Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Representative Sam Graves in Kansas City, Missouri
Kansas City Marriott Downtown
Kansas City, Missouri
12:50 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Sam, for the warm welcome. It's almost enough to make me want to run for office again. (Laughter.) I said, "almost." (Laughter.) But I'm delighted to be here today and I want to thank Sam for his kind words and for the invitation. And I also want to thank the other elected officials we have with us, the state senators and representatives, who have taken time to join us today.
I've been in your fine city many times over the years. But whenever I come back to Kansas City, I can't help but remember a very exciting week in 1976, when we had the Republican convention here and a great battle between President Gerald Ford and Governor Ronald Reagan. It was the last time Governor Reagan lost anything -- (laughter) --but he made up for it later; four years later, we were all Reaganites. Sam explained to me as we were coming in this morning in my car, and I was talking about the '76 convention, that in those days he was in the seventh grade. (Laughter.) It sort of put me in my place.
But anyway, we love Kansas City; it's a great place. And over the years, we've had great support here. And we do deeply appreciate everything that you folks have done for us. And I bring good wishes this morning to all of you from the President of the United States, George W. Bush.
This morning at the White House, the President announced his nominee for Attorney General of the United States. He is Judge Michael Mukasey, who served many years on the federal bench, most recently as the Chief Judge of the district court in Manhattan. He is familiar with the Department of Justice and served several years before that as Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Widely respected across the political spectrum, he's a man of integrity and judgment, and in his long career he's shown a commitment to equal justice and faithful adherence to the Constitution and the laws of the land. The office of Attorney General of course has special significance in this time of war. The nation's top law enforcement officer has a duty to ensure that the rights and freedoms of the American people are protected, and that includes freedom from the fear of terrorist attack. Judge Mukasey is a fine public servant who knows from experience the challenge that terrorism presents to our country. He has presided over some of the most significant terrorism prosecutions in the history of the nation. We look forward to this good man's confirmation and to his stewardship of the Department of Justice.
Standing here today with Sam Graves and so many of our friends and supporters of course, I'm reminded that the President and I have received great support over the years from the people of Missouri. We campaigned hard across the state, and the voters here played a vital role in our two great victories on the Bush-Cheney ticket. And we'll always be grateful for the people of the state of Missouri.
Sam mentioned that I served in the Congress for -- elected six times. And of course Wyoming has a small delegation; there's only one congressman. (Laughter.) But it was quality -- (laughter) -- but I have great respect and admiration for a member like Sam who does a superb job. And of course we're all here today to make certain he gets reelected this year.
While the President and I won't be on the ballot next year, we'll be active in elections because they matter a great deal to the country. The main advantage our party will have, we believe, will be a record of accomplishment, because the economy has been restored from the recession in the aftermath of 9/11, the tax package we passed in '91 [sic] and again in '93 [sic] has had a tremendous impact on the economy. We've now generated more than eight million new jobs in the last four years. The President's program has been a major success economically, even as we've gone through some difficult times from the standpoint of the global war on terror.
We also think there's a great record to point to in terms of the fact that we've been able to go six years now without another attack on the homeland such as 9/11. Nobody would have bet that was possible in the aftermath of 9/11. (Applause.) It's a direct result of some bold decisions by the President and the extraordinary efforts of a lot of very talented men and women in the United States military, our intelligence services, law enforcement, who've done a superb job.
Nobody can guarantee that there won't be another attack, but the fact of the matter is, through the Terrorist Surveillance Program and the Patriot Act and a number of other major activities that we've undertaken, we have in fact been able to disrupt and stop all of the attacks aimed at us now for the last six years. It's a remarkable achievement. I think the President deserves a great deal of credit for his willingness to take on the tough policies and to withstand the slings and arrows of criticism that come your way when you undertake those kinds of activities.
The President has also done, I think, an outstanding job on the federal bench. And we're very proud of the appointments of Sam Alito and John Roberts to the U.S. Supreme Court. We think they'll do a superb job of following the Constitution. (Applause.)
Another big advantage we'll have next year is an outstanding set of candidates across the country, and of course Sam Graves is right at the top of the list. Sam was elected with us in 2000 and it's been a delight to work with him back in Washington. He's the kind of man who belongs in the U.S. House of Representatives; a man of decency and common sense, and his priorities are the same as yours: a healthy, growing, economy; good jobs for our workers; low taxes; security at the border. His wife, Lesley, is a school teacher, and of course you all know he cares very deeply about improving public schools in every part of America. Sam is also one of the few members who understand farm policy from personal experience. And every day on the Agriculture Committee he speaks out for the interests of our farmers and ranchers.
Sam has lived in northwest Missouri his entire life, and I can't think of any other Congressman with greater understanding of his district or his constituents. Sam Graves goes to work every day on your behalf. He's somebody you can count on to do the right thing. He's earned your confidence and he's earned another term in the United States Congress. (Applause.)
