|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 16, 2006
Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the 101st Airborne Division
Building 6883 Air Assault School
Fort Campbell, Kentucky
2:51 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you. Thank you very much, General Turner. Soldiers, families, thank you for the warm welcome. It's always good to be with members of the armed forces, and a special honor to stand with the men, women and families of the 101st Airborne Division -- air assault; (applause) -- the 5th Special Forces Group, and the One-Sixtieth Special Operations Aviation Regiment. (Applause.)
Don't hold back. (Laughter.)
Let me thank General Turner for the introduction, and for the opportunity to visit Fort Campbell today. I had the opportunity to meet the General several years ago when I visited an Army base at Caserma, Italy, and spoke to the Sky Soldiers of the 173rd Brigade. I was proud to wear the brigade jacket that day and I also wore it because the General said he'd kick my tail if I didn't. (Applause.)
It's a pleasure to be joined by Kentucky Congressman Geoff Davis, who stands one hundred percent behind the men and women of our military and was a career Army man himself.
And I also realize that a good number of the men and women are on leave right now, taking a break reconnecting with their families. And I ask all of you to give them my very best and my thanks for their hard work. And I want to thank the fine musicians, as well, of the 101st Screaming Eagles Band. (Applause.)
As members of the 101st, you're serving in an historic division, at a very important time in the life of our country. You've handled tough assignments with skill and with honor. You've been faithful to your mission, and to one another. You've re-enlisted at impressive rates. This country is very proud of you, and today I bring the personal gratitude and the good wishes of your Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
Last month in Iraq, you completed a year-long deployment that reflected tremendous credit on the Army, and helped to move a liberated country one step closer to a future of security and peace. As part of Task Force Band of Brothers and Task Force Baghdad, you have amassed a record of excellence and solid results. The 101st carried out air assault missions against the enemies of freedom, provided security for national elections, trained some 32,000 police, helped provide border protection, and turned over more territory to 35 Iraqi Army battalions, so they can take the lead in defending their own country.
You did all this, and more. And you did it in some of the toughest conditions of modern warfare: carrying heavy gear, putting in long hours, spending hour after hour in the incredible heat of the desert, and confronting an enemy that has no uniform, no respect for the laws of warfare, and no code of honor. It's hard and unrelenting work -- and it's vital to our nation's freedom and security. You've shown exactly what it means to take on perilous assignments, to adapt to enemy tactics, to press on and to hang tough. You've returned to Fort Campbell in the knowledge that your deployment has added further glory to the proud history of the 101st Airborne Division. Screaming Eagles: Welcome home. (Applause.)
Iraq is the central front in the global war on terror that began five years ago, when this country we love came under attack. Thinking about 9/11 still moves all of us -- because the attack was directed at all of us. We were meant to take it personally, and we still do take it personally.
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, denies freedom of conscience, demands that women be pushed to the margins of society. We saw the expression of those beliefs in the rule of the Taliban. 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 will be 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 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 a 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, or even nuclear weapons; to destroy Israel; to intimidate all Western countries and to cause great harm to 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 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.
The war on terror is difficult because the enemy sees the entire world as a battlefield. That's why al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now. Bin Laden himself 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.
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 '90s, when they concluded that if they killed enough Americans, they could change American policy. In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 of our service members. Thereafter, US forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 Americans. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia.
The attacks continued: the first bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993; the murders at the Saudi Arabia National Guard training facility in 1995; the attack on Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous bombing 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 the homeland here on September 11th and killed 3,000 of our fellow citizens. Bin Laden 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 will simply 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'll face them far from home, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities.
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. Having been on the ground, all of you know that we've made progress -- not easily, but steadily. 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 that in our country, the Iraqi people have shown they value their liberty and are determined to choose their own destiny.
America is a good and a generous country. We're showing the Iraqi people the true character of the United States. Members of our military have worked diligently to make sure that more Iraqi families have police protection, and electricity, and water, and sanitation for their homes. By your openness and your decency, by your honor and your kindness to others in thousands of interactions, you've built bonds of friendship that are very important to our two countries. It's a sign that much is right with the world as a democratically-elected people works to serve the government, end the violence, and resolve differences through peaceful means, while Saddam Hussein, the tyrant who filled mass graves and terrorized Iraq for decades, sits in a courtroom facing the truth and awaiting justice.
