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 Home > News & Policies > June 2004

For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
June 14, 2004

Vice President's Remarks at a Reception for the James Madison Institute
Rosen Convention Center Hotel
Orlando, Florida

11:41 A.M. EDT

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you. (Applause.) Well, thank you very much. I appreciate that warm welcome and that fine introduction. I'm delighted to be here today. And my wife, Lynne, is down here in the front row. Of course, I'm reminded when you talk about our marriage in 1964, I've explained to a number of people that came about as the direct result of a great election victory by Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

In those days, I was a youngster living in Lincoln, Nebraska with my folks. Dad worked for the Department of Agriculture, and Eisenhower got elected, and he reorganized the Agriculture Department. Dad got transferred to Casper, Wyoming -- which is where I met Lynne. We grew up together, and went to high school together, and we'll celebrate our 40th anniversary come August. (Applause.)

I explained to a group the other night that if it hadn't been for that election victory by President Eisenhower in 1952, Lynne would have married somebody else. And she said, right, and now he'd be Vice President of the United States. (Laughter.) There's no doubt in my mind.

But I'm delighted to be back in Orlando, and I thank the members and the leadership of the James Madison Institute for hosting us today, as well as Congressman Tom Feeney, who is with us. I bring greetings to all of you -- (Applause.) I bring greetings to all of you from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.)

Last week, America said good-bye to one of its finest citizens, President Ronald Reagan. In Washington, and all across America, this has been a period of reflection, as President Bush led the nation in saying farewell. From the tributes from world leaders, to the homemade memorials in California, we were reminded once again of the profound influence Ronald Reagan had on the people of this nation.

Just a few months ago, Lynne and I had the opportunity to visit with Nancy Reagan at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, in California. We admired the expansive view of California from the hilltop where our 40th President now rests, a fitting place for a man who saw the endless possibilities for this great country.

The passing of Ronald Reagan makes all of us feel the passing of time as we recall both the man and the period in which he led us. We remember the President who lifted up the nation, restored our confidence, unleashed the greatness of American enterprise, and won the Cold War.

For my part, I remember working with him when I was a congressman during the 1980s. And then during the early '90s, as Secretary of Defense, I was honored to take charge of the superb military forces that Ronald Reagan had built for the nation. In fact, right after our victory in the Persian Gulf War, I placed a phone call to our former President and thanked him for the foresight, and the commitment, and the courage that made our military second to none.

I also remember, as we all do, the President's terrific sense of humor -- always ready with a great story, or a perfect joke. He once said somebody asked him, how come you look younger every day that I see a new picture of you riding horseback. Reagan replied, that's easy, I just keep riding older horses. (Laughter.)

Behind that sense of humor was a good heart, and great wisdom about the world. It's a very fortunate country that has leaders like that come along when we need them, and we will always miss Ronald Reagan.

President Reagan is remembered as one of the great leaders of the 20th century, and rightly so. For decades, America had waged the Cold War, and few believed it could possibly end in our own lifetime. Ronald Reagan was one of those few. And he knew that to prevail, we must be strong and resolute. We must be clear in our purposes and true to our word. And in the face of evil, we must have the courage to call it by name and to oppose it.

The danger that faces free nations today in the form of terrorist enemies intent on destroying us also requires strength, resolve, and moral clarity. And we are fortunate to have in President George W. Bush a leader who is fit for our times. (Applause.)

Under his leadership, our nation has made dramatic progress in the war on terror. And to make that point, I'd like to step back for a moment and consider where we were when President Bush and I assumed office in January of 2001. As we were being sworn in that day, planning for 9/11 was already well underway. In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the top operational planner for 9/11, had first proposed to Osama bin Laden that airliners be used to attack targets in the United States. And by the beginning of 2001, a good deal of work had been done: hijackers had been recruited; funds raised; the training was underway; some of the hijackers were already in the United States.

