|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
August 2, 2004
Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the Troops at Northcom
Peterson Air Force Base
Colorado Springs, Colorado
10:55 A.M. MDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. That is a tremendous welcome. Lynne and I are delighted to be here this morning. We've come to Colorado many times over the years, but I've never had a welcome like that before. (Applause.)
We deeply appreciate your hospitality. Colorado Springs feels a lot like home, and Peterson Air Force Base makes a mighty fine place to park Air Force Two. (Applause.)
I'm proud today to stand with the men and women of the Northern Command and NORAD. I want to thank General Eberhart, General Lord, General Webber, and everyone who helped prepare the way for our visit today. You represent America's newest unified command, and I've been looking forward to dropping in. I'm grateful for the chance to stand before so many who defend our homeland so well. (Applause.) And I'm honored to bring personal regards to each and every one of you from our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
I also want to thank Congressman Joel Hefley, who represents this area, for joining us. Joel does superb job for the people of Colorado, and he is, obviously, a great friend of the U.S. military.
When President Bush proposed standing up Northern Command, he understood the enormous duties that lay ahead, and he had complete confidence in the men and women who would fulfill those duties. Your mission here is nothing less than the defense of America's land, sea, and airspace. In our vast, open nation, that is a heavy responsibility. And you meet it every day. In less than two years' time, you have turned a brand new command into a disciplined, professional, effective component of the greatest military force in the world. (Applause.)
In your mission to defend the skies, you are joined by our fine Canadian allies in NORAD. Through decades of Cold War, NORAD kept faithful watch over the United States and Canada, and helped free nations overcome great dangers. Now you are meeting different challenges -- to guard our airspace against complex new threats. And thanks to your efforts, the people of both the United States and Canada are more secure. (Applause.)
Peterson hosts other commands as well -- the Air Force Space Command -- (applause) -- the Army Space and Missile Defense Command -- (applause) -- the 21st Space Wing -- (applause) -- and the 302nd Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserves. (Applause.) This is one of America's vital military bases, and you receive tremendous support, I know, from the Colorado Springs community. I want to thank all the local leaders, businesspeople, volunteers, and, especially, the veterans with us today for your commitment to our armed forces. (Applause.)
Above all else, our men and women in uniform depend on the support of their families. At bases around the world, from here at Peterson, to Camp Pendleton, to Yongsan Garrison in South Korea, Lynne and I have witnessed the selfless devotion and courage of our military families. You're the ones who send the letters and packages, look out for friends and neighbors in need, and give prayerful support to those who serve. Military life is a family commitment, and this nation does not take you for granted. America is enormously proud of our military families. (Applause.)
I want to say a special word about the National Guard and Reserve now serving on active duty. These men and women have put their lives and their careers on hold to fulfill a solemn commitment to serve. As you know so well, they are making critical contributions to the defense of the nation -- both overseas and here at home. In their courage and sacrifice, America's Guardsmen and Reservists have earned the respect and gratitude of the entire nation. (Applause.)
It's been almost three years now since the terrorists brought war to our homeland. I was at the White House on the morning of September 11th, 2001, and throughout that day received reports on the situation in New York, Pennsylvania, and across the Potomac at the Pentagon. There were conversations with the President and our military commanders, including General Eberhart, decisions to be made about civilian flights, military air cover, and disaster response. In many ways, the attacks of that day brought out the best in people under difficult and extremely uncertain circumstances. America saw the calm determination of our President, and the heroic acts of our firefighters, police, and medical personnel, who saved thousands of lives. American fighter planes, under NORAD command, were scrambled to protect our skies. And at our military bases around the world, we saw our armed forces rise to heightened readiness with great speed and efficiency.
That day changed everything for our country. In the space of a few hours, we lost some 3,000 of our fellow citizens. We saw the violence and the grief that terrorism can inflict. We saw a foe whose hatred of us is limitless. Today we face an enemy every bit as intent on destroying us as the Axis powers were in World War II, or the Soviet Union was during the days of the Cold War. This enemy, in the words of the 9/11 Commission's report released last week, is "sophisticated, patient, disciplined, and lethal." What this enemy wants, as the 9/11 report explains, is to do away with democracy, to end all rights for women, to impose their way of life on the rest of us. And as we saw on the morning of 9/11, this enemy is perfectly prepared to slaughter anyone -- man, woman, or child -- to advance its cause. This is not a foe we can reason with, or negotiate with, or appease. This is -- to put it simply -- an enemy that we must vanquish. (Applause.) And we will vanquish this enemy. (Applause.)
To win this war, America is applying a doctrine that is clear to all: Every person, group, or regime that harbors or supports terror is equally guilty of terrorist crimes, and will be held to account. (Applause.) In Afghanistan, the Taliban found out what we meant. Within weeks of 9/11, American forces were on the ground in Afghanistan, teaming up with Afghan freedom fighters to destroy the terrorist camps, where terrorists trained to kill Americans, and to take down the Taliban regime. With swift, precise action, we and our allies captured or killed hundreds of al Qaeda fighters, ended Taliban rule, liberated 25 million people, and closed the terrorist camps. (Applause.) Today Afghanistan has a new government. They have a new constitution. This fall they'll have free elections, and they now are a developing democracy.
