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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 20, 2006
Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the Indiana Air and Army National Guard
Camp Atterbury, Indiana
11:10 A.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Applause.) Thank you all very much. General Umbarger, and Sergeant Major Brown, members of the Guard, and families, let me thank you for the warm welcome. They tell me I'm the first sitting Vice President to visit this post, and I count it a privilege. But is it me you came to see -- or the Colts and Pacers cheerleaders? (Laughter.) Yes, all right. (Laughter.) No, I got here too late. (Laughter.)
It's always good to see an old friend of mine -- the commander-in-chief of the Indiana National Guard, Governor Mitch Daniels. (Applause.) We're joined, as well, today by a good man and friend of mine who flew out with me this morning, from Washington, Congressman Mike Pence, who does a superb job for everybody in Indiana. (Applause.)
And I also want to thank the musicians of the 38th Infantry Division Band, and all the personnel at Camp Atterbury, uniformed and civilian, who've made it possible for me to visit today. This is a superb military installation. Not long after the attacks of 9/11, Camp Atterbury was activated as a joint theater immersion site for training Americans to serve abroad. It's one of only a handful of such facilities in the United States, and more than 30,000 soldiers, sailors, and airmen have passed through this camp in the last five years. Thanks to you, they've gone into the fight well prepared, and they've achieved great results for the United States. I want you to be proud of the work you're doing here every day. The excellence and the commitment shown at Camp Atterbury is one of the reasons we're going to win the war on terror. (Applause.)
It's been my privilege over the years to work with National Guard personnel, both as Vice President and during my time as Secretary of Defense. The citizen soldier is absolutely vital to protecting this nation and to preserving our freedom. We know this from history, and we know it from current events. In this time of war we have turned to National Guard personnel for missions that are difficult and dangerous. You've never let us down. I want all of you to know that we respect the sacrifices you make, and we admire your skill and your devotion to duty. I'm honored to be in your presence, and I bring you gratitude and good wishes from the President of the United States, George W. Bush. (Applause.)
To serve in the National Guard is to accept a dual mission. You can be called on to defend the country against enemies abroad, or to protect lives and property here at home in times of local emergency. These recent months and years have been a demanding period for Guardsmen and women all across the country. Since 9/11, more than ten thousand men and women of the Indiana National Guard have been called to active duty. You've served far from home -- whether on peacekeeping duty in Bosnia or Kosovo, or ground operations in Iraq, or training missions in Afghanistan. The assignments have been varied, but the standard of performance has been high and unwavering. You've put duty ahead of convenience, and service above self-interest. And on this visit to Camp Atterbury, I want to thank the fine units of the Indiana Air and Army National Guard, including the 53rd Civil Support Team, the 939th Military Police Detachment, the 76th Infantry, the 113th Engineer Battalion, the 152nd Infantry, the 38th Infantry -- (applause) -- the 181st Fighter Wing -- (applause) -- the 122nd Fighter Wing -- (applause) -- the Three Eighty Five Training Support Brigade -- (applause) -- the 81st Troop Command and the State Area Command. (Applause.) Don't hold back. (Laughter.)
Hoosiers are without question doing their part to make our nation safer, and to bring freedom, stability, and peace to a troubled part of the world. And when the job is done, you can be proud of your service for the rest of your lives.
Afghanistan and Iraq are critical battlegrounds in a war that began on September 11th, 2001. From that day to this, America's objectives have been clear: First, we understand that to win this war, we have to go on the offensive, and stay on the offensive, until the killers are brought to justice and the danger is removed. Second, we must defeat the terrorists' ideology of hatred and resentment by offering a hopeful vision of freedom, justice, and human rights.
This nation harbors no illusions about the nature of our enemies, or the beliefs they hold. They seek to impose a dictatorship of fear, under which every man, woman, and child would live in total obedience to a narrow and hateful ideology. This ideology rejects tolerance. It denies freedom of conscience, and demands that women be pushed to the margins of society. We saw the expression of those beliefs in the rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan. In that dictatorship, we also saw that beliefs of this kind can be imposed only through force and intimidation, so those who refuse to bow to the tyrants are brutalized or killed.
We understand the objectives of the terrorists. They want to seize control of a country in the Middle East, so they can acquire a base for launching attacks, and the 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 around to Indonesia. They have declared, as well, their ultimate aims: to arm themselves with chemical, biological and even nuclear weapons, to destroy Israel, to intimidate all Western countries, and to cause great harm here in the United States.
We are their prime target. They hate us, they hate our country, they hate the liberties for which we stand. They want to destroy our way of life, so that freedom no longer has a home and a defender in this world. That leaves us only one option: to rise to America's defense, to take the fight directly to the enemy, and to accept no outcome but victory for the cause of freedom. (Applause.)
We also understand the cruel nature of our enemies. American soldiers take an oath, strive to protect the innocent, and conduct themselves according to a code of honor. The terrorists are exactly the opposite. Here at Camp Atterbury, you have the hard job of training Americans to face enemies who wear no uniform, have no regard for the laws of warfare, and feel unconstrained by any standard of morality. These are men without conscience who kill the innocent with explosive devices -- improvised explosive devices on roadsides; pretend to be sick or to have a broken-down vehicle -- they strap bombs to their own bodies.
