Richard B. Cheney photo

Remarks by the Vice President at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri

April 26, 2004

Westminster College Historic Gymnasium
Fulton, Missouri

11:35 A.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) That's a nice Missouri welcome. I'm delighted to be back, back here in Fulton, with the distinguished members of the Missouri congressional delegation here today -- and, of course, back in a county known by one of the grandest names in America -- the Kingdom of Callaway -- I'm told. (Applause.)

And it's a special privilege to be back here at Westminster. I want to thank Dr. Lamkin not only for his fine introduction today, but also for his outstanding years of service to the nation.

I bring greetings to one and all from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.) As it happens, I visited this school as a candidate for Vice President, of course, in the fall of 2000. As I recall, it was in the middle of October. At that point, we had just a few weeks left in the presidential campaign, or so we thought. (Laughter.) It worked out all right in the end.

In 2000, we had support all across the state of Missouri, and a great turnout for the Bush-Cheney ticket on Election Day, and this year, with your support, I'm confident we'll carry Missouri once again for the Bush-Cheney ticket. (Applause.)

It's an honor to stand in the place where President Truman and Winston Churchill stood together in the spring of 1946. I was interested to learn that Truman and Churchill traveled here from Washington on the presidential railroad car. The evening before they arrived, Churchill had five scotches before dinner -- (laughter) -- and then joined Truman, members of the White House staff, and probably a few reporters for an all-night poker game. Well, that was a different era. (Laughter.) And I can tell you that we had a lot quieter time this morning on Air Force Two.

But in this hall, Churchill delivered what he called the most important speech of his career, applying the wisdom gained over a lifetime to the greatest challenge of the age. He warned of a grave and growing danger, and of the duty of free nations to unite against the ambitions of the communist empire. He defined the struggle for what it was -- not merely a rivalry of interests, but a conflict between those who served an aggressive, power-hungry ideology and those who believed in human liberty, freedom of conscience, and the dignity of every life.

In his understanding of that conflict, and in his determination to see it through to victory, Churchill found a capable and discerning partner in the man from Missouri, Harry S. Truman. Like his friend, the former prime minister, President Truman recognized that imperial communism demanded a comprehensive, long-term response on many fronts. And he made absolutely clear to the world that American policy would confront the danger squarely. In a short time, our government created the architecture of national security that we know today: the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, and the National Security Council. To defend ourselves and other free peoples, the United States, joined by Britain, helped to found NATO, and the President announced the Truman Doctrine to help free nations resist communist subversion. To build and strengthen our new democracies, our government led in the reconstruction of Japan, and devoted billions to European assistance through the Marshall Plan. And when aggression occurred on the Korean Peninsula, it was President Truman's decision and America's sacrifice that saved South Korea.

All those early commitments were absolutely essential to victory in the Cold War, and they helped to produce unprecedented success for the cause of freedom. And to look back on the pivotal decisions of the 1940s and '50s is to be reminded that certain moments come along in history when the gravest of threats reveal themselves. And in those moments our response must be swift, it must be confident, and it must be right.

Ladies and gentlemen, you and I are living in such a time. In this new century, facing new dangers, the commitments we make will also be decisive. The struggle we face today is different from the one Churchill spoke of 58 years ago. Our enemy no longer takes the form of a vast empire, but rather a shadowy network of killers, which, joined by outlaw regimes, would seek to impose its will on free nations by terror and intimidation. And instead of massive armies, we face deadly technologies that must be kept out of the hands of terrorists and outlaw regimes. Yet, in Truman and Churchill, we find models for the kind of leadership required to defend freedom in our time.

