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Cheney to New Officers: U.S. Will Not Live at Mercy of Terror

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2002 – Vice President Dick Cheney said the United States "will not allow" terrorists to threaten the civilized world.

"Deliverable weapons of mass destruction in the hands of terrorists would expose this nation and the civilized world to the worst of wars, and we will not allow it," he said during Commissioning Day ceremonies at the U.S. Naval Academy May 24. "We will not live at the mercy of terrorists or terror regimes."

Cheney told the class of 2002 in Annapolis, Md., that the United States would depend on them to help lead the nation in the first war of the 21st Century.

He told the 965 new Navy and Marine Corps officers that the war against global terror will take years. "The terrorists who struck America are ruthless, they are resourceful and they hide in many countries," Cheney said. "They came into our country to murder thousands of innocent, unsuspecting men, women and children including 14 graduates of this academy.

"There is no doubt they wish to strike again and are working to acquire the deadliest of all weapons."

Cheney said this new type of war has accelerated military changes already being contemplated. He mentioned President Bush's wish to redefine war on American terms. "That means that our armed services must have every tool to answer any threat that forms against us," he said. "It means that any enemy conspiring to harm America or our friends must face swift, certain and devastating response."

He said the Taliban regime and the al Qaeda terrorists in Afghanistan got the first look at the new methods and capabilities of the American military. Cheney, who served as defense secretary during the Persian Gulf War, spoke of the progress the military has made since that war.

He said Operation Desert Storm in 1991 showed the tremendous effect of precision-guided munitions. "Yet that technology was the exception," he said. Just a small percentage of the tonnage of bombs dropped in Desert Storm was precision-guided. "In Afghanistan the majority of our munitions were precision-guided, making our strikes far deadlier and far less (deadly) for innocent civilians," he said.

He told the graduates that during the Gulf War all air tasking orders with targeting assignments were written at headquarters in Saudi Arabia, then flown out to carriers and given to the pilots. "This time targeting assignments were transmitted directly to pilots by special (operations) forces near the targets themselves within a matter of minutes," he said.

"In the Gulf War, naval expeditionary forces were part of a feint and the supporting attack," he said. "In Afghanistan, naval expeditionary forces opened the conventional ground war by establishing a forward operating base 450 miles inland more than twice the distance that previous doctrine considered supportable."

He said the combination of U.S. asymmetric advantages already seen in Afghanistan precision air power, real- time intelligence, special operations forces, the long reach of naval task forces and close coordination with local forces "will only become more vital in future campaigns."

Cheney spoke of how the U.S. military put new technology and new strategies to work in Afghanistan. He said many people warned U.S. military planners that the campaign in Afghanistan would be tough and that service members would face extreme obstacles. "Here, after all, was a landlocked country with a forbidding mountains and winter setting in," he said. "The enemy force was widely scattered, well-armed, protected by deep caves and skilled in guerilla tactics. Added to that was the sheer mileage between our forces and their objective."

He said the United States responded to these obstacles with a combination of tactics and technology that marked a turning point in modern warfare. "The success of our coalition forces has shined very brightly," he said.

He said Operation Enduring Freedom began with precision- guided munitions falling on the enemy "all day, all night, in all weather, around the clock."

The unmanned Predator aircraft gave commanders a clear and immediate picture of conditions on the ground, allowing swift and timely strikes, he said.

"Overwhelming airpower, much of it off our carriers, removed the need for large stationary forces on land," Cheney said. "Within three weeks after our campaign began, our special ops forces were on the ground in the far corners of Afghanistan, meeting with tribal leaders, forming them into military units and leading them into combat."

Other special operations forces scoured the Afghan countryside "engaging enemy holdouts, designating targets by laser and calling in precision air strikes from hundreds of miles away. All of this represents a dramatic advance in our ability to engage and defeat any adversary," he said.

Cheney wished the graduates Godspeed and told them that as they begin their naval service that "you can be certain that wherever you are sent, you will have from your commander in chief consistent orders, clear direction and every possible ounce of support required for the missions ahead."

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Remarks by Vice President Richard Cheney at the United States Naval Academy Commencement, May 24, 2002

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