Richard B. Cheney photo

The Vice President's Remarks at the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana

July 01, 2004

945 Magazine Street
New Orleans, Louisiana

12:30 P.M. CDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. Thank you for that warm welcome. And, General, thank you very much for that introduction.

It's always great to see General Kelley, a man who has given so many years of dedicated service to America. Of course, now he's retired from active duty. But you don't want to make the mistake of calling him an ex-Marine - - there is no such thing. And, of course, P. X. is someone I'm very proud to call a friend, he is a great American. General, I want to thank you for the honor you do us today by being here with all of us. Thank you very much. (Applause.)

It's good to be back in New Orleans, and I bring you greetings from our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)

I'm also pleased to have the opportunity once again to visit the National D-Day Museum. The museum, of course, was founded by one of our nation's great historians, Stephen Ambrose. He was a friend. I was delighted to know him. And this place, as Dr. Ambrose once said, is the only museum in the United States devoted exclusively to World War II, and the only museum in the world that has as its central theme one day in the world's history, but what a day that was.

Last month, President Bush traveled to Normandy for the ceremonies that marked the 60th anniversary of D-Day. It was a moment to remember those who turned the tide of war in freedom's favor -- the heroes whose memories you keep alive, and whose achievements you celebrate, here in this museum each day.

The courage of America's World War II generation is now inspiring a new generation of Americans to lives of service in our nation's armed forces. At this hour, many thousands of those brave men and women are standing watch for freedom in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. And like so many others who have served America in uniform, these young Americans are making this nation very proud. (Applause.)

The challenges we face in today's war on terror are different from those our countrymen faced six decades ago. Today's enemies send trained killers to live among us and attack civilians from within our own borders. They strike us not with tanks, but by taking the tools of everyday life -- aircraft, trucks and cars -- and turning them into weapons to kill innocent men, women and children.

We face a threat today unlike any our nation has ever known. Still, we can find parallels between this war and the struggle against tyranny in the 1940s. In that era, as in our own, our nation experienced a sudden attack that took many lives. Then, as now, our country responded by going on the offensive against freedom's enemies -- in Asia, in Africa, in Europe and around the globe. Then, as now, free nations came together to overthrow cruel dictators, and to liberate people suffering brutal oppression. Then, as now, our country faced the difficult challenge of reconstruction, as American GIs helped nations reclaim their sovereignty and build free societies.

It was not easy then. It is not easy now. Yet because America and our allies were steadfast, Germany and Japan became successful democracies and strong allies of the United States. And today, because a new generation of heroes has stepped forward to serve, Iraq and Afghanistan are making steady progress on the path to democracy and self-reliance. And we will see this mission through. (Applause.)

This week, only 15 months after the liberation of Iraq, we reached an important milestone, as the world witnessed the arrival of a free and sovereign Iraqi government. Iraqis saw a peaceful transfer of power take place in Baghdad, as Prime Minister Allawi and his Cabinet took full governing responsibility for their nation.

Before the transfer of sovereignty, another remarkable and unprecedented event took place: Iraq's new transitional administrative law was approved, a law that guarantees individual rights never known in the history of Iraq and still rare in the Middle East. Discrimination based on gender, nationality, and religion is expressly prohibited. Today, by law, every Iraqi man, woman and child is guaranteed freedom of religion; freedom of speech; the right to assemble peacefully; the right to organize political parties, the right to choose their leaders in free elections; and the right to a fair trial, with equal justice under the law. As I was on my way to the museum today, I couldn't help but think of my last visit here on April 9, 2003. That was the same day that Saddam Hussein's statue came down in Baghdad. (Applause.) Today, 15 months later, Saddam Hussein stands arraigned in an Iraqi court, where he will face the justice he denied to millions. (Applause.)

It is a historic transformation for that nation -- 15 months ago, it was under the absolute control of a dictator. With the assumption of power by the Iraqi interim government, and the enshrining of these rights in law, Iraq is now a country where the government will answer to the people, instead of the other way around. This is a proud moment for the United States, as well. Acting with capable allies at our side, we pledged to end a dangerous regime, to free the oppressed, and to restore sovereignty to the Iraqi people. And we have kept our word.