In Afghanistan, the Taliban were in power. Al Qaeda was a major -- had a major operating base in that country and was operating training camps that in the late '90s turned out an estimated 20,000 terrorists. In Pakistan, a country on which the United States had imposed sanctions because of their nuclear program, a strong, radical Islamic movement had taken root. Al Qaeda had a significant presence there. The future direction of Pakistan was somewhat in doubt, and there was a concern that Islamic extremists might take over a military armed with nuclear weapons.

In January 2001, Saudi Arabia was a major area of support for al Qaeda. Fundraisers and facilitators in that country were providing money and logistical support for al Qaeda. Fifteen of the 19 hijackers who would attack our country on 9/11 came from Saudi Arabia.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein was in power, overseeing one of the bloodiest regimes of the 20th century. He had started two wars -- produced and used weapons of mass destruction against Iran and the Kurds, and was in repeated violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions. He was a patron of terrorism -- paying $25,000 to the families of suicide bombers in Israel, and providing safe-haven and support for such terrorist groups as Abu Nidal and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. He had long established ties with al Qaeda.

We had a serious problem with proliferation -- especially in the nuclear area, with A.Q. Khan, the man who put Pakistan's nuclear program in place, having established a proliferation network that was providing nuclear weapons technology to rogue states -- Iran, North Korea, Libya. Moammar Ghadafi, the A.Q. Khan network's biggest customer, was spending millions to acquire nuclear weapons design, basic uranium feedstock, and centrifuges to enrich uranium.

The final problem was that the terrorists had learned two unfortunate lessons from the United States. There was a pattern extending back many years that convinced our enemies that they could attack the United States with relative impunity. Terrorists attacked the World Trade Center for the first time, in 1993; and they attacked us at Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia, in '96; in East Africa at our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in 1998; and they attacked the USS Cole, in 2000 -- and in none of these cases did we respond very forcefully.

Our enemies also became convinced during these years that if they attacked the United States hard enough, if they inflicted sufficient casualties, they could even get us to change policy and withdraw -- as we did in Beirut, in 1983; and from Somalia, after they killed 19 of our soldiers in Mogadishu, in 1993. From their perspective, it looked as though going after America was not only painless, it was productive.

And then came September 11th. And it became clear to all of us that we were at war. Under this President's leadership, we moved to strengthen our defenses, to attack the financial networks that supported terrorists, and to improve our intelligence capabilities. No longer would attacks on America go unanswered. No longer would America wait for the next attack.

In what will surely rank as one of the most important strategic shifts in our nation's history, the President declared that we would take the war to the enemy. And he established the Bush doctrine, which holds that any person or regime that harbors or supports terrorists is equally guilty of terrorist crimes and will be held to account.

In Afghanistan, where al Qaeda terrorists trained and lived, the Taliban were the first to find out exactly what America's new strategy means. Working with the Northern Alliance, we launched a military campaign of stunning effectiveness and, in a matter of weeks, drove the Taliban from power, captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda, and put Osama bin Laden on the run.

Now, a new government has been established under President Hamid Karzai. A nation is being rebuilt. Children are going to school. A new constitution has been written. And free elections will be held in Afghanistan this fall. (Applause.)

In Pakistan, President Musharraf became an ally of the United States, and has provided support for our operations. With his help, we've killed or captured hundreds of al Qaeda -- including Khalid Shaykh Muhammad, the operational planner of 9/11. President Musharraf, twice targeted for assassination by al Qaeda, has strongly supported and led in the war on terror.

Saudi Arabia is now working closely with the United States to root out al Qaeda. Since 9/11, and especially since attacks in Riyadh last May, the Saudis have recognized they are a prime target of Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. And they've helped wrap up al Qaeda operators, facilitators, and sources of financial support.

In Iraq, Saddam Hussein is in jail. (Applause.) His sons are dead. His government is gone. There's a new interim government in place, operating under a law that protects basic freedoms. Sovereignty will pass to that new interim government on June 30th. (Applause.) Elections will be held by next January. While a continuing U.S. and coalition presence will be required in Iraq, the Iraqis themselves are taking on more and more responsibility for their own country. Our armed forces will keep working with them to improve their abilities to keep the peace.

