17 September 2003
Cheney Says Pre-emption Needed to Thwart Terrorism
Vice president addresses Air Force Association
Vice President Dick Cheney says the United States, together with
its allies, is confronting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan "so
that innocent civilians will not have to confront terrorist violence" anywhere
in the world.
Addressing the annual convention of the Air Force Association
in Washington September 17, Cheney responded to those who question
the Bush administration's policy of taking pre-emptive action
against terrorists. "Make no mistake," he said, "President Bush
is acting to protect the American people against further attacks,
even when that means moving aggressively against would-be attackers."
The former Cold War deterrence strategy of putting at risk the
assets one's adversary values most is no longer appropriate to
the new threat posed by terrorists, the vice president said, because
there is nothing the terrorists "value highly enough that we can
put at risk to keep them from launching an attack against the United
"We need a strategy that puts us on the offense, that lets us
go after those who pose a threat to the United States or our friends
and allies -- a strategy that allows us to destroy the terrorists
before they can launch attacks against us," said Cheney. "We cannot
wait to act until after another day like 9/11, or a day far worse."
The United States and its coalition allies, Cheney said, were
right to go after the regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, since one
harbored the al-Qaeda terrorist group and the other was a state
sponsor of terror that had used weapons of mass destruction and
had defied the United Nations' disarmament mandates for 12 years.
The vice president recounted the progress and successes to date
in Iraq, both in capturing high-ranking members of the former regime
and in the effort to restore infrastructure and services for the
good of the Iraqi people. He also emphasized the political progress
being made, noting the establishment of a national Iraqi Governing
Council and functioning government ministries and village, town
and city councils in more than 90 percent of Iraq's municipalities.
He paid tribute as well to the efforts of U.S. allies in the fight
against terrorism, specifically in Iraq.
The transcript of Cheney's speech follows:
THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Vice President
September 17, 2003
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT AT 2003 AIR FORCE ASSOCIATION NATIONAL
Marriott Ballroom, Marriott Wardman Park Hotel
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all for that
welcome. And thank you very much, Jim. It's a privilege to be here
today to address such a distinguished group of leaders and air
and space enthusiasts. I'm also delighted today to spend a little
time with my old friend General John Jumper. John was my senior
military assistant many years ago when I was Secretary of Defense,
and he was [a] one-star [general]. And he claims credit for teaching
everything I know, and he's right. (Laughter).
But it's delighted -- a pleasure for me to be back with so many
people committed to the Air Force and all that you've meant to
our nation. I'm also pleased today to have the opportunity to spend
some time with the representatives of so many nations who've been
deeply involved in the global war on terror. I want to welcome
all of you to Washington.
I also want to commend the Air Force Association for the tremendous
role that you've played in advocating air and space power for the
nation. Tomorrow is the Air Force's 55th birthday, and its role
in defending the peace and defeating our adversaries has never
been more important than it is today.
Six days ago, America commemorated the second anniversary of the
September 11th attack on our country -- a watershed event in American
history. The fires of September 11th signaled the start of a new
war -- and the lessons of September 11th have a profound effect
on the way the United States is fighting that war.
I think it's accurate to say, for all Americans, the weeks and
months since 9/11 have been dominated by that event. It's certainly
had a huge impact on all of us working in the administration. Nine-eleven
demonstrated how vulnerable we are as a nation -- how it was possible
for terrorists to take advantage of our open borders and open society
and use them against us. We saw that it was relatively easy for
a small number of terrorists to launch an attack and kill some
3,000 Americans in a couple of hours in New York City, Washington
We also began to understand, particularly from the evidence that
we uncovered in Afghanistan, that our enemies are determined to
acquire weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological or
nuclear weapons. And we have every reason to believe that if they
succeed, they will use them, launching attacks far more deadly
than anything we've ever experienced.