The Iraqi people still face determined adversaries -- and in the days leading up to the transfer of sovereignty, the enemies of a free Iraq lashed out with all of the murderous hatred they could muster. They continue to hope that by terror and violence they can stop the rise of a free Iraq. But the Iraqi people and their leaders are not intimidated. As Prime Minister Allawi put it, quote: "The Iraqi people are determined to establish a democratic government that provides freedom and equal rights for all of its citizens. We are prepared to fight and, if necessary, to die for the cause," he said.

Iraq's new leaders are determined, and they know they are not alone in the struggle against terror. Their cause is the cause of the civilized world, and the civilized world is standing with them. Forces from more than 30 nations have troops in Iraq -- and they are serving alongside thousands of Iraqi security forces, who are fighting courageously for the future of their own country.

We are also working with Iraq's new leaders to train a new generation of Iraqi military commanders, so Iraqis can eventually take full responsibility not only for self-government, but also for their nation's self-defense. Earlier this week in Istanbul, NATO agreed to help train Iraq's national security forces. The United Nations Security Council has unanimously approved a resolution endorsing Iraq's interim government, and the U.N. has sent a team of experts to help Iraq plan free elections. The world is united in its support for a free Iraq.

More violence can be expected in the days and weeks ahead, but the day the terrorists dreaded has arrived: After decades of rule by a brutal dictator, Iraq has been returned to its rightful owners, the people of Iraqi. And Iraq now joins Afghanistan as a nation transformed from a state sponsor of terror to an ally in the war on terror. (Applause.) America is safer, and the world is more secure, because Iraq and Afghanistan are now partners in the struggle against terror, instead of sanctuaries for terrorist networks. (Applause.)

These are essential victories in the war on terror. Yet we are engaged in a broader struggle -- a global war that will last many years and require our most focused and steadfast efforts. Thousands of terrorists remain at large, and they are intent on gaining access to increasingly powerful weapons. We cannot allow men like those who recently beheaded American and Korean hostages to acquire the tools that will allow them to kill tens or even hundreds of thousands of people in a few minutes. Preventing them from doing so is the challenge of our time.

The danger that faces free nations today requires strength, resolve, and moral clarity. And we are fortunate to have in President George W. Bush a leader to fit for these times. (Applause.) Under his leadership, our nation has made dramatic progress in the war on terror. Consider for a moment how matters stood at the time when President Bush was sworn into office on January 20th, 2001.

Terrorists were on the offensive around the world, emboldened by many years of unanswered attacks. Repeatedly, they had struck America with little cost or consequence. Terrorists tried to bring down the World Trade Center for the first time in 1993; they attacked us at the Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, in 1996; they blew up U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in 1998; and they attacked the USS. Cole, in 2000. In none of these cases, did the United States respond very forcefully.

Our enemies took lessons from this experience. They concluded that our country was soft. They grew to believe that if they hit us hard enough, if they inflicted sufficient casualties, the United States could be forced to retreat and withdraw - - as we did after attacks against us in Lebanon in 1983, and Somalia in 1993. So they set in motion plans for an attack of tremendous magnitude, in the form of coordinated hijackings of American passenger jets on September 11th, 2001. As President Bush and I were sworn in, planning for this attack was well underway. Hijackers had been recruited, funds raised, training commenced -- and some of the 9/11 hijackers were already in the United States.

When we took office, terrorists were permitted sanctuary and safe haven in terrorist states, from which they could plan and train for attacks on free people. The Taliban was in control of Afghanistan, and had turned that country into a terrorist training ground. Between 1996 and 2000, al Qaeda turned out thousands of terrorists from training camps in its Afghan sanctuary -- trained killers, who fanned out around the globe, setting up cells in some 60 countries, including our own.

In January 2001, Pakistan was one of only three countries in the world that recognized the Taliban regime, and al Qaeda had a large presence in both Afghanistan and Pakistan. A strong radical Islamic movement had taken root in Pakistan, and was recruiting thousands for terrorist networks. And the United States was not engaging Pakistan's leaders or its military, whose support would be critical to any serious effort to shut down al Qaeda's operations in Afghanistan. The future direction of that country was in doubt, and the danger grew that Islamic extremists might take control of a nation armed with nuclear weapons.

When we took office, terrorists were also receiving support in Saudi Arabia. Fundraisers and facilitators were providing money and logistical support to al Qaeda. Fifteen of the nineteen hijackers recruited to attack our country on 9/11 came from there.