In Libya, Moammar Ghadafi, having witnessed our determination in Afghanistan and Iraq has given up his nuclear ambitions. (Applause.) Five days after Saddam Hussein was captured, he announced he would turn over all of his weapons of mass destruction materials. The designs, the uranium, the centrifuges now reside at a U.S. facility at Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

And A.Q. Khan, the proliferator, is under house arrest in Pakistan. His network is being dismantled. The world's worst source of proliferation of nuclear weapons technology has been shut down. (Applause.)

Three years ago, I think it would have been impossible to imagine these accomplishments. It would have -- who could have conceived that we would see the President of Afghanistan addressing a joint session of Congress, as Hamid Karzai will tomorrow, to express his gratitude to the American people for the liberation of his nation? Who could have imagined that we would see an Iraqi President come to our country and thank us, as President Ghazi al Yawar, did last week for liberating his country?

Three years ago, when the President and I assumed office, the United Nations Security Council was trying -- without success -- to get Saddam Hussein to abide by some 12 U.N. resolutions. Who could have imagined then that the Security Council would be voting unanimously -- as happened last Tuesday -- for a resolution supporting Iraq's transition to full sovereignty, and laying out a path to democracy consistent with the plan President Bush has proposed to lead to free national elections in Iraq by next January? (Applause.)

Our nation should be very proud of what we've accomplished not only because we have removed threats, but because we are helping these nations along the road to freedom. A central fact that history teaches is that institutions of self-government turn human beings away from violence to the peaceful work of building better lives. Democracies do not breed the anger and the radicalism that drag whole societies or export violence. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds, or welcome bases of operations in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies, and to choose their own leaders.

For decades, we settled for mere stability in the Middle East. And all too often, that outcome was tyranny and repression. That, too, has changed under this President that now we seek to help nations build the institutions of freedom. By turning the energies of men and women away from violence, we not only make those countries more peaceful, we add to the security of our own country.

That is not always an easy mission, but we are seeing encouraged progress. Business and civil society leaders have issued reform declarations at Aqaba and Sanaa. In the ancient city of Alexandria, leaders declared that reform is necessary and urgently needed. And at last month's Arab League Summit, governments in the region pledged further progress, declaring their determination to firmly establish the basis for democracy. In their quest for reform, the people of the Middle East can count on the friendship and the support of the United States and of other free nations.

At Sea Island last week, President Bush led the G8 Summit's creation of a Partnership for Progress and a Common Future to support political, economic and social reform in the broader Middle East and Africa. This new plan calls on the world's free nations to share their energies and talents to promote investment, literacy, and democratic development in the region. Three years ago, who would have imagined this?

In talking of our progress, I do not mean to underestimate the challenges that lie ahead. The terrorists understand as well as we do that the stakes in Iraq are historic. As democracy grows, their prospects diminish. And they will try with all of the murderous hatred they can muster to prevent both Iraq and Afghanistan from becoming free and self-governing nations. But the United States under this President will not waver in our commitment. (Applause.)

We will keep working in Afghanistan and Iraq and beyond, to spread freedom and the prosperity and security that it brings. And here at home, we will continue to take every measure and provide every resource needed to secure the people of the United States. Let me say, that as a former Secretary of Defense, I have never been prouder than I am today of our young men and women in uniform. (Applause.)

As President Bush said recently, we are now about three years into the war against terrorism. We've met great challenges. There are more ahead. This is no time for impatience and self-defeating pessimism. We have work to do in the defense of our country, and for the good of humanity. And by doing our duty and holding firmly to our values, this generation will give the world a lesson in the power of liberty.

Ladies and gentlemen, our nation has been strong and courageous and well led by our President. I've watched him make the decisions and set the strategy. I've seen a man who is calm and deliberate; comfortable with responsibility; consistent in his objectives; and resolute in his actions. When he makes a commitment, there is no doubt he will follow through. As a result, America's friends know they can trust, and America's enemies know they must fear the decisive leadership of President George W. Bush.

Thank you. (Applause.)

END 12:00 P.M. EDT