Cheney Reiterates American Resolve, Lauds Soldiers' Service
By Petty Officer 3rd Class John R. Guardiano, USN
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jul. 22, 2006 Vice President Richard B. Cheney reiterated America's commitment to winning the war on terror in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere during a rally at Fort Stewart, Georgia, yesterday.
Cheney paid special tribute to the 3rd Infantry Division and the 48th Brigade Combat Team of the Georgia National Guard, both of which recently returned from deployments in Iraq.
"The 3rd ID's performance in the field -- not just the progress you've made, but also your character as men and women -- has left a lasting impression on people up and down the chain of command," Cheney said. "Once again, the United States is grateful to the 3rd Infantry Division -- the Rock of the Marne -- for a job well done."
Cheney noted that the 3rd ID "has one of the most successful combat records of any division in Army history." In fact, "it was the spearhead unit into Baghdad" and thus was instrumental in the liberation of Iraq more than three years ago, when Operation Iraqi Freedom began, he said.
For its most recent deployment, the 3rd ID was joined by the 48th BCT of the Georgia National Guard. These citizen-soldiers, Cheney said, did it all -- "from helping to stand-up the new Iraqi government, to cordon-and-search operations, to combat patrol and checkpoint security, to the capture and detention of suspected terrorists."
"You saw heavy combat and logged countless miles in thousands of vehicles," Cheney said. "It was a hard deployment, (but) you did a superb job. Members of the 48th, welcome home."
The 3rd ID and the 48th BCT are part of a larger Army family whose members "man the watchtowers of freedom" and undertake some of the most difficult and challenging assignments in the ongoing war on terror, Cheney said.
"It's tough," he said. "It's dangerous to fight enemies who dwell in the shadows, who target the innocent, who plot destruction on a massive scale. And in this fight, some of the hardest duties have come to the men and women of the United States Army."
But despite the enormity of the challenge and the formidable obstacles that still lie ahead, the vice president said, America will not relent until victory is achieved.
"You can be certain of this: the president will not relent in tracking the enemies of the United States with every legitimate tool at his command," he said. "This is not a war we can win on the defensive. Our only option against these enemies is to monitor them, to find them, to fight them, and to destroy them."
Cheney called the war on terror a battle for the future of civilization. "It's a battle worth fighting," he said, "and it is a battle we are going to win."
The vice president assured the troops that presidential decisions about Iraq and Afghanistan will be made based on sound military considerations, "not according to the polls, and not according to artificial time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. ... The president will listen to the recommendations of commanders on the ground; and he'll make the call based on what is needed for victory," Cheney said.
Cheney also assured the troops that even though there is intense political rancor and squabbling in the United States, "the American people do not support a policy of retreat or defeatism." Americans, he said, "want to complete the mission, to get it done right, and return with honor."
While debate is the American way, Cheney noted, much of the current rhetoric isn't debate at all. "In our own country," he explained, "we take democratic values seriously -- and so we always have a vigorous debate on the issues. That's part of the greatness of America; we wouldn't have it any other way. However, Cheney added, "there is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. We have only two options in Iraq: victory or defeat."
America's strategy for victory, he said, is clear: "We'll continue to train the Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country and make it a source of stability in a troubled region. ... When we use our military, it's not to conquer, but to liberate," Cheney said. "And after we throw back tyrants, we stand by our friends to ensure that democratic institutions can take hold, and to help build freedom that leads to peace in the long run."
The terrorists understand American strategy and American resolve. That's why, Cheney said, they've made Iraq the central front in the war on terror. They know, he explained, that "as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will weaken, and the advance of free institutions in the broader Middle East will produce a safer world for our children and grandchildren."
Since Sept. 11, 2001, the United States has averted a terrorist attack on American soil. The vice president said this is no accident; it is, in fact, attributable in no small way to the ongoing vigilance, fortitude, and hard work of the men and women of the armed forces of the United States, he told the Fort Stewart soldiers.
"We've been protected by sensible policy decisions by the president, by decisive action at home and abroad, and by round-the-clock efforts on the part of people in the armed forces, in law enforcement, in intelligence, and homeland security," Cheney said.
Moreover, he continued, "by their courage, members of our military are taking the fight to the enemy and winning the war on terror. And by their openness and their kindness to others in thousands of interactions every day, members of our military have built permanent bonds of friendship between the United States and the nations we've liberated."
The vice president singled out a particular act of courage by Army Sgt. Paul Ray Smith. It was April 2003 and Operation Iraqi Freedom was well under way. U.S. troops were advancing swiftly north to Baghdad when Smith's task force was pinned down by a surprise attack near the Iraqi capital.
They were under constant enemy fire and had suffered significant casualties. Yet, Cheney said, "Sergeant Smith climbed onto a damaged vehicle and manned a 50-caliber machine gun. Though in a completely exposed position, (he) started fighting.
"To another soldier he called out, 'Feed me ammunition whenever you hear the gun get quiet." Smith "fired at the enemy and went through three boxes of ammunition until he took a fatal round," Cheney said. According to the Army, Smith personally killed as many as 50 of Saddam Hussein's elite Republican Guard, and in so doing, he saved the lives of more than 100 of his fellow soldiers. Smith's actions earned a posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.
"For as long as citizens step forward to serve in uniform," Cheney said, "Americans soldiers will be inspired by this man's exceptional bravery under fire, and by the honor he reflected on the 3rd ID.
Smith's heroism, he added, is part of along and honorable warrior tradition that connects generations of American soldiers, past and present. Indeed, "in this new generation, we are seeing once again that the American soldier in battle places the mission first, never accepts defeat, never quits, never leaves a fallen comrade. ... It's a privilege to be with you," Cheney said. "You've' made this nation very proud.