View Full Version : Cheney: U.S. "Getting Things Right In Iraq"

09-14-2007, 05:18 PM
Cheney: U.S. 'getting things right in Iraq'


by Mark Silva

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – Vice President Dick Cheney, lacing an address in support of the president’s Iraq war strategy with repeated allusions to the terrorism of Sept. 11 and a relentless enemy which the United States still faces, came to the hometown and gravesite of a former president whom he had once served with a stern message.

“Tough work lies ahead,’’ Cheney said of the war in Iraq. “But the evidence from the theater of war 6,000 miles away is beyond question: The troop surged has achieved solid results, and in a relatively short period of time….

“Ladies and gentlemen,’’ the vice president told an invited audience in a theater at the Gerald R. Ford Museum, “the United States and our coalition are getting things right in Iraq.’’

Touting the troop withdrawals that the administration plans to make by mid-July 2008 – removing about 21,000 combat troops and returning the U.S. deployment to its “pre-surge’’ levels – the vice president said: “Further draw-downs in our military presence will depend on conditions inside the country, and on the recommendations by Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador Crocker…

“In any event,’’ he said, “President Bush will make his decisions based on the national interest and nothing else – not by artificial measures, not by political calculations, and not by poll numbers.’’

This thinly veiled reference to war critics marked the only political vein of a speech long on the lessons of 9/11.

The president, who calls the war in Iraq the central front of the worldwide war against terrorism, made a passing reference to the terrorism of Sept. 11 in his televised speech to the nation this week. But Cheney built his war remarks today upon 9/11.

“One doesn’t need a dramatic cast of mind to believe that our world really did change six years ago,’’ Cheney said. “For most of this nation’s history, we had been spared from attack inside our borders. But in a violent world, the safety of distance was suddenly gone… Events like those of 9/11 bring chaos and destruction, and leave no good options. After a day like that, our choices are not pleasant and they are not easy, but they are clear.’’

Cheney was greeted in a carpeted side-room of the museum by seven Marines in uniform and 14 members of the National Guard in green camouflage, including three members of the Plaska family who already have deployed.

Specialist Christi Plaska deployed to Kuwait in the summer of 2006, Her father, Sgt. First Class Noel Plaska, deployed to Afghanistan from 2005 to 2006, and her brother, Specialist Michael Plaska, deployed to Iraq from December 2004 to March 2006.

“We really appreciate what you’ve been doing for us,’’ Cheney told the soldiers and Marines – one explaining that he had been deployed to Fallujah and worked with the sheikhs there.

“The president met with them last week,’’ replied Cheney, who would note in his speech here – as the president did in his own televised address the night before – that one of the Sunni sheikhs who had been helping U.S. forces and with whom Bush had met on Labor Day in Anbar province had been killed this week.

“It’s been a great success story,’’ Cheney said of the work underway with tribal leaders in Iraq helping the U.S. in a struggle with terrorists. “We really do want to thank all of you,’’ he told the soldiers and Marines. “You guys are doing the heavy lifting.’’

“The terrorists have been at war with the United States for a long time,’’ said Cheney, citing a litany of attacks starting with the bombing in Beirut in 1983 that killed 241 U.S. servicemen, the 19 killed in Mogadishu in 1993, the first World Trade Center attack in 1993 and many more culminating in the attack on the USS Cole in 2000. “Ultimately, of course, they attacked the homeland on 9/11.

“The terrorists have been at war with the United States for a long time,’’ the vice president said. “And after 9/11, this nation made a decision: We’re at war with them…

“The war on terror does not have to be endless,’’ Cheney said. “But to prevail in the long run, we must remove the conditions that inspire such blind, prideful hatred that drove 19 men to get onto airplanes and come to kill us.

“Tyranny in Afghanistan was worth deposing,’’ he said. “Democracy in Afghanistan is worth defending. And the same is true in Iraq…

“The al Qaeda network that struck America is one of the elements now interested in destroying Iraq’s democracy – and Osama bin Laden and his lieutenants regard it as a critical front in their war against us,’’ he said. “Their goal is to make us run.

“The terrorists are betting that Americans will grow tired, distracted and weak,’’ he said. “That’s a bet the terrorists are going to lose.’’

If the United States withdrew prematurely, he said, “every tyrant – in that region, and well beyond – would take note of our failed resolve, and friends and foes alike would decide that America’s word cannot be trusted… And we, the people of the United States, would bear consequences as well – because a precipitous withdrawal from Iraq would validate al Qaeda’s belief that we lack the stomach for the fight.’’

This was the first time that Cheney, who served as the late President Ford’s chief of staff, had returned to Michigan since the funeral of the former president.

“When I come to the Ford Museum my thoughts go back to a very good time in my life… to the colleagues who shared it… and above all to the president that many of us were privileged to know and to serve,’’ Cheney said. “I’m certain that I wouldn’t be vice president today had it not been for the opportunities given to me by President Ford, and the confidence he placed in me.’’

Cheney spent a moment at the Ford gravesite following his war speech at the Gerald R. Ford Museum.

The vice president heads from here to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, home of the U.S. Central Command, where he will deliver a somewhat shorter speech along the same lines.