Leaders must speak out and act against threats as they gather, even when it's difficult. Dangers cannot be wished away. Leaders must be willing to work with international institutions. As Churchill said here, leaders must make sure that the United Nations is "a force for action, and not merely a frothing of words." Leaders must also maintain military strength capable of operating in different theaters of action with decisive force -- and be willing to use that power when necessary. American policy must be clear and consistent in its purposes. And above all, our leaders must be confident in our nation's cause, and unwavering until the threat to our people is fully and finally removed. And today we have such a leader in President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

The attacks of September 11, 2001 signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We suffered massive civilian casualties on our own soil. We awakened to dangers even more lethal -- the possibility that terrorists could gain chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons from outlaw regimes, and turn those weapons against the United States. We came to understand that for all the destruction and grief we saw that day, September 11th gave only the merest glimpse of the threat that international terrorism poses to this and other nations. If terrorists ever do acquire weapons of mass destruction -- on their own or with help from a terror regime -- they will use those weapons without the slightest constraint of reason or morality. Instead of losing thousands of lives, we might lose tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of lives in a single day of horror. Remembering what we saw on the morning of 9/11, and knowing the nature of our enemies, we have as clear a responsibility as could ever fall to government: We must do everything in our power to protect our people from terrorist attack, and to keep terrorists from ever acquiring weapons of mass destruction.

This great and urgent responsibility has required a shift in national security strategy. For many years prior to 9/11, terror attacks against Americans were treated as isolated incidents, and answered -- if at all -- on an ad hoc basis, and rarely in a systematic way. Even after an attack inside our own country, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York, there was a tendency to treat terrorist attacks as individual criminal acts, to be handled primarily through law enforcement.

Ramsi Yousef, the main perpetrator of that 1993 attack in New York was tracked down, arrested, tried, convicted, and sentenced to a 240-year sentence. Yet behind that one man was a growing network of 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 ago. After the World Trade Center attack in 1993 came 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, in 2000.

In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad, the mastermind of 9/11, first proposed to bin Laden that they use hijacked airliners to attack targets in the U.S. In 1996, and again in 1998, Osama bin Laden declared war on the United States. During this period, thousands of terrorists were trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. And we have seen the work of terrorists in many attacks since 9/11 -- in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Karbalah, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad, and Madrid. Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, it is not enough merely to prosecute a series of crimes. We have a responsibility to conduct a global campaign against the terrorist network. (Applause.)

President Bush has recognized this from the beginning. And by the strategy he has set for our government, we will overcome the threats to our security, and advance the cause of freedom.

To make our country safer from terrorist attacks, we have created the Department of Homeland Security -- the largest reorganization of the federal government since the Truman years. We have brought together 22 agencies and 180,000 federal employees in one department, with one focus -- to protect America. We also passed the Patriot Act, to give law enforcement the tools to catch terrorists inside the United States. All of these changes are essential. More than two-and-a-half years have passed now since 9/11, yet it would be a grave mistake to assume the threat to our country and the world has gone away. As we saw in Madrid just weeks ago, terrorists are determined to intimidate free countries, and even to try to influence elections. We have to assume they will make further attempts inside the United States, especially in an election year. And every American can be certain: This government is doing everything we can to prevent another terrorist attack on America.

Our national security strategy also recognizes the doctrines of deterrence and containment, which served us well during the Cold War, are not sufficient to meet the threat of terrorism. It's hard to deter an enemy that has no territory to defend, no standing army to counter, no real assets to destroy in order to discourage them from attacking us. Containment is meaningless in the case of al Qaeda. And neither containment nor deterrence offers protection against rogue regimes that develop weapons of mass destruction and are willing to pass along those weapons secretly to a terrorist on a suicide mission.

Given these realities, there can be no waiting until the danger has fully materialized. By then it would be too late. And so we are waging this war in the only way it can be won, by taking the fight directly to the enemy. (Applause.)

Over the last two-and-a-half years, we -- and our friends and allies in many countries -- have inflicted heavy losses on al Qaeda's leadership and foot soldiers, tracking them down and finding them in hiding places from Pakistan to Indonesia. Those not yet captured or killed live in fear, and their fears are well founded. We are also working with governments around the globe to take down the financial networks that support terror -- the hidden bank accounts, front groups, and phony charities that have helped them to function.

America is working closely with intelligence services all over the globe. The best intelligence is necessary -- not just to win the war on terror, but also to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. So we have enhanced our ability to trace dangerous sources of proliferation, including black-market operations.

The world recently learned of the network led by Mr. A.Q. Khan, the former head of Pakistan's nuclear weapons program. Khan and his associates sold nuclear technology and know-how to regimes around the world, including Libya, Iran and North Korea. Thanks to the tireless work of intelligence officers from the United States, the United Kingdom, Pakistan, and other nations, the Khan network is now being dismantled piece by piece. (Applause.)

