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Cheney Says West Pointers Understand Need for War on Terrorism

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 26, 2007 – The 978 new second lieutenants who graduated from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, N.Y., today, knew from the start of their military education that they were joining an Army at war, Vice President Richard B. Cheney said during the graduation ceremony for the Class of 2007.

“You came here knowing these four years would pass; the courses would be finished; this day of commissioning would arrive -- and you would then become responsible for the well being of men and women under your command,” Cheney said to the 978 members of the class.

The vice president said West Point prepared the new second lieutenants for battlefield leadership. In fact, some of the newly minted officers are already combat veterans, having served in Operation Enduring Freedom as enlisted personnel.

“More than 25 graduates of this academy now on active duty have earned the Silver Star, and in Iraq, the Multinational Force is led by a superb officer, Gen. Dave Petraeus, class of 1974,” Cheney said.

The new officers understand the threats facing the United States. He said the Army must surmount unprecedented challenges, but it is still the finest force ever fielded by the United States of America.

Cheney, who served as defense secretary during Operation Desert Storm, said he wished all Americans could visit the service academies.

“Year in and year out, the academies prepare the finest of young Americans to protect our people, to defend the land we call home, and to serve the ideals that define this nation,” he said. “In an often cynical age, the armed forces and their academies are all the more exceptional. The values of a military education -- the sense of rectitude, the devotion to duty, and the daily acceptance of personal responsibility -- are a credit to the students and to the instructors, and an example for our entire country.”

The new officers understand the reason America is fighting terrorists: the United States was attacked. He said if al Qaeda could, they would launch far more destructive attacks on the United States than those that killed 3,000 Americans on Sept. 11, 2001.

“They are working feverishly to obtain ever more destructive weapons, and using every form of technology they can get their hands on,” he said. “This makes the business of fighting this war as urgent and time-sensitive as any task this nation has ever taken on.”

While the U.S. government has taken steps to defend against more terror attacks, the true strategy is to go after the terrorists where they live, to “shut down their training camps, take down their networks, deny them sanctuary and bring them to justice,” the vice president said. “In that effort, some of the most difficult and dangerous work has been carried out by the U.S. Army. America is the kind of country that stands up to brutality, terror, and injustice. And you are the kind of people we depend on to get the job done.”

The new officers represent the best standards and ethics, and they are pitted against an enemy who oppose and despise everything an American stands for. “Capture one of these killers, and he'll be quick to demand the protections of the Geneva Convention and the Constitution of the United States,” Cheney said. “Yet when they wage attacks or take captives, their delicate sensibilities seem to fall away.

“These are men who glorify murder and suicide,” he continued. “Their cruelty is not rebuked by human suffering, only fed by it. They have given themselves to an ideology that rejects tolerance, denies freedom of conscience and demands that women be pushed to the margins of society. The terrorists are defined entirely by their hatreds, and they hate nothing more than the country you have volunteered to defend.”

The terrorists will follow their strategy and attempt to impose a fundamentalist dictatorship based on a safe haven in Iraq. “In Iraq today, the al Qaeda network that struck America is one of the elements trying to destroy a democratic government,” Cheney said. “They are surging their capabilities, attacking Iraqi and American forces and killing innocent civilians.

U.S. servicemembers are serving in Iraq because that is where the enemy has gathered” he said.

“We are there because, after 9/11, we decided to deny terrorists any safe haven,” he said. “We are there because, having removed Saddam Hussein, we promised not to allow another dictator to rise in his place. And we are there because the security of this nation depends on a successful outcome.”

Cheney said the war on terror does not have to be an endless war. To prevail, the United States and its allies must alleviate the conditions that produce terrorists. “We know from history that when people live in freedom, answering to their own conscience and charting their own destiny, they will not be drawn to the ideologies of hatred and violence,” Cheney said. “We know, as well, that when people are given the chance to live in freedom, most of them will make that choice.”

Cheney said the Iraqi government is making progress, and Americans should have confidence. But he said there is another reason for confidence in Iraq.

“The single most reliable fact of this war is the skill and courage of the American soldiers fighting it,” he said. “You're about to become leaders in an amazing Army -- an all-volunteer force that has carried out tough missions in a time of great need for our country. They have endured long deployments, separation from family, and loss of comrades. They have fought boldly and courageously, from the cold mountains of Afghanistan to the dust and heat of the Middle Eastern desert. Now they're going to look to you for leadership, and it'll be your job to provide that leadership and to take care of them.”

Cheney said the new officers must take this job seriously. They must look to the needs of their soldiers and they must accomplish their missions. “And you're entitled to expect some things in return,” he said. “You deserve the tools and the backing to do your work, wherever duty takes you. At the same time, you deserve the support that makes life easier for your loved ones.”

The United States is a country that fights for ideas and ideals. U.S. soldiers stand for freedom. “This world we live in is a better place for the power, and influence, and the values of the United States of America,” Cheney said. “Americans are rightly proud of our country. We're a patriotic people, and we show that devotion in many different ways. And the bravest way of all is to take up the profession of arms.”

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Transcript: Vice President's Remarks at West Point


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