|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
October 27, 2006
Vice President's Remarks at a Rally for the B-2 Bomber Forces
Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri
12:57 P.M. CDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. And, thank you, General Biscone, for the introduction. I also want to thank the U.S. Air Force band of mid-America from Scott Air Force Base. And thank you all for the tremendous welcome to Whiteman -- where there's "None finer than a 509er." (Applause.)
I have been looking forward to this visit to the American heartland. I just had a briefing with General Biscone and some of the pilots. There's no way I could overstate how impressed I am with your work, or how much it means to your country and to the cause of freedom. To be with you, and to know all that you do each and every day, makes me even prouder to be an American. And I bring you the personal gratitude and good wishes of our Commander-in-Chief, President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
In this challenging time for our country, we've depended on the skill and the excellence of all the units at Whiteman. We're grateful to the 442nd Fighter Wing. On missions half a world away, you've given close-air support to our forces on the ground, carried out combat search and rescue missions, and provided forward air control. I want to thank the 442nd for a job well done. (Applause.)
We're grateful to a fine unit of the Missouri Army National Guard, the 135th Aviation Battalion. Operating the Apache helicopter, you've carried out assignments at home and abroad -- from hurricanes on the Gulf Coast to the global war on terror. You're known as the "First Attack Team," and you've made a difference for Missouri and for America.
We're grateful to the Mobile Inshore Undersea Warfare Unit, Number 114. Your comrades count on you for surveillance, intelligence collection, and force protection, and you've earned a high reputation for speed and professionalism. And, of course, you are the first Navy unit to operate out of Whiteman Air Force Base, and the nation is glad you're here.
The people of the United States are especially grateful to the 509th Bomb Wing. With amazing reach and accuracy, uncompromising standards of excellence, and tireless performance -- you've written a new and proud chapter in military history. We depend on you to "kick down the doors and kill the targets", and you always get the job done "on target, and on time." (Applause.)
Whiteman Air Force Base bears the name of an Army aviator whose life ended at Pearl Harbor on Sunday, December 7th, 1941. That day, a war began as the result of a sudden, unprovoked attack on the United States. It was a difficult war that cost this nation a great deal. But it ended in victory, and in the birth of new, lasting, and peaceful democracies.
The war that our country fights today also began with an attack on our country. This war, also, is lengthy and difficult. Much has already been asked of us, and a great deal of work is still ahead. And yet the outcome is certain. We'll prevail in the war on terror, and that victory will mean a better and safer world for our children and our grandchildren.
In this new era, Americans have learned that oceans do not protect us, and threats that gather thousands of miles away can now find us here at home. We have learned that there is a certain kind of enemy whose ambitions have no limits, whose cruelty is only fed by the grief of others. These enemies don't assemble standing armies or navies to confront us. Instead they operate in small cells; they dwell in the shadows; and they hide in caves on the other side of the world. And yet they are driven by an ideology of violence, and they are absolutely determined to cause great harm to the United States of America.
The terrorists hate this country and everything we stand for -- human freedom, democratic government, respect for life. They seek ever deadlier weapons, and they would use those weapons against us without hesitation. With the terrorists, there can be no negotiations, or appeals to reason or conscience. We have only one option, and that's to take the fight to the enemy. (Applause.)
To carry on in this fight, we need to project force across great distances, to hit targets with precision, and to move and maneuver without the enemy being able to track us. And that's exactly what we're able to do with the stealth technology of the B-2 Bomber. Within weeks of September 11th, 2001, B-2s were taking off from Whiteman, flying dozens of hours, refueling in flight, dropping precision-guided, satellite-based ammunition on Taliban and al Qaeda targets, stopping at Diego Garcia for engine-running crew changes, and then returning safely after the mission. It was an impressive feat, and it helped bring about the first of many victories in the war on terror. (Applause.)
The B-2 was critical, as well, to the liberation of Iraq and the removal of Saddam Hussein. On missions from Whiteman and forward operating locations, B-2s flew more than 40 sorties and delivered hundreds of munitions against enemy targets, helping take down a brutal dictatorship. These aircraft remain essential to the continuing fight against terror, and to the defense of this nation in a world that still presents many challenges to the United States.
Since the B-2's arrival in the early 1990s, the 509th has operated this aircraft to good effect from the broader Middle East to Kosovo. And it's more than lived up to its billing. I was proud, as Secretary of Defense, to be involved with the B-2 program during its early years. And I still remember the American president who, a quarter century ago, committed the early resources to make the B-2 a reality. This extraordinary aircraft before us is flying today thanks to the vision and the foresight of a great leader named President Ronald Reagan. (Applause.)
President Reagan served in an era very different from our own. But his legacy reminds us that America cannot afford to cut corners when it comes to national security. We must always look to the challenges of tomorrow -- and prepare to fight any adversary, meet any contingency, and overcome any obstacle that might present itself. Our own security depends on it, and the civilized world relies on the United States to be a force for stability and peace. We are a good, a generous, and an idealistic country. We're thankful for our liberties, and we are proud to be freedom's home and defender.
Our country is proud, as well, to have good allies in every endeavor. We have no better friend in this world than Great Britain, and I want to acknowledge the presence today of the first non-American pilot to fly the B-2 -- Squadron Leader David Arthurton of the Royal Air Force. We're glad to have him on the team. (Applause.)