In all the difficult work that lies ahead, the Iraqi people can know that the United States is a nation that keeps its word. We'll continue the work of reconstruction. We'll continue striking the enemy -- conducting raids, countering attacks, seizing weapons, and capturing killers. We'll continue training Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country and make it a source of stability in a troubled region. We'll 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 judgment of our commanders -- not by artificial time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.
It's been noted very often that the war on terror must be fought on many fronts. We have taken urgent action to protect the homeland, to harden the target, to be prepared for any attack that might come. But wars are not won on the defensive. We've had to take firm and sustained action on the intelligence and the military side -- and we've had to rely on the bravery, the toughness, and the skill of some very dedicated Americans.
The people of the United States know about the heroism you display every day in this war. We stand in total admiration when we learn of soldiers who run through heavy fire to assist wounded comrades, or dive into canals to pull men out of overturned vehicles, or face intense engagement against enemy positions, or conduct dangerous nighttime patrols. Our freedom depends on men and women who live by the ethic of service above self, and who place duty and the national interest above any considerations of personal comfort or safety. Those who put their lives on the line for America are the very best among us -- and so we care deeply for every man and woman who comes home with injury. And we grieve with the family that has to say goodbye to a soldier they loved.
I know that each month at Fort Campbell you gather for an "Eagles Remembrance" ceremony. Since the war on terror began, more than 150 members of the division have given their lives for our freedom. Their Army brethren still feel the loss. And a grateful nation will honor their memory forever.
Every sacrifice reminds this nation that our freedom comes at a price, that we're fortunate that so many fellow Americans have stepped forward to wear the uniform of the United States. We are a democracy, defended by volunteers who deserve all the tools and resources and support we can possibly provide.
America's great respect for our people in uniform also extends to their families. Not long ago, General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs and a career officer, said that military families, quote, "serve this country equally well as anyone who has ever worn the uniform. They sit silently at home and pray for their loved one, wait for news of their return and then silently stand back and pretend they had nothing to do with our success. Whereas, in fact, it is the love and support of our families that makes all the difference in the world."
I know that General Pace's words speak for all of you. I'm told that during a recent deployment, a Sergeant named Valerie Yates and her husband, Staff Sergeant Raymond Yates, needed some help at home. So Valerie's mother moved all the way from Australia to Kentucky to take care of her grandchildren. That's the kind of spirit we've always seen in the families of Fort Campbell. You've built a tremendous support network here. The Family Readiness Groups truly serve beyond the call, and we're proud of each and every one of them.
The greatest joy for a family, of course, is when a loved one is welcomed home -- or when a new child is welcomed to life. Occasionally those two circumstances come at the same time. They tell me that when Specialist Christopher Roberts returned, his pregnant wife, Private Jennifer Roberts, was waiting on the flight line. By the time the plane landed, Jennifer was in labor. She and Christopher made a quick dash to the hospital, where they delivered a brand-new baby girl, Myra Lynn Roberts. Congratulations. (Applause.)
I want all the families of Fort Campbell to know how much your fellow Americans appreciate you. We're not a country that takes its military for granted. America has counted on the Army for more than 230 years, and the Army has never let this nation down.
Shortly after the attacks of September 11th, President Bush came here to Fort Campbell to meet with soldiers and to speak about the challenges that lay ahead for the United States. He said, "Great causes are not easy causes. It was a long way from Bunker Hill to Yorktown. It was a long way for the 101st from Normandy to final victory over fascism in Europe. When wronged, our great nation has always been patient and determined and relentless."
Ladies and gentlemen, the war on terror is a test of our strength, a test of our capabilities, and, above all, a test of our character as a nation. Standing here with the soldiers and the families of Fort Campbell, I have never had more confidence in the nerve and the will of the American people. We love our country, only more when she is threatened. We know the hopes of the civilized world depend on us. Our cause is right. It is just. And this great nation will prevail.
Thank you very much.
END 3:08 P.M. CDT