Cheney: Victory in War on Terror Will Be Victory for Freedom
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 7, 2006 Supporting political freedom and peaceful change in Iraq and the Middle East will require long-term commitment and difficult work, but it is something the U.S. must do to protect itself and its allies from terrorism, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said here today.
"If the peoples of that region are given the rights of free men and women and live under elected, accountable governments and have a chance to work and succeed in hopeful societies, then the flow of radicalism and hate will one day come to an end," Cheney said at a conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group. "The survival of liberty in our own land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands."
Terrorists are a ruthless enemy with a strong set of beliefs and ambitions, Cheney said, but the U.S. has a strategy to defeat them. Key elements of the U.S. strategy are to prevent terrorist attacks before they occur, deny safe haven to terrorists, halt the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and deny terrorists the control of any nation they would use as a base for terrorist attacks, he said.
Another crucial element in the strategy for victory is to replace hatred and resentment with democracy and hope, making the Middle East an environment unfriendly to terrorists, Cheney said. "As democracy advances, ideologies that stir anger and hostility lose their appeal, and terrorists lose recruits, safe havens and sources of funding," he said.
Progress in Iraq has not been easy, but it has been steady, Cheney said. In less than two years, Iraqis voted for a transitional government, drafted a democratic constitution in the heart of the Arab world, approved the constitution in a national referendum, and elected a new government under its provisions, he said. "Iraqis have shown that they value their own liberty and are determined to chart the future of their own country," he said.
People in the Middle East have known nothing but dictatorship, bitterness and violence for decades, Cheney said, but they now have hope for a future. The promise of democracy in that region rests on free elections and the ability of free peoples to hold accountable those who govern them, he said. A functioning democracy also requires institutions that endure beyond a single vote, the protection of minority rights, religious liberty, equality before the law, freedom of expression, and an inclusive society in which every person belongs, he said.
The newly elected government in the Palestinian territories has the duty to create an institution that supports the peaceful aspirations of its people, Cheney said. Palestine is still living with a legacy of corruption, broken promises, abject poverty, the collapse of the rule of law, and ultimately the outbreak of a terrorist campaign on Israel's doorstep, he said, adding that Hamas candidates now have a chance to change that.
"The Hamas candidates pledged to fight corruption and to improve social services, and they'll be held to that standard by the Palestinian people," he said. "If the leaders of Hamas desire the help of America and the international community to build an independent, prosperous Palestinian state, then the way forward is very clear: the Palestinian government must recognize Israel's right to exist."
America also supports democratic aspirations of the people of Iran, Cheney said. Iranians have endured a generation of repression at the hands of a fanatical regime that is one of the world's primary state sponsors of terror, he said, noting Iran's current president has spoken openly of wiping America and Israel off the map. The U.S. is keeping all options open in dealing with Iran, but absolutely will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon, Cheney said.
"Iranians desire and deserve to be free from tyranny and oppression in their own homeland," he said. "Freedom in the Middle East requires freedom for the Iranian people, and America looks forward to the day when our nation can be the closest of friends with a free and democratic Iran."
In the past five years, the U.S. has made considerable progress in the war on terror, Cheney said. The Taliban regime is now history; 25 million Afghans are free; hundreds of al Qaeda have been killed or captured; and Saddam Hussein wakes up every day in a jail cell, he said.
"Because we've been willing to act on our convictions, we live in a better world today," he said. "We cannot know every turn that lies ahead in the fight against terror and tyranny and proliferation, yet at every point, we will be patient and resolute because the supporters of democracy will need our help and the enemies of democracy will test our will. And we will be confident because events are moving in the direction of human liberty.