To counter these threats, we have been forced to think anew about
how we defend our country, and about what constitutes a viable
National Security Strategy for the nation. We've come to realize
that if we are to protect the American people against determined
enemies, we cannot rely upon the old Cold War remedies. The kind
of strategy we used against the Soviet Union during the Cold War,
where we put at risk those things they valued in order to deter
them from ever launching an attack against the United States, simply
will not work where terrorists are concerned. There is nothing
they value highly enough that we can put at risk to keep them from
launching an attack against the United States. So no treaty or
arms control agreement or strategy of deterrence will end this
conflict. This is a new kind of war, against a new kind of enemy.
We must fight this war on many fronts. And we must not relent until
We are working aggressively to toughen our defenses here at home.
We've created the Department of Homeland Security -- the largest
reorganization of the federal government in over 50 years -- and
we've taken other unprecedented measures to make America a tougher
But we know that a good defense is not enough. The problem with
terrorist organizations is that even if you build defenses that
are 99 percent successful, the 1 percent that gets through can
still kill you. We need a strategy that puts us on the offense,
that lets us go after those who pose a threat to the United States
or our friends and allies -- a strategy that allows us to destroy
the terrorists before they can launch attacks against us. We cannot
wait to act until after another day like 9/11, or a day far worse.
And a good part of our new strategy is based upon the president's
determination to change the way we think about states that sponsor
Prior to 9/11, too many nations tended to draw a distinction between
terrorist groups and the states that provided these groups with
support, sanctuary and safe harbor. They were unwilling to hold
these terror-sponsoring states accountable for their actions.
After 9/11, President Bush decided that the distinction between
the terrorists and their sponsors could no longer be permitted
to stand. The Bush doctrine makes clear that those states that
support terrorists, or provide sanctuary for terrorists, are just
as guilty as the terrorists themselves of the acts they commit.
So in addition to going after the terrorists, we are also taking
on states that sponsor terror.
In Afghanistan, the Taliban regime harbored al-Qaeda and brutalized
an entire population. That regime is no more. In Iraq, where a
vicious dictator built, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction,
supported terrorists, and defied the clear demands of the U.N.
Security Council for 12 years, the United States launched one of
the most extraordinary military campaigns in history. And that
regime is no more. (Applause.)
Some people -- both in this nation and abroad -- have questions
about that strategy. They suggest that somehow it's wrong for us
to strike before an enemy strikes us. But as President Bush said, "If
the threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions,
all words, and all recriminations, would come too late." Make no
mistake: President Bush is acting to protect the American people
against further attacks, even when that means moving aggressively
against would-be attackers.
So the war on terror continues. It's a war being fought all around
the globe -- witness the attacks that have already occurred in
New York and Washington, but also in Bali, Mombassa, Riyadh, Casablanca,
Jakarta, Jerusalem, Bombay, Baghdad and Najaf. It's a war that
involves not just the United States -- but all of the nations of
the civilized world. And it is a war that will continue well into
the foreseeable future.
In this global war on terror, U.S. and allied forces are heavily
engaged when and where they need to be, especially in Afghanistan
and Iraq. We will stay in Afghanistan and Iraq to make absolutely
certain the job is done before we move on.
Our military is confronting the terrorists, along with our allies,
in Iraq and Afghanistan so that innocent civilians will not have
to confront terrorist violence in Washington or London or anywhere
else in the world.
We are working with the people of Iraq to create a free, functioning
and prosperous society -- and we're making progress. Most of Iraq
today is relatively stable and quiet. There are still on-going
incidents, attacks on coalition forces and on others, either from
remnants of the old regime or from terrorists, many of whom were
in Iraq before the war, and some of whom have arrived since the
conclusion of major combat operations. There are two main sources
of terror that coalition forces must deal with, and we are. We
have already captured or killed 42 of the 55 most-wanted former
Iraqi leaders, and with the growing number of tips we're receiving
from the Iraqi people themselves, it's only a matter of time until
we get the rest of them. According to General Abizaid, the actual
number of daily incidents this month is significantly below what
it was last month, and we're determined to make sure those numbers
keep going in the right direction.
