said. "America is a good and an honorable country. We serve a cause that is right, and a cause that gives hope to the oppressed in every corner of the Earth. We're the kind of country that fights for freedom, and the men and women in the fight are some of the bravest citizens this nation has ever produced. The only way for us to lose is to quit. But that is not an option. We will complete the mission, and we will prevail."
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