The terrorists know they cannot beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have. The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission. So they continue committing acts of random horror, believing they can intimidate the civilized world and break the will of the American people. They base this view, in part, on the history of the 1980s and 1990s, when they concluded that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy.
In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 service members. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 American soldiers, and thereafter, United States forces withdrew from Somalia. The attacks continued: the bombing at the World Trade Center in New York in 1993; the murders at the Saudi National Guard training facility in 1995; the attack on the Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous bombings of our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. With each attack, the terrorists grew more confident in believing they could strike America without paying a price. So they kept at it, and eventually struck here in the homeland on 9/11, and killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens.
Osama bin Laden, of course, continues to predict that the people of the United States simply do not have the stomach to stay in the fight against terror.
But this nation has learned the lessons of history. We know that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength, they are invited by the perception of weakness. We know that if we leave Iraq before the mission is completed, the enemy is simply going to come after us. 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.
The terrorists regard the entire world as a battlefield. That's why al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now. Osama bin Laden calls this conflict the "third world war," and he knows the stakes as well as we do. 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 more attacks. The terrorists also know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will lose their appeal, and the advance of liberty, equality, and self government in the broader Middle East will lead to a much safer world for our children and our grandchildren.
Our strategic goal in Iraq is a nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror. Those of you who have been on the ground know that we've made progress -- not easily, but we have made progress. And we can be confident going forward. By voting in free elections, by ratifying a constitution, by going to the polls with a voter turnout rate higher than the rate in our country, the Iraqi people have shown that they value their liberty and are determined to choose their own destiny.
In the face of challenges, the Iraqi people can know that America is a nation that keeps its word. We'll continue the work of reconstruction, continue to strike at the enemy, continue to train Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country. We will change our tactics as necessary to achieve the mission, as we have from the beginning. And all Americans can be certain: Any decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgments of our military commanders -- not by artificial time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
The fight against terror includes a home front -- and at Camp Atterbury you know the home front is every bit as important as battlefields abroad. President Bush told Congress after 9/11 that our country would "direct every resource, every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network." The Congress backed him up in full, authorizing the President to defeat an enemy that had already slipped into the country and waged an attack that killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens.
The President also signed the Patriot Act, which is helping us disrupt terrorist activity, to break up terror cells within the United States, and to protect the lives of Americans. Another vital step the President took in the days following 9/11 was to authorize the National Security Agency to intercept a certain category of terrorist-linked international communications. The purpose is very simple to state: If people inside the United States are communicating with al Qaeda, they are talking to the enemy -- and we need to know about it. (Applause.)
The Terrorist Surveillance Program has on occasion been described as domestic surveillance or eavesdropping. That is not the case. We are talking about international communications, one end of which we have reason to believe is related to al Qaeda or to terrorist networks. It's hard to think of any category of information that could be more important to the safety of the United States.
The Terrorist Surveillance Program is fully consistent with the constitutional responsibilities and the legal authority of the President. And it's absolutely essential to the security of the United States. In their report, the 9/11 Commission focused criticism on the nation's inability to uncover links between terrorists at home and terrorists overseas. The term that's used is "connecting the dots" -- and the fact is that one small piece of data might very well make it possible to save thousands of lives. The task in front of us is still urgent. The enemy that struck us on 9/11 is weakened and fractured, yet still lethal, still determined to hit us again. All of you understand this because you personally are involved in the defense of our country.
As people who know firsthand what this war really entails, you can be certain of this: The President will not relent in tracking the terrorists with every legitimate tool at his command. The United States of America will not let down its guard. (Applause.)
Americans know about the heroism displayed every day in the fight against terror. We're not the kind of people to take our military for granted. We feel very deeply when soldiers fall in the line of duty. One of those we think of is Staff Sergeant Richard Blakley from Avon, Indiana. Early this year, Sergeant Blakley was hit by sniper fire in Iraq. He survived, and in fact returned to active duty that very day. When Governor Daniels visited Iraq last spring, he personally presented Sergeant Blakley with the Purple Heart. A short time later, this good man was wounded again, but this time he did not survive. He had served over 17 years in the Indiana National Guard, had sacrificed much, and had gone directly into the face of the enemy. As Governor Daniels put it, Sergeant Blakley "literally had nothing left to prove." But he gave his life for his country. Americans will remember Richard Blakley, as we remember all of the fallen, and we will honor their names forever. (Applause.)
The United States of America is, and will remain, a nation that is clear in its purposes, and a nation that honors its commitments. So we will carry on in the work that is ours to do. But for all the effort that lies ahead, this period of testing for our country is also a time of promise. America has been called by history to defend the innocent, to confront the violent, and to liberate the oppressed. We're a good country, a generous, compassionate, idealistic country. We are doing honorable work in a messy and a dangerous world. By defending ourselves, and by standing with our friends abroad, we're meeting our responsibilities as freedom's home and defender, and we are securing the peace that freedom brings.
More than that, ladies and gentlemen, we are showing all of mankind that the people who wear the uniform of the United States are men and women of skill and perseverance, of decency and honor. (Applause.)
Standing here today, in the heart of this great nation, I want to thank each and every one of you for the vital work you do, and for your example of service and character. You reflect great credit on the state of Indiana, and on the nation. Your fellow citizens, and your President, are extremely proud of you.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 11:30 A.M. EDT