Remarks by Vice President Cheney at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National Convention

Aug 28, 2006, 01:00 ET from White House Press Office

    WASHINGTON, Aug. 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of
 remarks by Vice President Cheney at the Veterans of Foreign Wars National
     Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Center
     Reno, Nevada
     10:56 A.M. PDT
     THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you very much. Good
 morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for the warm welcome. It's good to
 be in Reno, Nevada, to be the guest of one of the nation's finest
 organizations, the Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States.
     Let me thank Jim Mueller for his kind words this morning, as well as
 for the invitation to join all of you today. I also want to thank Sandy
 Germany and the Ladies Auxiliary for the fine work they do every day on
 behalf of our veterans and military families. Bob Wallace, of course, the
 executive director of your national office, is here. And we appreciate his
 devoted service to America's veterans in our Nation's Capital.
     Let me also be among the first to congratulate VFW's incoming commander
 in chief, Gary Kurpius of Anchorage, Alaska; and the next president of the
 -- (applause) -- good to hear from Alaska -- and the next president of the
 Ladies Auxiliary, Linda Meader of Concord, New Hampshire. I know Gary and
 Linda will do a fine job in the years ahead. (Applause.)
     It's been my good fortune to attend a number of VFW conventions over
 the years, and I've been looking forward to joining all of you today. By
 its very name, this organization commands the respect of our entire nation.
 As members of the VFW, you know what it means to hear the call to duty, to
 carry responsibility, to set aside all notions of comfort, convenience, and
 safety in order to defend the United States. Last month I participated in
 an Armistice Day Ceremony at the Korean War Veterans Memorial in
 Washington. I was struck by the simple words of one of our men who served
 in what's been called the Forgotten War. In spite of it all, he said,
 quote, "I was glad to have served my country, and I've never heard Korean
 War veterans complain. In fact, if we had to do it all over again, we
 would." End quote. (Applause.)
     There could be no more eloquent testimony to the character of our
 country than those words from a war veteran. Whatever it is about America
 that has produced such brave citizens in every generation, it is the best
 quality we have. Freedom is not free, and all of us are deep in the debt of
 the men and women who go out and pay the price for our liberty.
     Military service forms habits and commitments that last for a lifetime
 -- and that's why we always see veterans doing more than their full share
 on behalf of the country. Each year VFW members give more than 13 million
 hours in volunteer time -- educating and inspiring young people; helping
 military families; enhancing the civic life of communities all across the
 nation. One year ago Hurricane Katrina hit shore -- and soon afterward
 members of the VFW were involved in the relief effort and contributing
 hundreds of thousands of dollars to fellow citizens in need.
     We would not be the nation we are today were it not for the ethic of
 teamwork, generosity, active citizenship, and patriotism that define the
 VFW. So I count it a privilege to be in your company, and I bring personal
 greetings from the President of the United States, George W. Bush.
     Something tells me we've got more than a few veterans here today from
 the President's home state of Texas. (Applause.) And maybe a small
 contingent from my home state of Wyoming. (Applause.) I'll remind you of
 what I used to tell colleagues when I was in Congress, and I served as the
 lone Congressman from Wyoming. I said it was a small delegation, but it's
 all quality. (Laughter.)
     Both the President and I have many friends in the room this morning,
 and we're proud to have strong ties with the rank and file and the
 leadership of the VFW. We came to office five-and-a-half years ago, we were
 determined to enhance the respect shown by our government to veterans --
 and to demonstrate that respect not just in words but in resources.
     By respecting and caring for our veterans, we show our values as a
 nation. More than that, we honor solemn commitments that have been made to
 those who wore the uniform. A veteran who deals with the federal government
 should be treated as one who has paid into the system the hard way -- and
 should never be made to feel that someone is doing him or her a favor.
     I am happy to report that under the administration of George Bush, we
 have increased funding for all VA-administered programs by 75 percent.
 (Applause.) In fact, President Bush presided over a greater increase for
 the VA in the first four years of his administration than was seen in the
 entire eight years of the prior administration. In addition, the
 President's budget for the next fiscal year calls for $34.3 billion for
 veterans health care -- an amount almost 70 percent greater than the budget
 when we took office. (Applause.)
     As part of our commitment to good and timely care for our veterans,
 we're modernizing and expanding many VA facilities, including brand-new
 veterans' hospitals in Orlando, Denver and Las Vegas.
     Our administration has also worked with veterans' groups to meet the
 special needs of veterans, and this President was the first in more than
 100 years to sign concurrent receipt legislation. (Applause.)
