24 July 2003
Cheney Says Terrorist Attacks Changed U.S. Security Perceptions
Says America acted in Iraq to stop the threat,
end the tyranny
Vice President Dick Cheney says that if the United States had
failed to remove the regime of Saddam Hussein from power, Iraq
would still be under his tyranny, torture chambers would still
be operating, mass graves would still be undiscovered, terrorist
groups would still find a safe haven there, Saddam Hussein would
still be making payments to the families of suicide bombers, and
he and his sons would still have control of the wealth of the Iraqi
"Knowing these things, how could we, I ask, have allowed that
threat to stand," Cheney asked in a speech July 24 at the American
Enterprise Institute in Washington. "When the decision fell to
him, President Bush was not willing to place the future of our
security and the lives of our citizens at the mercy of Saddam Hussein," he
It would have been "irresponsible in the extreme" to have ignored
the threats posed by Saddam Hussein and the crimes he committed
against humanity, Cheney said.
"In Iraq, we took another essential step in the war on terror," he
said. "The United States and our allies rid the Iraqi people of
a murderous dictator and rid the world of a menace to our future
peace and security."
Cheney said now that Iraq has been liberated, the United States
and its allies will stand by their commitments for the full reconstruction
and recovery of Iraq.
Cheney also said the United States must look at global security
in an entirely new way "because our country is a battlefield in
the first war of the 21st century." Terrorism has altered entirely
the way America perceives its security because terrorists "desire
to kill as many Americans as possible with the most destructive
weapons they can obtain," he said.
He said terrorists target innocent people as a means of spreading
chaos and fear, and to shake national resolve.
"This enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is unconstrained
by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality," Cheney said. "Such
an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased or negotiated
with; it can only be destroyed, and that's the business at hand."
Cheney said that terrorists have attacked Americans over the past
20 years and "we remember every act of murder." He said terrorists
killed 17 Americans in 1983 with a truck bomb at the U.S. embassy
in Beirut and 241 military personnel at the Beirut airport; an
elderly man in a wheelchair who was shot and thrown into the Mediterranean
Sea from a cruise ship; a Marine officer murdered in Lebanon; 189
Americans on a Pan Am flight over Scotland; six people at the 1993
World Trade Center bombing; 19 military personnel at the Khobar
Towers; 12 Americans at U.S. embassies in East Africa; 17 sailors
aboard the USS Cole in Yemen; and an American diplomat shot to
death in Jordan.
But he said the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 in the
United States signaled the arrival of a new era in global security
threats. "Our strategy in the war on terror is based on a clear
understanding of the enemy and a clear assessment of our national
interest," he said.
Following is the transcript of Cheney's remarks:
Office of the Vice President
July 24, 2003
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT ON THE CONTINUING WAR ON TERROR
AT THE AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Please. Thank you very much,
and good afternoon to all of you. It's a pleasure to be back
at AEI, where I spent a considerable period of time, and among
so many friends. AEI, of course, is home to some of our nation's
most distinguished scholars, one of whom also serves as the scholar
in residence at the Naval Observatory. (Laughter.) If you think
Lynne gives good lectures here, you should stop over at our house
But I do want to thank Danielle Pletka for her introduction this
afternoon, and I want to thank all of you for being here.
And I bring good wishes to all of you from President Bush, who
spoke to your annual dinner in February. In his remarks that evening,
the President said that the United States "must look at security
in a new way, because our country is a battlefield in the first
war of the 21st century". For the last 22 months, the United States
has been fighting this war across the globe.
We have seen many challenges, and many victories. Those victories
have come exactly as President Bush said they would, sometimes
in pitched battle; sometimes in the stealth of special operations;
sometimes in sudden, decisive strikes -- like the one witnessed
two days ago by the late Uday and Qusay Hussein.
This worldwide campaign began after the attacks of September 11th,
2001, a watershed event in the history of our nation. We lost more
people that morning than were lost at Pearl Harbor. And this was
the merest glimpse of the violence terrorists are willing to inflict
on this country. They desire to kill as many Americans as possible,
with the most destructive weapons they can obtain. They target
the innocent as a means of spreading chaos and fear, and to shake
our national resolve. This enemy holds no territory, defends no
population, is unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects
no law of morality. Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained,
appeased, or negotiated with. It can only be destroyed, and that's
the business at hand.
For decades, terrorists have attacked Americans, and we remember
every act of murder, including 17 Americans killed in 1983 by a
truck bomb at our embassy in Beirut; and 241 servicemen murdered
in their sleep in Beirut; an elderly man in a wheelchair, shot
and thrown into the Mediterranean; a sailor executed in a hijacking;
two of our soldiers slain in Berlin; a Marine lieutenant colonel
kidnapped and murdered in Lebanon; 189 Americans killed on a Pan
Am flight over Scotland; six people killed at the 1993 World Trade
Center bombing; 19 military personnel killed at the Khobar Towers;
12 Americans killed at our embassies in East Africa; 17 sailors
murdered on the USS Cole; and an American diplomat shot dead in
Jordan last year.
All of these were terrible acts that still cause terrible grief.
