For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
July 24, 2003
Remarks by the Vice President on the Continuing War on Terror at the American Enterprise Institute
July 24, 2003
REMARKS BY THE VICE PRESIDENT ON THE CONTINUING WAR ON TERROR
AT THE AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE
1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
12:13 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Please. Thank you very much, and
good afternoon to all of you. It's a pleasure to be back at AEI, where
I spent a considerable period of time, and among so many friends. AEI,
of course, is home to some of our nation's most distinguished scholars
? one of whom also serves as the scholar in residence at the Naval
Observatory. (Laughter.) If you think Lynne gives good lectures here,
you should stop over at our house sometime. (Laughter.)
But I do want to thank Danielle Pletka for her introduction this
afternoon, and I want to thank all of you for being here. And I bring
good wishes to all of you from President Bush, who spoke to your annual
dinner in February. In his remarks that evening, the President said
that the United States "must look at security in a new way, because our
country is a battlefield in the first war of the 21st century". For the
last 22 months, the United States has been fighting this war across the
globe. We have seen many challenges, and many victories. Those
victories have come exactly as President Bush said they would ?
sometimes in pitched battle; sometimes in the stealth of special
operations; sometimes in sudden, decisive strikes -- like the one
witnessed two days ago by the late Uday and Qusay Hussein.
This worldwide campaign began after the attacks of September 11th,
2001, a watershed event in the history of our nation. We lost more
people that morning than were lost at Pearl Harbor. And this was the
merest glimpse of the violence terrorists are willing to inflict on
this country. They desire to kill as many Americans as possible, with
the most destructive weapons they can obtain. They target the innocent
as a means of spreading chaos and fear, and to shake our national
resolve. This enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is
unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality.
Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated
with. It can only be destroyed, and that's the business at hand.
For decades, terrorists have attacked Americans ? and we remember
every act of murder, including 17 Americans killed in 1983 by a truck
bomb at our embassy in Beirut; and 241 servicemen murdered in their
sleep in Beirut; an elderly man in a wheelchair, shot and thrown into
the Mediterranean; a sailor executed in a hijacking; two of our
soldiers slain in Berlin; a Marine lieutenant colonel kidnapped and
murdered in Lebanon; 189 Americans killed on a PanAm flight over
Scotland; six people killed at the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; 19
military personnel killed at the Khobar Towers; 12 Americans killed at
our embassies in East Africa; 17 sailors murdered on the USS Cole; and
an American diplomat shot dead in Jordan last year.
All of these were terrible acts that still cause terrible grief. Yet
September 11th signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We
suffered massive civilian casualties on our soil. We awakened to
dangers even more lethal ? the possibility that terrorists could gain
weapons of mass destruction from outlaw regimes and inflict
catastrophic harm. And something else is different about this new era:
Our response to terrorism has changed, because George W. Bush is
President of the United States. For decades, terrorists have waged war
against this country. Now, under the leadership of President Bush,
America is waging war against them.
Our strategy in the war on terror is based on a clear understanding of
the enemy, and a clear assessment of our national interest. Having lost
thousands of Americans on a single morning, we are not going to answer
further danger by simply issuing diplomatic protests or sharply worded
condemnations. We will not wait in false comfort while terrorists plot
against innocent Americans. We will not permit outlaw states and terror
groups to join forces in a deadly alliance that could threaten the
lives of millions of Americans. We will act, and act decisively, before
gathering threats can inflict catastrophic harm on the American
From the first hour, we've known that the war on terror would be long
and difficult. It would test our resolve, demand many sacrifices ?
above all, from the fine young men and women who defend this country.
The skill and courage of our military have brought a series of major
successes in this war. With the best of allies at our side, America
took the battle directly to the terrorists hiding in Afghanistan. The
Afghan people have reclaimed their country from a depraved regime, and
the violent rule of the Taliban has been ended forever.
America and our allies have continued the relentless pursuit of the
global terror network. Of those directly involved in organizing the
September 11th attacks, many are now in custody or confirmed dead. The
leadership of al Qaeda has sustained heavy losses. We must recognize,
however, that terrorism is a long-term challenge, and fighting
terrorism will require a long-term commitment. The loose and
decentralized networks of terrorism are still finding recruits, still
plotting attacks. A hateful ideology, which defiles a great religion,
has taken root in many parts of the world. Terrorists have conducted
attacks since September 11th in Bali, Mombassa, Casablanca, and Riyadh.
The terrorists intend to strike America again. Yet no one should doubt
the intentions of our nation: One by one, in every corner of the world,
we will hunt the terrorists down and destroy them.