     As a nation born in revolution -- and defended for two centuries by the
 courage of unselfish men and women -- America looks with reverence to our
 fallen and missing heroes, and to the flag under which they served.
 Millions of Americans recall the face and the name of someone who never
 lived to be called a veteran. Departed service members have a special place
 in our national memory and are taken to their rest with national honors.
 Recent appearances of protestors at military funerals, mocking the dead and
 insulting their families in their hour of grief, are an outrage.
 (Applause.) In response, and with your active support, Congress passed the
 Respect for America's Fallen Heroes Act, and President Bush was pleased to
 sign it into law.
     The VFW remains in the forefront of the effort to learn the full truth
 about our fellow Americans whose fate is yet undetermined. We have seen
 some progress in this area, but nothing close to enough. This nation will
 not give up until we have reached a full accounting for every last American
 prisoner of war and soldier missing in action. (Applause.)
     I also want to thank the VFW for your unremitting dedication to
 protection of the American flag, and the right of our children and
 grandchildren to speak every word of the pledge of allegiance. (Applause.)
     Your annual convention comes, yet again, in a time of war. At this very
 hour, American soldiers, Marines, sailors, airmen, and Coast Guardsmen are
 on vital missions to defend the innocent, confront the violent, and honor
 the commitments of the United States. They reflect enormous credit on this
 nation, and I know they appreciate the unwavering concern, and support, and
 prayers of the VFW.
     In just two weeks the calendar will read again September 11th, and our
 minds will go back to that day five years ago, when enemies struck our
 country with acts of stealth and murder. The men and women on duty in the
 War on Terror are serving the highest ideals of the nation -- our belief in
 freedom and justice, equality, and the dignity of the individual. And they
 are serving the vital security interests of America and the civilized
 world. 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.
     This enemy wears no uniform, has no regard for the rules of warfare,
 and is unconstrained by any standard of decency or morality. They plot and
 plan in secret, target the defenseless, and rejoice at the death of
 innocent, unsuspecting human beings.
     This enemy has a set of beliefs -- and we saw the expression of those
 beliefs in the rule of the Taliban. They seek to impose a dictatorship of
 fear, under which every man, woman, and child lives in total obedience to a
 narrow and hateful ideology. This ideology rejects tolerance, denies
 freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of
 our society. 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.
     This enemy also has a set of clear objectives. The terrorists want to
 end all American and Western influence in the Middle East. Their goal in
 that region is to 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. 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.
     They have made clear, as well, their ultimate ambitions: 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. Some might look at these ambitions and wave them off as
 extreme and mad. Well, these ambitions are extreme and they are mad. 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. (Applause.)
     Over the last several decades, Americans have seen how the terrorists
 pursue their objectives. Something of a pattern developed, and it was plain
 to see. To put it in blunt terms, the terrorists would hit us, but we did
 not hit back hard enough. For many years prior to 9/11, we treated terror
 attacks against Americans as isolated incidents, and answered -- if at all
 -- on an ad hoc basis, and never in a systematic way. Even after a strike
 inside our own country -- the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center --
 there was a tendency to treat terrorist attacks as individual criminal
 acts, to be handled primarily through law enforcement.
     The man who perpetrated that first attack in New York was tracked down,
 arrested, convicted, and sent off to prison. Yet behind that one man was a
 growing network with operatives inside and outside the United States,
 waging war against our country.
     For us, that war started on 9/11. For them, it started years before.
 They killed 241 servicemen in Beirut in 1983. Then there was the first
 World Trade Center attack in 1993; and after that, the murders at the Saudi
 Arabian National Guard Training Center in Riyadh in 1995; the simultaneous
 bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the
 attack on the USS Cole 2000. With each attack, the terrorists grew more
 confident in believing they could strike America without paying a price. So
 they continued to wage those attacks -- making the world less safe and
 eventually striking here in the homeland on September 11th.
     Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, America
 required a new strategy -- not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but
 to fight and win a global campaign against the terror network. If I may
 quote Franklin Roosevelt, the President under who many of you served and
 fought, in words he used to describe fighting the Nazis: "Modern warfare
 against treacherous enemies," he said, "is a dirty business. We don't like
 it -- we didn't want to get in it -- but we are in it and we're going to
 fight it with everything we've got." (Applause.)
     First, we're absolutely determined to prevent attacks before they
 occur, so we're on the offensive against the terrorists. At home and with
 coalition partners abroad, we've broken up terror cells, tracked down
 terrorist operatives, and put heavy pressure on their ability to organize
 and plan attacks. The work is hard, perilous, and ongoing. But we have made
 tremendous progress against an enemy that dwells in the shadows.
