Cheney Says U.S. Will Never Ask Permission to Defend Itself
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 17, 2004 Though the United States always will seek cooperation from allies in the global war on terror, there's a difference between leading a coalition of many nations and submitting to the objections of a few, Vice President Dick Cheney said in California today.
"The United States will never seek a permission slip to defend the security of our country," Cheney told an audience at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in Simi Valley. He was there to mark delivery of a former Marine One presidential helicopter for display.
American resolve has not escaped notice in other countries, Cheney said. "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," Cheney said. "As we meet today, the dismantling of those programs is under way."
The vice president said he doesn't think Libyan leader Col. Muammar Qadhafi just happened to decide to abandon his WMD programs. "He was responding to the new realities of the world," Cheney said. "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."
Calling it a "great and urgent responsibility" to protect the nation from terrorist attack and to keep weapons of mass destruction out of terrorists' hands, Cheney said the stakes are high.
"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," he said. "Instead of losing thousands of lives, we might lose tens or even hundreds of thousands of lives in a single day of horror."
The past practice of prosecuting terrorist events one by one as a series of crimes is not the right approach, he said, and a good defense is not enough.
"The terrorist enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality," the vice president said. "Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated with. It can only be destroyed."
Cheney said work remains to be done in Iraq, and he pledged that the United States will see it through. "Our forces are conducting swift precision raids against the terrorists and regime holdouts who still remain. The thugs and assassins in Iraq are desperately trying to shake our will," he said. "Just this morning, they conducted a murderous attack on a hotel in Baghdad. Their goal is to prevent the rise of democracy. But they will fail."
He called Iraq's interim constitution an essential step in building a democracy in the heart of the Middle East and said it's part of a "forward strategy of freedom" the United States is pursuing throughout the region. "By helping nations to build the institutions of freedom and turning the energies of men and women away from violence," he said, "we not only make that region more peaceful, we add to the security of our own region."
The vice president said the terrorists responsible for the March 11 deadly train bombing in Spain intended to undermine the transition to democracy in Iraq, and that they would fail in that aim.
"Our determination is unshakable," he said. "We will stand with the people of Iraq as they build a government based on democracy, tolerance and freedom."