Since the day our country was attacked, we have also 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. (Applause.)

The first to see this doctrine in action were the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan by violence while turning that country into a giant training camp for terrorists. America and our coalition took down the regime in a matter of weeks because of our superior technology, and the unmatched skill of our armed forces, and, above all, because we came not as conquerors but as liberators. The Taliban are gone from the scene. The terrorist camps are closed, and the Afghan people are building a nation that is secure, independent, and free.

In Iraq, 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. Saddam Hussein had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. His regime cultivated ties to terror and had built, possessed, and used weapons of mass destruction. Last spring, Saddam was the all-powerful dictator of Iraq, controlling the lives and the future of almost 25 million people. Today, he sits in a prison cell. (Applause.) The people of Iraq know that the dictator and his sons will never torment them again. And we can be certain that they will never again threaten Iraq's neighbors or the United States of America.

From the beginning, America has sought -- and received -- international support for our operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In the war on terror, we will always seek cooperation from allies around the world. But as the President has made very clear, there is a difference between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few. The United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country. (Applause.)

We and our coalition partners still face serious challenges in Afghanistan and Iraq, but our progress has been significant. In Afghanistan, there is a new constitution. Free elections will be held later this year. In Iraq, we and the other nations of our coalition are working closely with the United Nations, and with Iraqis, to determine the exact form of an interim government that will receive sovereignty June 30th. The U.N. election supervision team is in Iraq developing plans for elections. We're working with the U.N. Secretary General and our coalition partners to return U.N. teams to Iraq to play an important role there in the months ahead.

In recent weeks, those who fear freedom in Iraq have stepped up their attempts to create chaos and instability. Groups of radicals, former regime supporters and foreign terrorists have used car bombs to murder Iraqi policemen and civilians, including schoolchildren. They have kidnapped the citizens of many countries who have come to Iraq to aid in its reconstruction. And they have launched fresh attacks on our forces. The goal of these killers is clear -- to prevent a successful transition to self-government, and to drive out the United States and our partners, and to impose some new form of tyranny on the Iraqi people. This campaign of terror will fail. (Applause.)

As the President has said, the United States will keep its word to the people of Iraq. Iraq will be a free and independent country, and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it. Our coalition has the means and the will to prevail. We are standing for freedom and security, and that is a cause we are proud to serve.

Our steady course has not escaped the attention of leaders of other countries. Three months ago, after initiating talks with America and Britain -- and five days after the capture of Saddam Hussein -- the leader of Libya voluntarily committed to disclose and dismantle all of his weapons of mass destruction programs. And the dismantling of those programs is underway. All elements of the Libyan nuclear program have been turned over to the United States. (Applause.)

I do not believe that Colonel Ghadafi just happened to make this wise decision. (Laughter.) Rather, he was responding to the new realities of the world. Leaders elsewhere are learning that weapons of mass destruction do not bring influence, or prestige, or security -- they only invite isolation, and carry other costs. In the post-9/11 world, the United States and our allies are determined: We will not live at the mercy of terrorists or regimes that could arm them with chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons. By whatever means are necessary, whether diplomatic or military, we will act to protect the liberty and lives of our people. (Applause.)

These past three years, as our country experienced war and national emergency, I have watched our Commander-in-Chief make the decisions and set the strategy. I have seen a man who is calm and deliberate, comfortable with responsibility, consistent in his objectives, and resolute in his actions. These times have tested the character of our nation, and they have tested the character of our nation's leader. When he makes a commitment, there is no doubt he will follow through. As a result, America's friends know they can trust -- and America's enemies know they can fear -- the decisive leadership of the President of the United States, and I am honored to be part of his team. (Applause.)

The President's conduct in leading America through a time of unprecedented danger -- his ability to make decisions and to stand by them -- is a measure that must be applied to the candidate who now opposes him in the election of 2004, the Junior Senator from Massachusetts.

In one of Senator Kerry's recent observations about foreign policy, he claimed that his ideas have gained strong support, at least among unnamed foreigners he's been spending time with. (Laughter.) Senator Kerry said that he has met with foreign leaders, and I quote, "who can't go out and say this publicly, but, boy, they look at you and say, 'You've got to win this, you've got to beat this guy, we need a new policy,' things like that." End quote.