     Second, we are determined to deny safe haven to the terrorists. Since
 the day our country was attacked, we've applied the Bush Doctrine: Any
 person or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is
 complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account.
     Third, we are working to 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. President Bush has put it very well: Terrorists and terror
 states do not reveal these threats with fair notice, in formal declarations
 -- and responding to such enemies only after an attack is not self-defense,
 it is suicide.
     Fourth, we are determined to deny the terrorists control of any nation,
 which they would use as a home base and staging ground for terrorist
 attacks on others. That's why we continue to fight Taliban remnants and al
 Qaeda forces in Afghanistan. That's why we're working with President
 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.
     I know some have suggested that by liberating Iraq from Saddam Hussein,
 we simply stirred up a hornet's nest. They overlook a fundamental fact: We
 were not in Iraq on September 11th, 2001, and the terrorists hit us anyway.
 As President Bush has said, the hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq
 was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse.
     The terrorists regard the entire world as their battlefield. That is
 why al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq today. And they believe they can
 frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat.
     I realize, as well, that some in our own country claim retreat from
 Iraq would satisfy the appetite of the terrorists and get them to leave us
 alone. But the exact opposite is true. Time and again over the last
 generation, the terrorists have targeted nations whose behavior they
 believe they can change through violence. In fact such a retreat would
 convince the terrorists, once again, that free nations will change our
 policies, forsake our friends, and abandon our interests whenever we are
 confronted with violence and blackmail. They would simply draw up another
 set of demands, and instruct Americans to act as they direct or to face
 other murders. A precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would be a victory for
 the terrorists, an invitation to further violence against free nations, and
 a ruinous blow to the future security of the United States.
     In our own country, we take democratic values seriously -- and so we
 always have a vigorous debate on the issues. That's part of the greatness
 of America, and we wouldn't have it any other way. But there is a
 difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. We have
 only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat. 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. (Applause.)
     Before we took down Saddam Hussein's regime, President Bush said the
 United States would not permit another dictatorship to rise on the ruins of
 the old one. And today, Iraq has the most progressive constitution and the
 strongest democratic mandate in the entire Arab world. Iraq's political
 leaders are steady and courageous, and the citizens, police, and soldiers
 have stepped forward as active participants and guardians of the new
 democracy -- running for office, speaking out, voting by the millions, and
 sacrificing for the future of their country.
     Iraqi citizens are doing all of this despite threats from terrorists
 who offer no political agenda for Iraq's future and wage a campaign of mass
 slaughter against the Iraqi people themselves -- the vast majority of whom
 are fellow Arabs and fellow Muslims.
     As Prime Minister Maliki said on his recent visit to Washington, his
 country has gone "from a one-party state, ruled by a small elite, to a
 multi- party system where politics is the domain of every citizen and
 parties compete at all levels." And Iraqis have firmly chosen "hope over
 fear; liberty over oppression; dignity over submission; democracy over
     America is helping Iraq on this journey, because we are a nation that
 keeps its word. And we know that when men and women are given the power to
 determine their own destiny, the ideologies of violence and resentment will
 lose their appeal, and nations will turn their energies to the pursuit of
 peace. By standing with our friends, we are making a better day possible in
 the broader Middle East. By supporting democracy, we serve both the ideals
 and the security of our nation. And the brave Americans on duty in this war
 can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives. (Applause.)
     Our forces remain absolutely relentless in their duties, and they are
 carrying out their missions with the skill and honor we expect of them. I
 think of the ones who put on heavy gear and work 12 or 14-hour shifts in
 the desert heat. Every day they are striking the enemy -- conducting raids,
 training Iraqi forces, countering attacks, seizing weapons, capturing
 killers. We'll continue to train the Iraqi forces so they can defend their
 own country and make it a source of stability in a troubled part of the
     When it comes to our own troop levels, the President will listen to the
 recommendations of commanders on the ground. And he'll make the call based
 on what is needed for victory, not according to the polls, and not by
 artificial timelines set by set by politicians in Washington, D.C.
     Recently one of our great allies, Prime Minister Tony Blair, said, we
 are never going to succeed unless we understand the terrorists are going to
 fight hard.
     And we are learning, as previous generations learned, that wartime
 conditions are a fierce test of military skill and of national will. This
 is especially true in the war on terror.
     Five years ago, President Bush told Congress and the country that the
 path ahead would be difficult; that we were heading into a long struggle,
 unlike any we have known. All this has come to pass.