Having seen the devastation caused by 19 men armed with knives, box cutters, and boarding passes, we awakened to a possibility even more lethal -- that terrorists could acquire the capability to make weapons of mass destruction -- chemical, biological, or even nuclear weapons -- or gain such weapons from an outlaw regime. If terrorists get their hands on that deadly technology, there can be no doubt they will inflict catastrophic damage on America and our allies. President Bush is determined to remove threats before they arrive instead of simply waiting for another attack on our country. So America, acting with a coalition of 30 nations, ended the regime of Saddam Hussein. (Applause.)
AUDIENCE: USA! USA! USA!
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is still important and difficult work ahead in Iraq. Freedom still has enemies in that country. Yet thanks to the accomplishments of our military, Iraq has undergone an historic transformation. Sixteen months ago, Iraq was under the control of a dictator. Today, Saddam Hussein is in jail. (Applause.) Sixteen months ago, 25 million Iraqi people lived in repression, fearful of torture or death. Now they are free, and protected by an Iraqi bill of rights, and preparing to elect their own leaders. Sixteen months ago, Iraq was a gathering threat to the United States and the civilized world. Now it is a rising democracy, its leaders are working with us to fight terrorism, and the American people are safer for that. (Applause.)
Since 9/11, we have taken the fight to our enemies wherever they plot and plan. Yet we understand that winning this war requires more than that. We must put forth a sustained effort on every major battlefront -- and as we saw so clearly on 9/11, the homeland is one of those fronts. That is why the Northern Command was such a critical addition to our military strategy. In NORTHCOM, we have a unified command fully dedicated to defending against threats to the United States. Already, NORTHCOM units have flown more than 36,000 sorties in support of Operation Noble Eagle, a far-reaching effort to deter and disrupt attacks against America from the sky. You've also made extraordinary progress toward developing a national missile defense system -- and that is one of the great contributions to national security in the past three years.
Just as we've called on NORAD and NORTHCOM to play a central role in our military strategy, we're also relying on your contributions to our homeland security efforts. This year so far, you've helped provide security for events from the Super Bowl, to the G8 Summit, to the recent political convention in Boston. You've supported state and federal civilian agencies in responding to the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster. You've developed task forces to improve homeland security coordination in the national capital region; to enhance our ability to respond to an attack with weapons of mass destruction; and to fight drug trafficking. In all these actions, you've demonstrated the high quality of your training and the depth of your dedication. By carrying out your duties, you make it possible for so many Americans to lead their daily lives with confidence and security. And your fellow citizens are deeply grateful for your service. (Applause.)
Thanks in part to your vigilance at home, and our strong, effective actions against terrorism overseas, America has gone nearly three years now without a terrorist attack. Yet we must have no illusions about the dangers we face. Secretary Ridge's announcement yesterday confirms that the threats to our country are very real, that the terrorists are doing everything they can to find ways to attacks. We've created the Department of Homeland Security to focus our government on one mission -- protecting the American people. We passed the Patriot Act to give law enforcement the tools they need to track terrorists. We've reorganized the FBI to focus on the terrorist threat; strengthened our border and port security; and recently signed Project BioShield to improve our defenses against catastrophic attacks. All Americans can be certain we are doing everything in our power to protect the people of this country.
I want every one of you to know that in the days and months ahead, President Bush is going to back you up 100 percent. (Applause.) Our job is to provide you with the best possible equipment to do your mission; to make sure you receive the pay you deserve; and to support military families at home. We have made that commitment to you -- and we will keep it. (Applause.)
In these last three years, many great challenges have come to our country. Much has been asked of us, and, as with the other great challenges in our nation's history, the greatest burdens have fallen on the men and women of our military. And yet this time of testing is also a time of promise. The United States is a good, and a decent country -- a nation that is making the world a better place by defending the innocent, confronting the violent, and bringing freedom to the oppressed. We understand the threats before us, and we have the resources, the strength, and the moral courage to overcome them all. As our President has made clear to all, the terrorist enemies will fail because the direction of history is toward justice and human freedom. The terrorists will fail because the resolve of America and or allies wil not be shaken. And the terrorists will fail because men and women like you stand in their way. (Applause.) Every person in the United States Armed Forces can take great pride in the work you for for America. Your fellow citizens know that your work is extraordinarily challenging; the enemies we face are persistent and dangerous, and many of your successes will go unknown. Yet our whole nation appreciates everything you do for us. You bring great credit to your uniform, to the flag, and to our country. (Applause.) Your Commander-in-Chief is proud of you. And his behalf, and on behalf of the people of the United, I thank you all.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 11:16 A.M. MDT