A week later, a voter in Pennsylvania asked Senator Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. He replied, "That's none of your business." But recently the Senator did drop a hint. The other day on "Meet the Press," he told Tim Russert, quote, "I mean, you can go to New York City and you can be in a restaurant and you can meet a foreign leader." (Laughter.) Maybe next time he'll narrow it down for us a little more. Maybe the name of the restaurant, or the leader. (Laughter.) In any case, come November, the outcome of the election will be determined by the voters of the United States, not by unnamed foreign leaders. (Applause.)

Senator Kerry's record on national security raises some important questions all by itself. To give you some history, let's begin with the matter of how Iraq and Saddam Hussein would have been dealt with. Senator Kerry was in the minority of senators who voted against the Persian Gulf War in 1991, in which we liberated Kuwait after a brutal invasion and occupation. And at the time, the Senator expressed the view that our international coalition consisted of "shadowy battlefield allies who barely carry a burden." Yet last year, as we prepared to liberate Iraq, he recalled the Persian Gulf coalition a little differently. He said then it was a, quote, "strong coalition." Just eight days ago, Senator Kerry said former President George Bush had done, quote, "a brilliant job" of building the alliance. Having served as Secretary of Defense under former President Bush, I appreciate Senator Kerry's comment. But I find it odd that Senator Kerry is now commending an alliance he didn't want to build for a purpose he didn't support.

Six years after the Gulf War, in 1997, Saddam Hussein was still defying the terms of the cease-fire. And as President Bill Clinton considered military action against Iraq, he found a true believer in John Kerry. The Senator from Massachusetts said, quote, "Should the resolve of our allies wane, the United States must not lose its resolve to take action." He further warned that if Saddam Hussein were not held to account for his violation of U.N. resolutions, some future conflict would have "greater consequence." In 1998, Senator Kerry indicated his support for regime change in Iraq, with ground troops if necessary.

Four years later, in the fall of 2002, Senator Kerry wrote in an op-ed piece that, before America took any action against Iraq, President Bush should first go to the Congress for support, then go to the U.N. Security Council to seek enforcement of the resolutions, and then give an ultimatum to Saddam Hussein. President Bush, of course, did all of those things. And in the congressional vote, Senator Kerry was among those who favored military action if Saddam Hussein refused to comply with U.N. demands.

A neutral observer, looking at these examples from Senator Kerry's record, would assume that the Senator actually supported military action against Saddam Hussein. The Senator himself now tells us otherwise. In January this year, he was asked on TV if he was "one of the anti-war candidates." He replied, "I am." He now says he was voting in October, 2002 only to, quote, "threaten the use of force," not actually to use force.

Even if we set aside these inconsistencies and changing rationales, at least this much is clear: Had the decision belonged to Senator Kerry, Saddam Hussein would still be in power, today, in Iraq. In fact, Saddam Hussein would almost certainly still be in control of Kuwait, as well.

Beyond his struggle to maintain a position on Iraq, Senator Kerry's record raises serious doubts about his understanding of the broader struggle against terror, of which Iraq is only one front. Less than two weeks ago, within hours of Osama bin Laden issuing a tape promising further attacks on America, Senator Kerry suggested that the President is exaggerating the terrorist threat. As the Senator put it, "Home base for George Bush, as we saw to the 'nth' degree in the press conference, is terror. Ask him a question, he's going to terror." End quote.

Given that comment, it is not surprising that Senator Kerry has yet to outline any serious plan for winning the war on terror. Instead, he has questioned whether the war on terror is actually a war at all. Recently he said, quote, "I don't want to use that terminology." In his view, the war on terror is, again I quote, "not primarily a military operation. It's an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement, public diplomacy effort." End quote. As we have seen, however, that approach was tried before, and proved entirely inadequate to protecting the American people from terrorists who are quite certain they are at war with us and are comfortable using that terminology. (Applause.)

