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Vice President Addresses Veterans of Foreign Wars

Aired August 26, 2002 - 12:23   ET


KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: Want to take you live now to Nashville, Tennessee, where Vice President Dick Cheney is addressing Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Let's listen in.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... speculating on how we might have prevented Pearl Harbor and asking what actions might have averted the tragedies that rate among the worst in human history.

America in the year 2002 must ask careful questions, not merely about our past, but also about our future. The elected leaders of this country have a responsibility to consider all of the available options, and we are doing so.

What we must not do in the face of a mortal threat is to give in to wishful thinking or willful blindness. We will not simply look away, hope for the best and leave the matter for some future administration to resolve.

As President Bush has said, time is not on our side. Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of a terror network, or a murderous dictator, or the two working together, constitutes as grave a threat as can be imagined. The risk (sic) of inaction are far greater than the risk of action.

Now and in the future, the United States will work closely with a global coalition to deny terrorists and their state sponsors the materials, technology and expertise to make and deliver weapons of mass destruction. We will develop and deploy effective missile defenses to protect America and our allies from sudden attack. And the entire world must know that we will take whatever action is necessary to defend our freedom and our security.

As former Secretary of State Kissinger recently stated, the imminence of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, the huge dangers it involves, the rejection of a viable inspection system and the demonstrated hostility of Saddam Hussein combine to produce an imperative for preemptive action.

If the United States could have preempted 9/11, we would have; no question. Should we be able to prevent another, much more devastating attack, we will; no question. This nation will not live at the mercy of terrorists or terror regimes. (APPLAUSE)

I am familiar with the arguments against taking action in the case of Saddam Hussein. Some concede that Saddam is evil, power hungry and a menace, but that until he crosses the threshold of actually possessing nuclear weapons we should rule out any preemptive action.

That logic seems to me to be deeply flawed. The argument comes down to this: Yes, Saddam is as dangerous as we say he is, we just need to let him get stronger before we do anything about it.

Yet if we did wait until that moment, Saddam would simply be emboldened and it would become even harder for us to gather friends and allies to oppose him. As one of those who worked to assemble the Gulf War coalition, I can tell you that our job then would have been infinitely more difficult in the face of a nuclear-armed Saddam Hussein. And many of those who now argue that we should act only if he gets a nuclear weapon would then turn around and say that, "We cannot because he has a nuclear weapon.

At bottom, that argument counsels a course of inaction that itself could have devastating consequences for many countries, including our own.

Another argument holds that opposing Saddam Hussein would cause even greater troubles in that part of the world and interfere with the larger war against terror. I believe the opposite is true.

Regime change in Iraq would bring about a number of benefits to the region. When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom- loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace.

As for the reaction of the Arab street, the Middle East expert, Professor Fouad Ajami, predicts that after liberation the streets in Basra and Baghdad are sure to erupt in joy in the same way throngs in Kabul greeted the Americans.

Extremists in the region would have to rethink their strategy of jihad, moderates throughout the region would take heart and our ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process would be enhanced just as it was following the liberation of Kuwait in 1991.

The reality is that these times bring not only dangers, but also opportunities. In the Middle East, where so many have known only poverty and oppression, terror and tyranny, we look to the day when people can live in freedom and dignity, and the young can grow up free of the conditions that breed despair, hatred and violence.

In other times the world saw how the United States defeated fierce enemies, then helped rebuild their countries, forming strong bonds between our peoples and our governments.

Today in Afghanistan, the world has seen that America acts not to conquer, but to liberate. It remains in friendship to help the people build a future of stability, self-determination and peace.

We would act in that same spirit after a regime change in Iraq. With our help, a liberated Iraq can be a great nation once again. Iraq is rich in natural resources and human talent and has unlimited potential for a peaceful, prosperous future.

Our goal would be an Iraq that has territorial integrity, a government that is democratic and pluralistic, a nation where the human rights of every ethnic and religious group are recognized and protected. In that troubled land, all who seek justice and dignity and the chance to live their own lives to know they have a friend and ally in the United States of America.

Great decisions and challenges lie ahead of us, yet we can and we will build a safer and better world beyond the war on terror. Over the past year, millions here and abroad have been inspired once again by the bravery and the selflessness of America's armed forces.

For my part, I have been reminded on a daily basis, as I was during my years at the Pentagon, of what a privilege it is to work with the people of our military.

In whatever branch, at whatever rank, these are men and women who live by a code, who give America the best years of their lives and they show the world the finest qualities in this country.

As veterans, each of you has a place in the long, unbroken line of Americans who came to the defense of freedom. Having served in foreign wars, you bore that duty in some of our nation's most difficult hours. And I know that when you come together, your thoughts inevitably turn to those who never had the opportunity to live to be called veterans.

In a book about his army years, Andy Rooney tells the story of his childhood friend, O.B. Slingerland (ph), a decent, good-hearted, promising boy who was captain of the high school football team. O.B. (ph) later went on to be quarterback at Amherst before entering the Navy and becoming a pilot. Still a young man in his early 20s, he was killed while flying a combat mission off the carrier Saratoga.

Andy Rooney writes: "I have wakened in the middle of the night a thousand times and thought about the life I had that O.B. (ph) never got to have."

Many of you have known that experience. The entire nation joins you in honoring the memories of your friends, and all of who have died for our freedom. And the American people will always respect each one of you for your standing ready to make that same sacrifice.

On the nation's behalf and for myself, and President Bush, I thank you for the service you gave to your fellow citizens, for the loyalty you have shown to each other, and for the great honor you've brought to your uniform, to our flag and to our country. Thank you very much.

PHILLIPS: Vice President Dick Cheney addressing the Veterans of Foreign Wars there in Nashville, Tennessee, focusing on Iraq, Saddam Hussein and a possible attack. Time is not on our side when it comes to weapons of mass destruction. The vice president says we will not look away. We're a nation that will not live at the mercy of terrorists or terrorist regimes.

At this point, we continue to read between the lines as to whether we are going to war or not -- the vice president with strong words against Saddam Hussein and his regime.




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