In Iraq, we took another essential step in the war on terror. The
United States and our allies rid the Iraqi people of a murderous
dictator, and rid the world of a menace to our future peace and
Events leading to the fall of Saddam Hussein are fresh in memory, and
do not need recounting at length. Every measure was taken to avoid a
war. But it was Saddam Hussein himself who made war unavoidable. He
had a lengthy history of reckless and sudden aggression. He bore a deep
and bitter hatred for the United States. He cultivated ties to
terrorist groups. He built, possessed, and used weapons of mass
destruction. He refused all international demands to account for those
Twelve years of diplomacy, more than a dozen Security Council
resolutions, hundreds of UN weapons inspectors, and even strikes
against military targets in Iraq ? all of these measures were tried to
compel Saddam Hussein's compliance with the terms of the 1991 Gulf War
cease-fire. All of these measures failed. Last October, the United
States Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize the use of force in
Iraq. Last November, the UN Security Council passed a unanimous
resolution finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and
vowing serious consequences in the event Saddam Hussein did not fully
and immediately comply. When Saddam Hussein failed even to comply then,
President Bush, on March 17th, gave him and his sons 48 hours to leave
Iraq. Saddam's decision to defy the world was among the last he made as
the dictator of that country.
I have watched for more than a year now as President Bush kept the
American people constantly informed of the dangers we face, and of his
determination to confront those dangers. There was no need for anyone
to speculate what the President was thinking; his words were clear, and
straightforward, and understood by friend and enemy alike. When the
moment arrived to make the tough call ? when matters came to the point
of choosing, and the safety of the American people was at stake ?
President Bush acted decisively, with resolve, and with courage.
Now the regime of Saddam Hussein is gone forever. And at a safe remove
from the danger, some are now trying to cast doubt upon the decision to
liberate Iraq. The ability to criticize is one of the great strengths
of our democracy. But those who do so have an obligation to answer this
question: How could any responsible leader have ignored the Iraqi
Last October, the Director of Central Intelligence issued a National
Intelligence Estimate on Iraq's Continuing Programs of Weapons of Mass
Destruction. That document contained the consensus judgments of the
intelligence community, based upon the best information available about
the Iraqi threat. The NIE declared -- quote: "We judge that Iraq has
continued its weapons of mass destruction program, in defiance of UN
Resolutions and restrictions. Baghdad has chemical and biological
weapons, as well as missiles with ranges in excess of UN restrictions.
If left unchecked, it probably will have a nuclear weapon during this
decade." End quote.
Those charged with the security of this nation could not read such an
assessment and pretend that it did not exist. Ignoring such
information, or trying to wish it away, would be irresponsible in the
extreme. And our President did not ignore that information ? he faced
it. He sought to eliminate the threat by peaceful, diplomatic means
and, when all else failed, he acted forcefully to remove the danger.
Consider another passage from last October's National Intelligence
Estimate. It reported -- quote: "all key aspects ? the R&D, production,
and weaponization ? of Iraq's offensive [biological weapons] program
are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than
they were before the Gulf War." End quote.
Remember, we were dealing here with a regime that had already killed
thousands of people with chemical weapons. Against this background, to
disregard the NIE's warnings would have been irresponsible in the
extreme. And our President did not ignore that information ? he faced
it, and acted to remove the danger.
Take a third example. The NIE cautioned that, quote: "Since
inspections ended in 1998, Iraq has maintained its chemical weapons
effort, energized its missile program, and invested more heavily in
biological weapons; in the view of most agencies, Baghdad is
reconstituting its nuclear weapons program." End quote.
Here again, this warning could hardly be more blunt, or disturbing. To
shrug off such a warning would have been irresponsible in the extreme.
And so President Bush faced that information, and acted to remove the
A fourth and final example. The National Intelligence Estimate
contains a section that specifies the level of confidence that the
intelligence community has in the various judgments included in the
report. In the NIE on Iraq's weapons of mass destruction, the
community had "high confidence" in the conclusion that "Iraq is
continuing, and in some areas expanding, its chemical, biological,
nuclear and missile programs contrary to U.N. Resolutions." The
Intelligence Community also had high confidence in the judgment that ?
and I quote: "Iraq could make a nuclear weapon in months to a year once
it acquires sufficient weapons-grade fissile material." End quote.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is some of what we knew. Knowing these
things, how could we, I ask, have allowed that threat to stand?
These judgments were not lightly arrived at ? and all who were
aware of them bore a heavy responsibility for the security of America.
When the decision fell to him, President Bush was not willing to place
the future of our security, and the lives of our citizens, at the mercy
of Saddam Hussein. And so the President acted. As he said in the
announcement of military action: "We will meet that threat now, with
our Army, Air Force, Navy, Coast Guard and Marines, so that we do not
have to meet it later with armies of firefighters and police and
doctors on the streets of our own cities."