By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
Aug. 7, 2007 - "Terrorists are under no illusion about the importance of the struggle in Iraq," so freedom-loving people can't be either, Vice President Richard B. Cheney told members of the Marine Corps League yesterday. Speaking to the group at its 84th national convention in Albuquerque, N.M., Cheney warned against the perception some have that the war in Iraq is a distraction or diversion from the war on terror.
Iraq is the central front in the terror war, where enemies of the United States have gathered to launch attacks and establish a safe haven, he said.
"Iraq's relevance to the war on terror simply could not be more plain," the vice president said. "And here at home, that makes one thing, above all, very clear. If you support the war on terror, then you ought to support it where the terrorists are fighting us."
Cheney conceded that the war has been difficult and has demanded immense sacrifice. But he emphasized that those sacrifices are beginning to pay off through an improved security situation that will create the environment the Iraqi government needs to succeed.
"It is still tough going," he said. "But even some critics of the Iraqi operation who have taken time to look at the facts are admitting that tremendous changes have taken place."
Now, he said, is no time to call it quits. "This is no time to lose heart and make a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq, as some in Congress are demanding," he said. "To quit this fight would be to lose this fight, and the consequences would be grievous."
He noted that the United States was supporting efforts to expel the Soviets from Afghanistan in the 1980s, but "walked away" after the Soviet Union collapsed. "From that point on, various extremist factions began to vie for power," he said.
The consequences of that action couldn't have been foreseen before the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, he said. "But no one could plead ignorance of the potential consequences of walking away from Iraq now, withdrawing coalition forces before the Iraqis can defend themselves."
Staying in Iraq until it can stand on its own is critical to security, not just in Iraq and the Middle East, but also in the United States, he said. "We are there because the security of this nation depends on a successful outcome: an Iraq that can defend itself, govern itself, sustain itself and be an ally in the global war on terror."
The cause in Iraq is bigger than political bickering, he said. "It is in the national security interest," he said. "It is America's war, and the best among us are those fighting and sacrificing to win it."