By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
Feb. 21, 2007 – Terrorists know they can't defeat the United States militarily, so they seek instead to break the nation's will, Vice President Dick Cheney told the crew of the USS Kitty Hawk today. Cheney spoke aboard the aircraft carrier in Japan, one stop on a swing through the Pacific. "The only way (terrorists) can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission," Cheney said. "So they continue committing acts of random horror, believing they can intimidate the civilized world and break the will of the American people."
Terrorists have made Iraq the central front of the struggle, Cheney told the Kitty Hawk's crew, and are well aware of the stakes there.
"If the terrorists were to succeed, they would return Iraq to the rule of tyrants, make it a source of instability in the Middle East, and use it as a staging area for even more attacks," he said. "The terrorists also know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will lose their appeal, and the advance of liberty and self government in the broader Middle East will lead to a much safer world for our children and our grandchildren.
"This nation has learned the lessons of history," Cheney continued. "We know that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are invited by the perception of weakness."
The war on terror, the vice president said, is unlike any war the nation had fought previously.
"This war is not a matter of finding an opposing army and engaging it, or finding a navy and sinking it," he said. "The terrorist enemies are hidden and dispersed, and they view the entire world as a battlefield. They are determined to commit indiscriminate murder against innocent, unsuspecting men, women, and children. They serve an ideology that rejects tolerance and demands total obedience.
"It's an extreme and a hateful ideology -- and it's what drove 19 men to get on airplanes and come kill 3,000 Americans," he continued. "These enemies want to seize control of a country in the Middle East so they can acquire a base for launching attacks, and oil wealth to finance their ambitions. They want to target and overthrow other governments in the region, and eventually to establish a totalitarian empire that encompasses the region from Spain, across North Africa, through the Middle East and South Asia, all the way to Indonesia. And it would not stop there."
Cheney cited terrorists' stated goals and their history of attacking U.S. interests whenever possible as reasons to keep taking the fight to them in Iraq.
"We know that if we leave Iraq before the mission is completed, the enemy is going to come after us," he said. "Having seen our interests attacked repeatedly over the years, and knowing the ambitions of the terrorists, this nation has made a decision: We will engage these enemies. We will face them far from home, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities.
"Every member of our military can be certain that America will stay on the offensive in the war on terror," he continued. "The president of the United States and his national security team understand the threat -- the enemy's changing tactics and its unchanging nature. We are not dealing with adversaries that will ever surrender or come to their senses."
Under the leadership of Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, Cheney said, U.S. forces are helping Iraqis to clear and secure Baghdad to protect the local population, and are ensuring that Iraqi forces will be capable of providing the security necessary in their capital city on their own. But it won't happen overnight or without a price, the vice president noted.
Petraeus, he said, is aware of the challenge of engaging what the general called "a determined, adaptable, barbaric enemy" in a battle of wills that holds no guarantees. But he said U.S. strategy in Iraq recognizes that the enemy won't stand pat.
"We will be flexible. We'll do all we can to adapt to conditions on the ground. We'll make every change necessary to do the job," he said. "And I want you to know that the American people will not support a policy of retreat. We want to complete the mission, we want to get it done right, and then we want to return with honor."
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