We're also working very aggressively to restore sovereignty and
authority to the Iraqi people. We have created a 25-person Governing
Council, made up of representatives of Iraq's diverse ethnic groups.
Iraqis are now in charge of each ministry in the government. Over
90 percent of the cities and towns and villages of Iraq are now
governed by local councils. Iraq's schools are open; Iraq's hospitals
are functioning. We're making major progress in restoring electricity.
We're rebuilding the oil system and the infrastructure of the country.
In the months ahead, the Iraqis will draft a new constitution,
for themselves, and when this constitution has been ratified by
the Iraqi people, they will enjoy free and fair elections. Then
the coalition will yield its remaining authority to a sovereign
Iraqi government. (Applause.)
The United States is not acting alone in Iraq. Thirty countries
have contributed more than 20,000 troops to help maintain security.
And it's important to remember that the second-largest security
contingent in Iraq today -- right behind the United States -- consists
of some 55,000 Iraqis who have now been recruited and are being
trained and serving as civil defense forces, in the police force,
and as border guards. We are asking other countries to help build
a free Iraq, as well. And we're working with the United Nations
on a new Security Council resolution authorizing the creation of
additional multinational forces in Iraq. Today, Iraq has become
a central front in the war on terror, and every civilized nation
has a vital stake in Iraq's successful transition to what the terrorists
hate and fear most: a free society that respects human dignity
and upholds human rights, and that can inspire change and hope
throughout the Middle East.
The war on terror is not without sacrifice. Nearly 400 of our
troops have already given their lives during this war since 9/11.
And our allies, obviously, have also suffered casualties. But Americans
will never forget that we lost some 3,000 of our fellow citizens
right here at home on 9/11. We will be much more secure if we aggressively
go after the terrorists -- and after the nations and the mechanisms
that support them -- than if we lay back and wait for them to strike
us again here in the United States.
In the battles of Iraq and Afghanistan and in other fronts in
the war on terror, America's Air Force has played a crucial role,
and it will continue to play a crucial role in the battles to come.
The Air Force's global reach enables us to project our power anywhere
in the world within a matter of hours. Its new tactics and precision
weapons help us achieve our military objectives while minimizing
collateral damage. It provides umbrella coverage for the defense
of our homeland. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, advances in radar
technology, demonstrated by Joint Stars, enabled us to carry on
offensive operations even in the midst of a major dust storm. More
than 40 Air Force satellites provided precise surveillance and
navigation information to coalition forces. And close coordination
between ground and air operations was, indeed, a major factor in
our victory. As a former Secretary of Defense, I have never been
more proud of the men and women of the United States Air Force.
We owe them a great deal. (Applause.)
We also owe our allies in Operation Iraqi Freedom a great deal.
Coalition partners were instrumental in shaping the conduct of
air operations during the war. British and Australian planners
helped devise a strategy and process for going after Iraqi SCUDs
-- and this same process was adopted as the heart of our overall
time-sensitive targeting process used with devastating success
Today, our allies continue to play a key role in the war on terror.
The United States is part of a worldwide coalition that is taking
terrorists into custody, freezing terrorist assets, and providing
military forces and other support when necessary. We're making
steady progress. Many of the senior al-Qaeda leaders involved in
planning or carrying out 9/11 have been either captured or killed.
More than 1,400 terrorist accounts around the world have been frozen
or seized, and terrorist networks have lost access to some $200
million. Most recently, we captured a major terrorist known as
Hambali, who was a close associate of the September 11th mastermind,
Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, suspected of planning the attack in Bali,
and other attacks of terror.
The work goes on. The United States is grateful for the fine allies
and tremendous friends who have joined this effort. It is a struggle
against evil -- against an enemy that rejoices in the murder of
innocent, unsuspecting human beings. That is why people in every
part of the world, and of all faiths, stand together against this
foe. That is why we will continue to stop the terrorists in their
plotting and training, and bring them to justice. And that is why
we can settle for nothing less than total victory. Thank you very