When we took office, Saddam Hussein was providing financial rewards to the families of suicide bombers in Israel, and safe haven and support for terrorists and terror groups such as Abu Nidal, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and Abu Abbas, the mastermind of the 1985 hijacking of the Achille Lauro. Saddam's regime also had long established ties with al Qaeda. These ties included senior-level contacts going back a decade. In the early 1990s, Saddam had sent a brigadier general in the Iraqi intelligence service to Sudan to train al Qaeda in bomb-making and document forgery. After the 1993 World Trade Center attack, Iraq gave sanctuary to one of the bombers, Abdul Rahman Yasin. Later, senior al Qaeda associate Abu Musab al-Zarqawi took sanctuary in Baghdad after coalition forces drove him out of Afghanistan. From the Iraqi capital in 2002, Zarqawi -- along with some two dozen associates, al Qaeda members, and affiliates -- ran a poisons camp in northern Iraq, which became a safe haven for Ansar al-Islam as well as al Qaeda terrorists fleeing our coalition in Afghanistan. The Iraqi regime refused to turn over Zarqawi even when twice being provided with detailed information on his presence in Baghdad.

Not only was Saddam providing support and sanctuary for terrorists - as we took office, he was entering his 10th year of defying United Nations demands that he disarm and prove to the world that he had done so. In 1998, U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq because the regime had made it impossible for them to do their work. Saddam had failed to account for his weapons of mass destruction -- weapons he had used against his neighbors and against his own people.

When President Bush and I took office, Libya was spending millions to acquire nuclear weapons. A.Q. Khan, the man who put Pakistan's nuclear program in place, was running a network that was selling nuclear materials, know-how, and technology to Libya, to Iran, and to North Korea. That network was the world's most dangerous source of proliferation.

All of these dangers were gathering in January of 2001. In short, this was the situation when President Bush and I came to office: a world where terrorists were emboldened by years of being able to strike us with impunity; where unprecedented new attacks were being planned; where outlaw regimes provided terrorists sanctuary without cost or consequence; where the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction was a growing threat.

On assuming the presidency, George W. Bush moved to strengthen our defenses and to increase our military and intelligence investments. We gave our men and women in uniform the resources they need to restore their capabilities, and to transform the military to fight and win the wars of the 21st century.

The first of those wars came to the United States with the terror strikes of 9/11. Under President Bush's leadership, we answered that challenge with decisive and relentless action. We did not fire million-dollar cruise missiles into empty tents, or drop bombs from 30,000 feet on abandoned obstacle courses. Instead America launched a broad and sustained war on terrorist networks around the globe. (Applause.)

President Bush set out not merely to send a message or take symbolic action, but to destroy those who had attacked our people. The President also made a necessary shift in the strategic doctrine of our country. He declared that any person or regime that harbors or supports terrorists is equally guilty of terrorist crimes and will be held to account. (Applause.)

The results are there for all to see -- within weeks of the 9/11 attacks, U.S. special operations forces were on the ground in Afghanistan, teaming up with Afghan freedom fighters opposed to the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies. Within weeks, the Taliban regime was destroyed, hundreds of al Qaeda fighters were captured or killed, and Osama bin Laden was on the run. Today, as a result of these efforts, Afghanistan has a new government under President Hamid Karzai, a nation is being rebuilt, children are going to school, a new democratic constitution has been written, and soon the Afghan people will chose their leaders in free elections. And last month, President Karzai spoke to a joint session of Congress and thanked the American people for liberating his country. (Applause.)

In Pakistan, America re-engaged with the government of President Musharraf, who has become a friend of the United States and provided support for our operations in Afghanistan. With his help, we captured Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the operational planner behind the 9/11 attacks, and we have destroyed much of al Qaeda's senior leadership. President Musharraf, twice targeted for assassination by al Qaeda, has strongly supported us in the war on terror.

Since 9/11, and especially since the attacks in Riyadh in May of last year, the Saudi government has recognized that it is a prime target of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Saudi Arabia is now working closely with the United States to root out al Qaeda, and has helped to wrap up al Qaeda operators, facilitators, and sources of financial support.

Iraq is no longer defying the United Nations, pursuing weapons of mass destruction, providing safe haven for terrorists, or paying $25,000 rewards to suicide bombers. Saddam Hussein is no longer tormenting the Iraqi people, or piling the bodies of of innocent women and children into mass graves. He will never against threaten the stability of the Middle East, or the safety of the American people. After three decades of Baathist tyranny -- (applause) -- after three decades of Baathist tyranny, the Iraqi people have their country back.