Above all, ladies and gentlemen, Sam Graves is a Congressman who wants to protect America, to keep our commitments, stand by our friends, and to win the war on terror. Last week we passed another anniversary of September 11th, and remembered all that we saw and felt that on that day. We also remembered the overriding lesson of 9/11; that in a dangerous world, we could no longer count on the safety of distance. We can't retreat behind our oceans and feel confident that we won't be attacked, because of course on that day, threats gathered thousands of miles from our shores and then struck us right here at home.
The terrorists view all the world as a battlefield. We're dealing with extremely selective networks, secretive networks, hiding out in many different countries and plotting murder and chaos in civilized communities. In all things, their goal is to frighten us, to break our will through acts of spectacular violence; to hit us again and again until we run away.
They've chosen this method because they believe it works. They believe the history of the late 20th century proves their point. During the 1980s and '90s, as terror networks began to wage attacks against Americans, there was a tendency to treat those attacks as isolated incidents. And those acts were answered, if at all, on an ad-hoc basis with subpoenas, criminal indictments and the occasional cruise missile. As time passed, the terrorists concluded they could hit America with very little consequence and they could even change American policy if they hit bigger targets with a higher body count. So their attacks became more ambitious and more deadly.
In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 Marines. Thereafter, the U.S. withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 Americans; and thereafter, the U.S. withdrew from Somalia. This emboldened them still further, confirming them in their belief that they could strike America without paying any price.
Indeed they did strike, and they did so without paying a price. We had the bombing of the World Trade Center in New York in 1993; the attack on U.S. facilities in Riyadh in 1995; the attack on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and of course Khobar Towers in 1996; and the USS Cole in 2000. Ultimately, of course, they attacked the homeland on 9/11 and took the lives of 3,000 Americans aboard passenger jets and at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
The terrorists have been at war with the United States for a long time. And after 9/11 this nation made a decision that we are at war with them. We've gone on the offensive, destroying their safe havens, targeting their leadership, restricting their movements, closing off their money channels, infiltrating their operations and monitoring their communications, and working in dead earnest to stop the proliferation of catastrophic weapons.
America has also enforced the doctrine that is essential to our security, and to our eventual victory in this struggle. And it's simple to state and understood by all: that governments that support or harbor terrorists are complicit in the murder of the innocent must be held to account.
We took down the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and we've aided the rise of a free government in that nation. And in Iraq we enforced the demands of the civilized world and ended the long, squalid, bloody career of Saddam Hussein. (Applause.) Having removed the dictator, we promised not to let another tyrant rise in his place.
Iraq is a great nation of more than 25 million people who want what most people want: security, peace, the right to chart your own destiny. And right now they face attacks from violent extremists who want to drag that nation back into the darkness. We're helping them fight back because it's the right thing to do and because the outcome will have a direct impact on the security of the United States.
The al Qaeda network that struck America is one of the elements now interested in destroying Iraq's democracy, and Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants regard Iraq as the critical front in their war against us. Their goal is to make us run; in the process, abandoning our friends, permitting the overthrow of a democracy, and allowing a country of 170,000 square miles to be a staging area for attacks against America and our friends. The terrorists are betting that Americans will grow tired, distracted and weak. That's a bet the terrorists are going to lose. (Applause.)
The United States and our coalition are getting things right in Iraq. It's taken a good deal of time. We've had to endure setbacks. Al Qaeda terrorists wanted to accelerate the sectarian violence and they carried out that plan with ferocity and determination. But with the troop surge in place, conditions in Iraq are changing for the better, and we are seizing the initiative from the enemy. General Petraeus and the troops under his command are doing a fantastic job, and our entire country is proud of them. (Applause.)
Like most Americans, I admire the integrity and the candor that General Petraeus showed in his hearings before Congress. And the attacks on him by MoveOn.org in ad space provided at subsidized rates in The New York Times last week were an outrage. (Applause.) It's bad enough when politicians turn their backs on a war they voted for and supported when it was popular. But no one in politics, regardless of party, should hesitate to object when an American soldier at war is mocked and insulted. (Applause.)
Our military is pressing hard and they're producing results. Since January, even before the surge took effect, each month our forces have captured or killed an average of about 1,500 al Qaeda terrorists and other enemies of the elected government. Coalition forces have struck hard against extremists and supply networks, seized huge caches of enemy weapons, and conducted operations against extremists supported by Iran, a country whose paramilitary organization traffics in lethal material. And in the areas where we've cleared out the terrorists and militias, we've surged our diplomatic and civilian resources, because it's critical that military success be followed quickly by real improvements in the lives of ordinary citizens.
And more and more, we're getting locals into the fight against those extremists. In Anbar province, U.S. Marines have done careful, painstaking work to confront the killers and to build confidence in the general population. They've been assisted by Iraqi forces and most significantly by local tribal leaders who've had enough of the mindless brutality of the al Qaeda. We have driven al Qaeda from Ramadi and other population centers in Anbar.