Even if we accept Senator Kerry's assertion that law enforcement and intelligence should be the primary tools in combating terror, his voting record over the past decade indicates a different set of priorities. In 1994 -- less than a year after terrorists first struck the World Trade Center -- Senator Kerry twice proposed cutting a billion dollars from intelligence funding. When the matter came to the Senate floor for a vote, it was rejected overwhelmingly by a vote of 75 to 20. The following year, Senator Kerry proposed cutting $1.5 billion from the intelligence budget over five years. The Senator said his goal was to eliminate intelligence programs that he considered to be, "pointless, wasteful, antiquated, or just plain silly." Senator Kerry's proposed cuts were so deeply irresponsible that he couldn't find a single co-sponsor for his bill in the Senate.

To his credit, the Senator did vote for the Patriot Act, along with 97 of his fellow senators. Now, however, he supports weakening that law.

Senator Kerry's record on defense measures is a bit more consistent. From the beginning of his career in the U.S. Senate 20 years ago, Senator Kerry has repeatedly called for major reductions or outright cancellations of many of our most important weapons systems. In 1984, the middle of the Cold War, while we were confronted with an aggressive, well armed Soviet Union, the Senator issued a white paper on the defense budget during his first campaign for the Senate. He called for cutting up to $53 billion from the Reagan defense budget. And these cuts included the following: The MX missile, cancel; the B-1 bomber, cancel; anti-satellite system, cancel; strategic defense initiative, cancel; the AH-64 Apache helicopter, canceled; the Patriot air defense missile system, cancel; the F-15, cancel; the F-14A and F-14B, cancel; the Phoenix air-to-air missile, cancel; the Sparrow air-to-air missile, cancel.

At the same time, he proposed reductions in funding for the Tomahawk cruise missile and the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. And at numerous times, Senator Kerry has voted against funding weapons systems vital to fighting and winning the war on terror, such as the Blackhawk helicopter and the Predator drone.

And last September, when the President proposed an $87 billion-dollar supplemental appropriation for troops fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, Senator Kerry was asked whether he would support the President's request. He said, quote, "I don't think any United States senator is going to abandon our troops. That's irresponsible." End quote. The legislation provided funding for body armor and other vital equipment, hazard pay, health benefits, ammunition, fuel, and spare parts for our military. The legislation passed overwhelmingly, with a vote in the Senate of 87 to 12. Senator Kerry voted "no."

As a way to clarify the matter, Senator Kerry recently said, quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." (Laughter.) End quote. The Senator is, obviously, free to vote as he wishes, but he should be held to his own standard. It is irresponsible to vote against vital support for the United States military. (Applause.)

When Senator Kerry speaks about the direction of the war on terror, he often returns to a single theme -- the need for international cooperation. He has vowed to usher in a golden age of American diplomacy. He is fond of mentioning that some countries did not support America's actions in Iraq. Yet to the many nations that have joined our coalition, Senator Kerry offers only condescension. More than 30 nations have contributed and sacrificed for the freedom of the Iraqi people, including Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Poland, South Korea, and Japan. Senator Kerry calls these countries, quote, "window dressing." They are, in his words, "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

I am aware of no other instance in which a presumptive nominee for President of the United States has spoken with such disdain of active, fighting allies of the United States in a time of war. Senator Kerry's contempt for our good allies is ungrateful to nations that have withstood danger, hardship, and insult for standing with America in the cause of freedom.

In his years in Washington, Senator Kerry has been one vote of a hundred in the United States Senate -- and fortunately on matters of national security, he was usually in the minority. But the presidency is an entirely different proposition. The President always casts the deciding vote. And the Senator from Massachusetts has given us ample grounds to doubt the judgment and the attitude he brings to bear on vital issues of national security.

The contrast between the candidates this November will be sharper than it has been in many years. In more than three years as President, George W. Bush has built a national security record of his own. America came to know the President after one of the worst days in our history. He saw America through tragedy. He has taken the fight to the enemy. And under his leadership, our country has once again led the armies of liberation -- freeing 50 million souls from tyranny, and making our nation and the world more secure. (Applause.)

All Americans, regardless of political party, can be proud of what our nation has achieved in an historic time, when so many depended on us, and all the world was watching. And I have been very proud to work with a President who -- like other Presidents we have known -- has shown in his own conduct, the optimism, and strength, and decency of the great nation he serves.

Thank you very much.

END 12:12 P.M. CDT

Richard B. Cheney, Remarks by the Vice President at Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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