The leader of Libya, having witnessed our determination in Afghanistan and Iraq, announced his decision to abandon his country's pursuit of weapons of mass destruction. And now the Libyan nuclear program -- the uranium, the centrifuges, the designs to build bombs -- has been crated up, loaded onto U.S. military aircraft, and flown to a secure storage facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Libya's chemical weapons have been secured and its munitions destroyed. Libya is out of the business of pursuing weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.)

It may be sheer coincidence that Moammar Ghadafi approached America and Britain to open negotiations in March of 2003, as thousands of coalition forces were massing on Iraq's borders, or that he announced his decision to give up Libya's weapons of mass destruction just days after Saddam Hussein was found in a spider hole. Perhaps it was a coincidence - - but I doubt it.

Our vigorous persecution -- correction, our vigorous prosecution of the global war on terror, and our determined counter-proliferation efforts, have accomplished, in a few short years, the voluntary disarmament of Libya. And information gained from Libya helped us strike another blow against the WMD aspirations of terrorist states by rolling up the A.Q. Khan nuclear trading network. Today, A.Q. Khan is under house arrest in Pakistan and his network for disseminating technology about nuclear weapons is being dismantled. (Applause.)

Americans can be proud of all of these achievements not only because we have removed threats, but also because we have brought freedom to others. By liberating the oppressed in a troubled region, and by helping nations build democratic institutions, we have served the highest ideals of our own country, and greatly enhanced the long-term security of America and our friends. Democracies do not breed the anger and the radicalism that drag down whole societies or lead to the export violence. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds or welcome bases of operations in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and choose their own leaders. By turning the energies of men and women away from violence, we not only make those countries more peaceful, we add to our own safety.

Because the war on terror is a global struggle, President Bush has rallied a broad coalition of nations to fight the enemy on many fronts. Dozens of countries are contributing to the effort in a variety of ways -- military, financial, diplomatic, intelligence, and law enforcement. The cooperation is unprecedented, and it's growing.

Our coalition in the war on terror reflects the cooperation and efforts of 16 NATO nations with forces serving in Iraq, and 26 NATO nations with forces in Afghanistan. The transfer of sovereignty to a free Iraq was accomplished also through the efforts of major non-NATO allies like Australia, New Zealand, Japan, and South Korea who have troops stationed in Iraq today. And citizens of many nations have made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan and Iraq, in addition to our own, including citizens of Great Britain, Australia, Bulgaria, Canada, Denmark, Estonia, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Nepal, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Thailand, and Ukraine.

Under President Bush's leadership, we are working with friends and allies to fight terrorist enemies abroad, and we are pursuing a vigorous, active strategy for homeland defense. At the President's request, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security, the largest reorganization of the federal government since Harry Truman was President. We have taken decisive, focused action to improve security at our borders and ports, and to protect travelers on commercial aircraft. We added billions in new funding for cutting-edge drugs and other defenses against biological attack. And we passed the Patriot Act to give law enforcement and intelligence personnel better tools to track terrorists within our borders. Every American can be certain: We are doing everything in our power to protect our country from a terrorist attack. (Applause.)

In speaking of our progress, I do not mean to understate the challenges that still lie ahead of us. Terrorists remain determined and dangerous. They have attacked and killed the innocent many times since September 11th -- in Bali and Baghdad, Jakarta and Jerusalem, Casablanca, Riyadh, Istanbul, Mombasa, and Madrid. The terrorists continue plotting to kill on an even larger scale, including here in the United States, and they continue their pursuit of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. That is why we are taking the war directly to the enemy, engaging them abroad, so that we do not have to face them with armies of medical personnel, police, and firefighters on the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)

As President Bush said recently, "We are now about three years into the war against terrorism. We've met great challenges, and there are more ahead. This is no time for impatience or self-defeating pessimism. We have work to do, in the defense of our country and for the good of humanity. And by doing our duty, and holding firm to our values, this generation will give the world a lesson in the power of liberty."

Ladies and gentlemen, in this time of testing for our country, the American people have been strong, and courageous, and well led by our President. I have watched him 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. 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 must fear -- the decisive leadership of President George W. Bush.

Thank you very much. (Applause.)

END 12:58 P.M. CDT

Richard B. Cheney, The Vice President's Remarks at the D-Day Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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