Cheney Praises Fort Hood Troops, Pledges Perseverance in Iraq
By Lisa Daniel
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2008 U.S. troops in Iraq will go down in military history as purveyors of democracy in the region, Vice President Richard B. Cheney told a cheering crowd today at Fort Hood, Texas.
“Because of you, the people of Iraq can see a better day ahead,” he said.
Before addressing 1st Cavalry Division soldiers and their families, Cheney helped uncase the colors of the Army’s 3rd Corps, which recently turned over control of Multinational Corps Iraq to 18th Airborne Corps.
“On the ground in Iraq in all of 2007, you amassed a superb record,” Cheney told the troops. “I’m here to say ‘thanks’ and ‘welcome home.’”
The vice president told 1st Cavalry Division soldiers their performance during their 15-month deployment was true to form in the division’s storied history. “The men and women of the ‘First Team’ are the kind of men and women we send to get that job done,” he said. “Time and time again, over many decades, this country counted on the First Team to slug it out against freedom’s enemies.”
Cheney told the troops their efforts have helped chart the way for political progress in Iraq. “In recent weeks,” he said, “the Iraqi parliament has passed key legislation to advance the cause of reconciliation, power sharing, and stability. These political victories for the Iraqi people would not have been possible in the violent atmosphere of 15 months ago. By your tenacity and skill, the forces of freedom have seized the initiative, and turned events toward victory.”
Having liberated Iraq from tyranny, “the U.S. is keeping its promise to help Iraqi people secure democratic gains and to chart their own destiny,” Cheney said. “An Iraq that is free and democratic, a country that can govern itself and defend itself, can be an anchor of stability in an otherwise dangerous region of the world.”
Terrorists understand this “every bit as much as we do, which is why it’s still tough going in Iraq,” he said.
Still, there is “reason for confidence,” the vice president said. “People of that country are sick of the violence and treachery they’ve suffered. The more they see of Americans like you, the better they feel toward our country and our intentions and the greater hope they have in their own future.”
Cheney noted the date as the 15th anniversary of the 1993 terrorist bombing of the World Trade Center in New York. The difference between then and now, he said, is the Bush administration’s decision to treat terrorism as an act of war instead of as a civil crime.
“In those days, we treated terrorism as a matter for law enforcement -- where you go out and find perpetrators, arrest them, try them and put them in jail,” Cheney said. “But that wasn’t good enough to deal with the problem, because there was still a growing network of terrorists and operatives inside and outside the United States, waging war against us.”
The terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, required a different response, Cheney said. “Our nation made a decision that, to fight and win this war, we’re going on the offensive to confront the enemy directly and decisively, and we will persevere until that enemy is destroyed,” the vice president said, drawing cheers from the soldiers.
New policies on security and intelligence, as well as “close work with friends and allies all over the world” have since prevented other U.S.-based attacks, Cheney said. “I don’t think anyone believes that after 9/11 the terrorists decided to wait six or more years to attack the U.S. again,” he said. “The fact is, they’ve tried repeatedly to conduct more attacks, and they are hell-bent on succeeding.”
Cheney offered no apologies for policies that have proven to be controversial. “We monitored enemy communications and, yes, we have interrogated high-value detainees and gotten information that has saved American lives,” he said. “It’s good we captured them, and it’s good that we found out what they knew.”
The United States has avoided another 9/11 “not because of good luck, but because of hard work. A lot of very dedicated professionals get up every day to protect the homeland,” he said.
The hardest jobs have been carried out by U.S. troops, and their efforts are becoming part of military history, Cheney said. Iraq has been “an extraordinary tour of difficulty and sacrifice and tremendous accomplishment,” he said.
U.S. troops have laid the foundation for political progress in Iraq by reducing violence and building trust among the Iraqi people, Cheney said. “It is because of you that the people of Iraq can see a better day,” he said.
“There is, of course, more to be done. The progress is undeniable, but it is reversible, and we must press on,” he continued.
Cheney cautioned that “the enemy will continue to be very ruthless,” but said America is the “kind of country that stands up to brutality, terror and injustice.”