Teamwork is the very essence of Whiteman Air Force Base -- from the officers at the controls, to those who work all night to get a jet ready for a sortie the next morning, and keep every inch of the airframe ready to fly whenever duty might call. Team Whiteman encompasses thousands of our fellow Americans -- many of whom have given noteworthy service. While serving in Iraq, Senior Airman Bobbi Mead, from the 509th Security Forces Squadron, provided combat support and security. I'm told that she helped uncover five individuals attempting to breach the base perimeter. She's with us today, and we thank her very much. (Applause.) I also want to recognize five other such individuals today:
Tech Sergeant Brian McGee, recipient of the Bronze Star.
Three members of the 509th Logistics Readiness Squadron, who all saw tough action in the Sunni Triangle and received the Purple Heart: Staff Sergeants Mario Salaiz, Brian Leverton, and David Dunne.
And a pilot who helped lead the first strikes in Afghanistan, in the process earning the Distinguished Flying Cross -- Lieutenant Colonel Troy Vanbemmelen of the 509th. He's with us today and we are grateful for his exemplary service. (Applause.)
All of you can take pride in these fellow members of Team Whiteman. And whatever job you do, whatever mission you might be called on to accomplish, never forget that you're a vital part of the finest Air Force that ever flew, and that you wear the uniform of the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.
In their conduct overseas, the men and women who wear this nation's uniform have reminded people everywhere of America's purposes. For the sake of our own security, and that of our friends, we've undertaken a lot of serious work in this world. Yet when we use our military, it is not to conquer, but to liberate. And after we throw back tyrants, we stand by our friends to ensure that democratic institutions can take hold, and to help build the freedom that leads to peace in the long run. Five years ago, Iraq and Afghanistan were both in the grip of violent, merciless regimes. Now they have democratically-elected governments and the dictators are gone. And all Americans who have served in this cause can be proud of that service for the rest of their lives. (Applause.)
We maintain forces in Afghanistan and Iraq because we're a nation that keeps its word, and because we understand what is at stake in that part of the world. The terrorists understand it, as well. The terrorists know that as freedom takes hold, the ideologies of hatred and resentment will weaken, and the advance of free institutions in the broader Middle East will produce a much safer world for our children and grandchildren. The war on terror is a battle for the future of civilization. It is a battle worth fighting. It's a battle we are going to win. (Applause.)
The terrorists regard the entire world as a battlefield. That is why al Qaeda has operatives in Iraq right now. They want to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat -- and bin Laden himself calls this conflict the "third world war." Americans are fighting there, and in Afghanistan, because our security demands it. Having liberated those countries from tyranny, we will not permit new dictatorships to rise up and pose a danger to the United States and other free nations. Freedom still has enemies in those countries, and those enemies are using the tactics of terror against our coalition forces and innocent civilians. They hope to intimidate us, but they will not succeed. We will confront and defeat them at the heart and center of their power, so we do not have to face them on the streets of our own cities. (Applause.)
For the United States, this war began on 9/11. But the reality is that terrorists were at war with our country long before the liberation of Iraq, long before the attacks of 9/11. And for many years, they were the ones on the offensive. They grew bolder in their belief that if they killed Americans, they could change American policy.
In Beirut in 1983, terrorists killed 241 of our service members. Thereafter, U.S. forces withdrew from Beirut. In Mogadishu in 1993, terrorists killed 19 American soldiers. Thereafter, United States forces withdrew from Somalia. Over time, the terrorists concluded that they could strike America without paying a price, because they did, repeatedly: The bombing at the World Trade Center in 1993; the murders at the Saudi National Guard training facility in 1995; the attack on Khobar Towers in 1996; the simultaneous attack on our embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998; and, of course, the attack on the USS Cole in 2000.
Believing they could strike us with impunity and believing that that was the way to change U.S. policy, they attacked us on 9/11 here in the homeland and killed 3,000 fellow citizens.
They are making a stand in Iraq now and testing our resolve. And we have a lot of difficult work ahead. As terrorists wage their attacks, they know they cannot beat us in a stand-up fight. They never have. But they are absolutely convinced they can break the will of the American people. And the only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission. But the world can have confidence in the resolve of the United States. We will stand by our friends. We will continue to train the Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country and make it a source of stability in a troubled region. And as always, decisions about American troop levels will be driven by conditions on the ground and the judgments of our commanders -- not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C.
For the sake of our own generation and the ones that follow, we have a clear responsibility to press on in this fight. Our goal in Iraq is victory -- with a nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself. In terms of how to carry out the mission, General Pace, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, put it best: "From a military standpoint," he said, "every day is reassessment day." We'll be flexible. We'll do all we can to adapt to conditions on the ground. We'll make every change necessary to do the job, to finish the job, and to bring our troops home with the honor they have earned. (Applause.) We still have tough work ahead of us, and we have no illusions about the nature of our enemy. Our job now is to hang tough, as Americans have done so many times in the past. As President Bush has said, "This nation has defeated tyrants and liberated death camps, raised the lamp of liberty to every captive land. We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history's latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power."
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. And 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 look at you, the men and women of our military, and feel a kind of gratitude and pride that is almost impossible to express. America's cause is right. America's cause is just. And with you in the fight, America's cause will prevail.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 1:17 P.M. CDT