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
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
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
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
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