     At the same time, we must realize that this is a multi-front war,
 requiring every element of our national power. And those of us in positions
 of responsibility must do all we can to figure out the intentions of an
 enemy that likely has combatants inside the United States. We live in a
 free and open society, and the terrorists want to use those very advantages
 against us. And so we have an urgent duty to learn who they are and what
 they are doing, and to stop them before they can act.
     To this end, in the days following 9/11, the President authorized the
 National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of
 terrorist-linked international communications. On occasion you will hear
 this called a domestic surveillance program. That's more than a misnomer;
 it is a flat-out falsehood. We are talking about international
 communications, one end of which we believe -- or have reason to believe is
 related to al Qaeda or to terrorist networks. It's hard to think of any
 category of information that would be more important to the safety of the
 United States.
     The authorization the President made after September 11th helped
 address that problem in a manner that is fully consistent under the
 Constitution and consistent legal authority of the President and with the
 civil liberties of the American people. The activities conducted under this
 authorization have helped to detect and prevent possible terrorist attacks
 against the American people. The recent ruling by a federal judge ordering
 an end to this program is just dead wrong. We are confident it will be
 reversed on appeal.
     If you'll recall, the 9/11 Commission -- (applause) -- if you'll
 recall, the 9/11 Commission focused criticism on the nation's inability to
 uncover links between terrorists at home and terrorists overseas. The term
 that's used is "connecting the dots" -- and the fact is that one small
 piece of data might very well make it possible to save thousands of lives.
 And the very important question today is whether, on five years'
 reflection, we have learned all the lessons of September 11th.
     In the decade prior to those attacks, our country spent more than two
 trillion dollars on national security. Yet on 9/11, we lost nearly 3,000
 Americans at the hands of 19 men armed with box cutters and airline
 tickets. In the case of al Qaeda we are not dealing with large armies we
 can track, or uniforms we can see, or men with territory of their own to
 defend. Their preferred tactic, which they boldly proclaim, is to slip into
 the country, blend in among the innocent, and to kill without mercy and
 without restraint. They have intelligence and counterintelligence
 operations of their own. They take their orders from overseas. They are
 using the most sophisticated communications technology they can get their
 hands on. Since 9/11 they have successfully carried out attacks in
 Casablanca, Jakarta, Mombassa, Bali, Riyadh, Baghdad, Istanbul, Madrid,
 London, Sharm al-Sheikh, Bombay, and elsewhere. Here in the U.S., we have
 not had another 9/11. No one can guarantee that we won't be struck again.
 But to have come this far without another attack is no accident. We have
 been protected by sound policy decisions by the President, by decisive
 action at home and abroad, and by round-the-clock efforts on the part of
 our people in the armed services, law enforcement, intelligence, and
 homeland security.
     The President of the United States regularly makes decisions based on
 the intelligence briefings he receives. The information in those briefings
 is critical to assessing risks, and to allocating security assets inside
 the homeland, as well as overseas. Throughout our military, intelligence
 has a daily, indeed hourly, influence on the movement of ships, fighter and
 bomber missions, and orders given to those whose commands control the tip
 of the spear. Gathering the best information, and getting it into the hands
 of the war fighter, makes all the difference for the safety of our forces
 and the security of the nation. Members of the VFW: I want each one of you
 to know that the President will not relent in the effort to track the
 enemies of the United States with every legitimate tool at his command.
     The enemy that struck on 9/11 is weakened and fractured, yet still
 lethal and still desperately trying to hit us again. They hate us, they
 hate our country, and they hate the liberties for which we stand. 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. (Applause.)
     Ladies and gentlemen, on a Tuesday morning five years ago, the nation
 we all love experienced one of the cruelest acts the modern world has seen.
 In our sorrow we also felt inspiration, as we learned of airline passengers
 who rose up against hijackers to prevent greater loss, and rescuers who
 charged into burning towers and died by the hundreds, and the many examples
 of kindness and brotherhood that Americans showed to each other on one of
 the worst days in our history.
     From that hour of destruction to this very moment, the people and the
 government of the United States have answered violence with justice, honor,
 and moral courage. America is a good, a decent, and generous country. The
 ideals that gave life to this nation are the same ideals we uphold at home
 and that we serve abroad. We fight not only to protect ourselves and to
 overcome the dangers to civilization, but to liberate the oppressed, and to
 give others the chance to decide their own destiny, so that all of us can
 one day live in peace on the foundation of human freedom.
     Liberty and equality; justice and humanity; self-government, tolerance,
 respect, and the rule of law -- these are the principles by which we fight,
 the principles by which we live, and the principles by which we will
     Thank you. (Applause.)
     END           11:28 A.M. PDT

SOURCE White House Press Office