Cheney Urges Naval Academy Class of 2006 to Know the Enemy
By Paul X. Rutz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 26, 2006 Vice President Dick Cheney today urged the U.S. Naval Academy's graduating class to understand the nature of the enemy in the global war on terror as they enter the military services as commissioned officers.
Cheney addressed 980 graduating midshipmen and about 27,000 family, friends and staff members at the academy's 156th commencement ceremony.
"You are the first class to enter the academy following the attacks of 9/11," he told the graduating midshipmen. "And I'm guessing that more than a few of you were inspired to military service by that attack on our country. In these four years, the war on terror has influenced the course of study at our service academies, and it will define much of your career leading American sailors and Marines."
The nation's newest officers need to understand the enemy that threatens the United States and the rest of the civilized world, Cheney told the audience.
"It is as brutal and heartless as any we have ever faced," he said. "This enemy wears no uniform, has no regard for the rules of warfare, and is unconstrained by any standard of decency or morality. They plot and plan in secret, target the defenseless, and rejoice at the death of innocent, unsuspecting human beings."
He cited the period of Taliban rule in Afghanistan as an example of the enemy's beliefs. "They seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman and child lives in total obedience to a narrow and hateful ideology," he said. "This ideology rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of society. Such beliefs can be imposed only through force and intimidation, so those who refuse to bow to the tyrants will be brutalized or killed -- and no person or group is exempt."
The vice president told the audience at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium that terrorists want to end all American and Western influence in the Middle East.
"Their goal in that region is to seize control of a country, so they have a base from which to launch attacks and wage war against governments that do not meet their demands," he said. "The terrorists believe that by controlling one country, they will be able to target and overthrow other governments in the region, ultimately to establish a totalitarian empire that encompasses a region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia."
Ultimately, Cheney said, terrorists want to obtain weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries, and to cause mass death in the United States.
"Some might look at these ambitions and wave them off as extreme and mad," he said. "Well, these ambitions are extreme and mad. They are also real, and we must not wave them off. We must take them seriously. We must oppose them. And we must defeat them."
Cheney said the United States must apply every element of national power to defeat that enemy. "The terrorists view the entire world as a battlefield," he said. "And those of us in positions of responsibility must do everything we can to figure out the intentions of an enemy that likely has combatants inside the United States today. We live in a free and open society, and the terrorists want to use those very advantages against us. And so we have an urgent duty to learn who they are, what they are doing, and to stop them before they act."
The vice president cited the National Security Agency's terrorist surveillance program, which President Bush authorized soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States. It monitors phone calls between people in the United States and suspected terrorists abroad, and Cheney called it "absolutely essential to the security of the United States."
"Throughout our military, intelligence has a daily, indeed hourly, influence on the movement of ships and subs, fighter and bomber missions, and orders given to those commands at the tip of the spear," Cheney told the audience.
He said gathering the best information and getting it to those fighting the war makes their work more effective, their maneuvers safer, and the nation more secure. However, in doing so, he said, the president has made clear that even in wartime, people in power have a duty to uphold the law. Staying ahead of the terrorists as they try to mount attacks is important, Cheney said. "If you'll recall, the 9/11 Commission focused criticism on the nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists at home and terrorists overseas," said he noted. He used the term "connecting the dots" to hint at how the surveillance program helps intelligence officials, and he said uncovering one small piece of data could save thousands of lives.
In the past, America has treated terrorism as a series of individual criminal acts, to be handled primarily by law enforcement, he said, and that strategy didn't work. He listed several terrorist attacks through the 1990s that he said were dealt with insufficiently, causing terrorist organizations to believe they could attack the United States "without paying a price."
"Over the last several decades," he said, "Americans have seen how the terrorists pursue their objectives. To put it in very basic terms, they would hit us, and we would not hit back hard enough."
A new strategy was needed, going beyond prosecuting a series of crimes, Cheney said. That new strategy is being carried out.
The Bush Administration's anti-terror strategy includes going on the offensive against terror networks in an effort to prevent attacks before they occur; holding accountable any person or government supporting, protecting or harboring terrorists; working to stop the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction; and denying terrorists the chance at controlling a country, which they might use as a staging ground for future attacks, he said.
"As you ready yourselves for new responsibilities, I want each one of you to know that the president will not relent in the effort to track the enemies of the United States with every legitimate tool at his command," Cheney told the men and women seated before him, moments before they were commissioned as officers in the Navy and Marine Corps.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I lack the words to fully express how much you mean to this nation, not just on Commissioning Day, but every day that you give to America," Cheney said. "You serve under a flag that stands for freedom, and human rights, and stability in a turbulent world."