President Bush himself visited that province earlier this month and assured local and national leaders that we're going to keep the pressure on the enemy in al Anbar province. It's still dangerous there. And just last week, terrorists killed one of the sheikhs who had been in the fight against al Qaeda. But the fight goes on, and America's support will not waver. (Applause.)
At the same time, General Petraeus is using reinforcements from the surge to bring similar progress to other parts of Iraq. And this also is yielding results. In Baghdad, for example, the security environment is much improved over what it was a year ago. American and Iraqi forces are patrolling and living among the people they protect, and that's helped to build confidence in the neighborhoods. The locals have begun to see that America's commitment is real and it's lasting. They've begun to realize that the United States is a nation that follows through on a pledge and the President of the United States is a man of his word.
The President has made clear that America will do its part to keep Iraq on the road of freedom, security and progress. As the President said last Thursday, General Petraeus believes we've reached the point where we can expect that same level of security with fewer American forces in certain parts of Iraq. It now appears when an Expeditionary Unit of about 2,200 Marines leaves Anbar next month, we won't need American forces to replace them. (Applause.)
The General has also determined that at its current rate of success, we should be able to withdraw a full Army brigade by the end of this year. He expects, as well, that by July, we'll be able to reduce our troop levels in Iraq from the 20 combat brigades there now to 15 that were there before the surge.
President Bush has accepted the recommendations on troop levels as well as General Petraeus's plan for the next phase of our strategy in Iraq. Starting in December, American forces will begin to transfer responsibility to Iraqi forces in a manner that preserves security and maintains the upper hand over the enemy. As advances are made against the terrorists and civil society grows stronger, the Iraqis will have more responsibility for security, and our mission in the country will evolve. Going forward, American forces will go from leading operations to partnering with Iraqi forces, eventually to overwatching those forces. Our troops will continue countering terrorism and training and equipping Iraqi forces. Drawdowns in our military presence will depend on conditions inside the country and on the recommendations by General Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker. In any event, President Bush will make his decisions based on the national interest and nothing else; not by artificial measures, not by political calculation and not based on poll numbers. (Applause.)
The United States is keeping its commitments and persevering despite difficulty because we understand the consequences of getting out before the job is done. If we abandon the Iraqis before they could defend themselves, moderates would be crushed as extreme groups pushed the country into chaos. Competing factions, including al Qaeda and militias backed by the regime in Tehran, would unleash an all-out war, with the violence unlikely to be contained within Iraq. The ensuing carnage would further destabilize the Middle East and magnify threats to our friends in the region.
Every tyrant in that region and well beyond would take note of our failed resolve, and friends and foe alike would decide that America's word cannot be trusted. This would only dissipate much of the effort that's already gone into fighting the war on terror, and the blows would rain down heavily on those who have had the courage to stand with America. And we, the people of the United States, would bear the consequences as well because a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would validate al Qaeda's belief that we lack the stomach for the fight; that we lack the patience to complete a mission, even when it is clearly in our national security interest.
In all the calls that we've heard for an American withdrawal from Iraq, these negative consequences have not really been denied, they've simply been ignored. But those of us in positions of responsibility cannot and will not ignore the plain and foreseeable effects of abandoning this mission. (Applause.) America has accepted a duty that is hard and honorable and worth completing. General Petraeus and his troops are doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time. Their success will make our nation more secure. Let us stand then -- stand behind them all the way to victory. (Applause.)
The course we have chosen is not an easy one for America. But it will be far easier on the conscience of America when we see it through, sparing millions from suffering and leaving behind a free and democratic Iraq. And the credit will belong to the greatest force for liberation and security on this earth, the United States military. (Applause.) We're grateful to all our service members and to their families. We can never thank them enough for all they do for us. (Applause.)
Six years ago, the President told the Congress and the country that we had entered a new kind of war, one that would require patience and resolve, and that would influence the policies of this government far into the future. The fact that we've succeeded in stopping another attack on our homeland doesn't mean our country won't be hit in the future. But the record is testimony not to good luck, but to urgent, competent action by a lot of very skilled men and women and to the tough decisions the President has made, remembering that his first job is to protect the people of this nation. (Applause.)
We can be confident in the outcome of this struggle. America is a good and an honorable country. We serve a cause that is right; a cause that gives hope to the oppressed in every corner of the Earth. The only way for us to lose is to quit. But that's not an option. We will complete the mission and we will prevail. (Applause.)
Ladies and gentlemen, one of the great privileges of public service is the chance to work with leaders of talent and integrity from all across the country. In my career I've had the privilege of working in a congressman's office, at the White House as Chief of Staff, as a member of Congress, at the Pentagon as Secretary of Defense, and now as Vice President and President of the Senate. I've met public officials of every variety. And I've learned something that people in the 6th district have known for more -- many years, and that is that Sam Graves is an outstanding public servant. (Applause.) He's a credit to northwest Missouri and I know he'll make a difference in Washington for many years to come.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 1:13 P.M. CDT
Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at a Luncheon for Representative Sam Graves in Kansas City, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/285952