Yet September 11th signaled the arrival of an entirely different
era. We suffered massive civilian casualties on our soil. We awakened
to dangers even more lethal, the possibility that terrorists could
gain weapons of mass destruction from outlaw regimes and inflict
catastrophic harm. And something else is different about this new
era: Our response to terrorism has changed, because George W. Bush
is President of the United States. For decades, terrorists have
waged war against this country. Now, under the leadership of President
Bush, America is waging war against them.
Our strategy in the war on terror is based on a clear understanding
of the enemy, and a clear assessment of our national interest.
Having lost thousands of Americans on a single morning, we are
not going to answer further danger by simply issuing diplomatic
protests or sharply worded condemnations. We will not wait in false
comfort while terrorists plot against innocent Americans. We will
not permit outlaw states and terror groups to join forces in a
deadly alliance that could threaten the lives of millions of Americans.
We will act, and act decisively, before gathering threats can inflict
catastrophic harm on the American people.
From the first hour, we've known that the war on terror would
be long and difficult. It would test our resolve, demand many sacrifices,
above all, from the fine young men and women who defend this country.
The skill and courage of our military have brought a series of
major successes in this war. With the best of allies at our side,
America took the battle directly to the terrorists hiding in Afghanistan.
The Afghan people have reclaimed their country from a depraved
regime, and the violent rule of the Taliban has been ended forever.
America and our allies have continued the relentless pursuit of
the global terror network. Of those directly involved in organizing
the September 11th attacks, many are now in custody or confirmed
dead. The leadership of al-Qaeda has sustained heavy losses. We
must recognize, however, that terrorism is a long-term challenge,
and fighting terrorism will require a long-term commitment. The
loose and decentralized networks of terrorism are still finding
recruits, still plotting attacks. A hateful ideology, which defiles
a great religion, has taken root in many parts of the world. Terrorists
have conducted attacks since September 11th in Bali, Mombassa,
Casablanca, and Riyadh. The terrorists intend to strike America
again. Yet no one should doubt the intentions of our nation: One
by one, in every corner of the world, we will hunt the terrorists
down and destroy them.
In Iraq, we took another essential step in the war on terror.
The United States and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous
dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our future peace and
Events leading to the fall of Saddam Hussein are fresh in memory,
and do not need recounting at length. Every measure was taken to
avoid a war. But it was Saddam Hussein himself who made war unavoidable.
He had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. He
bore a deep and bitter hatred for the United States. He cultivated
ties to terrorist groups. He built, possessed, and used weapons
of mass destruction. He refused all international demands to account
for those weapons.
Twelve years of diplomacy, more than a dozen Security Council
resolutions, hundreds of U.N. weapons inspectors, and even strikes
against military targets in Iraq, all of these measures were tried
to compel Saddam Hussein's compliance with the terms of the 1991
Gulf War cease-fire. All of these measures failed. Last October,
the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize the
use of force in Iraq. Last November, the U.N. Security Council
passed a unanimous resolution finding Iraq in material breach of
its obligations, and vowing serious consequences in the event Saddam
Hussein did not fully and immediately comply. When Saddam Hussein
failed even to comply then, President Bush, on March 17th, gave
him and his sons 48 hours to leave Iraq. Saddam's decision to defy
the world was among the last he made as the dictator of that country.
I have watched for more than a year now as President Bush kept
the American people constantly informed of the dangers we face,
and of his determination to confront those dangers. There was no
need for anyone to speculate what the President was thinking; his
words were clear, and straightforward, and understood by friend
and enemy alike. When the moment arrived to make the tough call,
when matters came to the point of choosing, and the safety of the
American people was at stake, President Bush acted decisively,
with resolve, and with courage.
Now the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever. And at a safe
remove from the danger, some are now trying to cast doubt upon
the decision to liberate Iraq. The ability to criticize is one
of the great strengths of our democracy. But those who do so have
an obligation to answer this question: How could any responsible
leader have ignored the Iraqi threat?
Last October, the Director of Central Intelligence issued a National
Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's Continuing Programs of Weapons
of Mass Destruction. That document contained the consensus judgments
of the intelligence community, based upon the best information
available about the Iraqi threat. The NIE declared -- quote: "We
judge that Iraq has continued its weapons of mass destruction program,
in defiance of U.N. Resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical
and biological weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess
of U.N. restrictions. If left unchecked, it probably will have
a nuclear weapon during this decade." End quote.
Those charged with the security of this nation could not read
such an assessment and pretend that it did not exist. Ignoring
such information, or trying to wish it away, would be irresponsible
in the extreme. And our President did not ignore that information;
he faced it. He sought to eliminate the threat by peaceful, diplomatic
means and, when all else failed, he acted forcefully to remove
Consider another passage from last October's National Intelligence
Estimate; it reported -- quote: "all key aspects -- the R&D [research
and development], production, and weaponization -- of Iraq's offensive
[biological weapons] program are active and that most elements
are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War." End
Remember, we were dealing here with a regime that had already
killed thousands of people with chemical weapons. Against this
background, to disregard the NIE's warnings would have been irresponsible
in the extreme. And our President did not ignore that information,
he faced it, and acted to remove the danger.
Take a third example. The NIE cautioned that quote: "Since inspections
ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons effort,
energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in biological
weapons; in the view of most agencies, Baghdad is reconstituting
its nuclear weapons program." End quote.
Here again, this warning could hardly be more blunt, or disturbing.
To shrug off such a warning would have been irresponsible in the
extreme. And so President Bush faced that information, and acted
to remove the danger.
A fourth and final example. The National Intelligence Estimate
contains a section that specifies the level of confidence that
the intelligence community has in the various judgments included
in the report. In the NIE on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction,
the community had "high confidence" in the conclusion that "Iraq
is continuing, and in some areas expanding, its chemical, biological,
nuclear and missile programs contrary to U.N. Resolutions." The
Intelligence Community also had high confidence in the judgment
that, and I quote: "Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months
to a year once it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material." End
Ladies and gentlemen, this is some of what we knew. Knowing these
things, how could we, I ask, have allowed that threat to stand?
These judgments were not lightly arrived at, and all who were
aware of them bore a heavy responsibility for the security of America.
When the decision fell to him, President Bush was not willing to
place the future of our security, and the lives of our citizens,
at the mercy of Saddam Hussein. And so the President acted. As
he said in the announcement of military action: "We will meet that
threat now, with our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines,
so that we do not have to meet it later with armies of firefighters
and police and doctors on the streets of our own cities."
Critics of the liberation of Iraq must also answer another question:
What would that country look like today if we had failed to act?
If we had not acted, Saddam Hussein and his sons would still be
in power. If we had not acted, the torture chambers would still
be in operation; the prison cells for children would still be filled;
the mass graves would still be undiscovered; the terror network
would still enjoy the support and protection of the regime; Iraq
would still be making payments to the families of suicide bombers
attacking Israel; and Saddam Hussein would still control vast wealth
to spend on his chemical, biological, and nuclear ambitions.
All of these crimes and dangers were ended by decisive military
action. Everyone, for many years, wished for these good outcomes.
Finally, one man made the decision to achieve them: President George
W. Bush. And the Iraqi people, the people of the Middle East, and
the American people have a safer future because Saddam Hussein's
regime is history.
Having now liberated Iraq, the United States and our allies are
determined to see all our commitments through. The leader of the
Coalition Provisional Authority, Ambassador Paul Bremer, was at
the White House yesterday and to brief us on the progress that
the Coalition Provisional Authority is making. Nineteen nations
now have provided more than 13,000 troops to help stabilize Iraq,
and additional forces will soon arrive. In the relief and reconstruction
effort we are renovating schools, and restoring basic services.
Coalition authorities are training Iraqi police forces to help
patrol Iraqi cities and villages, and will soon establish a new
civilian defense force. Iraq will also have its own new army, a
military force that defends the Iraqi people instead of bullying
and terrorizing them. A governing council of Iraqis, recognized
by the United Nations, is now operating, naming ministers, and
drawing up a budget for the country. All major cities in Iraq now
have municipal councils. The process of drafting a constitution
will soon be underway, and this will prepare the way eventually
We still have many tasks to complete in Iraq, and many dangers
remain. There are still some holdouts of the regime, joined by
terrorists from outside the country, who are fighting desperately
to prevent progress of any kind for the Iraqi people. These killers
are being systematically dealt with, as we saw in Mosul on Tuesday.
That action also showed the great skill and bravery of our men
and women serving in Iraq today. America is proud of all the men
and women serving and sacrificing in this cause, and they will
have all the resources they need to complete the vital work that
we've asked them to do.
Our ongoing mission is not easy, but it is essential for our security
and for the peace of the world. We will help the Iraqi people to
build a free, sovereign, and democratic nation. That free nation
will stand as an example to the entire Middle East, proving that
freedom and the hope of peace have far more power and appeal than
ideologies of hate and terror. And a more peaceful, stable Middle
East will contribute directly to the security of America and our
The United States of America has been called to hard tasks before.
Earlier generations of Americans defeated fascism and won the long
twilight struggle against communism. Our generation has been given
the task of defeating the purveyors of terrorism, who are a direct
threat to our liberty and our lives. We will use every element
of our national power to destroy those who seek to do us harm.
But, as in the past, we will do far more than merely defeat our
enemies. In Afghanistan and Iraq and in other places where tyranny
has been a fertile breading ground for terror, we will help those
who seek to build free, more tolerant, and more prosperous societies.
America's commitment and generosity in rebuilding ravaged lands
in Europe and Asia was a hallmark of our foreign policy in the
20th century. It was a good investment for America then -- it is
just as wise now. We do this not only because it is right, but
because it is essential to our own security, the security of our
friends and allies, and to our eventual victory in the war against
terrorism. Our soldiers serving so bravely in Iraq and Afghanistan
today know they are ensuring a safer future for their own children
and for all of us.
In the 22 months since that clear September morning when America
was attacked, we have not lost focus, or been distracted, or wavered
in the performance of our duties. We will not rest until we have
overcome the threat of terror. We will not relent until we have
assured the freedom and security of the American people.
Thank you. (Applause.)
(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs,
U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)