Remarks by the US Vice President to the American Society of News Editors
I count many friends among the American Society of Newspaper Editors. And it's good to have the opportunity to join you again. And I look forward to taking your questions in a few minutes.
Three weeks into the war -- which I want to talk about this morning -- I, obviously, cannot begin my remarks without paying tribute to those that we've lost on the field of battle. Our campaign is proceeding with speed and success. But that will not ease the sorrow of the families of American and coalition troops killed in the line of duty. We're thinking of these families now with respect and gratitude. And this nation will always honor the sacrifices made in our defense.
American journalism has also lost two of its finest men over the last several days. I knew Michael Kelly and greatly admired his work. He was a superb writer. And as a reporter and editor, he upheld the highest standards of your profession. David Bloom, of NBC, impressed everyone with his skill, energy and exuberance. Both David and Michael were also very decent men with young families. And many people are feeling their loss today, the same way they feel the loss of the members of our armed forces. I also want to extend America's condolences to the families of all the foreign journalists killed in the war.
These two young reporters were among the 600 American journalists embedded in coalition military units all across Iraq. The embedding of journalists has made for some outstanding reporting. I suspect the arrangement has also led to greater respect all around. For their part, the troops have come to know reporters who are willing to accept the hardships and dangers of war in order to get the story right. And journalists have come to know our military -- not just for the power of its weapons, but by the character of the men and women who serve.
Since the war, our forces have conducted themselves with all of the skill and integrity that President Bush and the American people expected of them. They are in the field at this very hour. Operations continue all across Iraq securing cities, protecting supply lines, delivering tons of humanitarian aid. In downtown Baghdad this morning, we are seeing evidence of the collapse of any central regime authority. The streets are full of people celebrating. While pockets of regime security forces may remain, they appear to be far less effective at putting up any resistance.
In southern Iraq today, British forces are securing the second largest city, in Basra. Across Iraq, we are beginning to see senior religious leaders come forward urging their followers to support our coalition, another sure sign that Saddam Hussein's regime is clearly doomed.
There may well be hard fighting yet ahead. Regime forces are still in control in northern Iraq -- in Mosul and Kirkuk and Tikrit. Yet the conclusion of the war will mark one of the most extraordinary military campaigns ever conducted. It's proceeded according to a carefully drawn plan with fixed objectives and flexibility in meeting them. In the early days of the war, the plan was criticized by some retired military officers embedded in TV studios. (Laughter.) But with every day and every advance by our coalition forces, the wisdom of that plan becomes more apparent. Secretary Rumsfeld, General Franks, General Myers and General Pace at Pentagon -- and their subordinates -- have done a superb job. It's been a most impressive performance. And coming on the heels of the Afghanistan operation last year, it's proof positive of the success of our efforts to transform our military to meet the challenges of the 21st century.
Having been involved in planning and waging the Persian Gulf War in 1991 as Secretary of Defense, I think I can say with some authority that this campaign has displayed vastly improved capabilities, far better than we did a dozen years ago. In Desert Storm, only 20 percent of our air-to-ground fighters could guide a laser-guided bomb to target. Today, all of our air-to-ground fighters have that capability. In Desert Storm, it usually took up to two days for target planners to get a photo of a target, confirm its coordinates, plan the mission, and deliver it to the bomber crew. Now we have near real-time imaging of targets with photos and coordinates transmitted by e-mail to aircraft already in flight. In Desert Storm, battalion, brigade and division commanders had to rely on maps, grease pencils and radio reports to track the movements of our forces. Today our commanders have a real-time display of our own forces on their computer screens. In Desert Storm, we did not yet have the B-2. But that aircraft is now critical to our operations. And on a single bombing sortie, a B-2 can hit 16 separate targets, each with a 2,000-pound, precision-guided, satellite-based weapon.
The superior technology we now possess is, perhaps, the most obvious difference between the Gulf War and the present conflict. But there are many others. Desert Storm began with a 38-day air campaign, followed by a brief ground attack. In Operation Iraqi Freedom, the ground war began before the air war. In 1991, Saddam Hussein had time to set Kuwait's oil fields ablaze. In the current conflict, forces sent in early protected the 600 oil fields in southern Iraq, prevented an environmental catastrophe, and safeguarded a resource that's vital for the future of the people of Iraq. During Operation Desert Storm, Saddam managed to fire Scud missiles at Israel and Saudi Arabia. This time was different, again, thanks to Special Operations Forces, which seized control of the missile launch baskets in western Iraq, preventing their use by the enemy. Our Special Ops forces -- joined by those of the British, the Australian, and the Polish allies -- have played a vital role in the success of the current campaign.
During Operation Desert Storm, we faced a massive flow of refugees in need of aid and shelter. But so far, in Operation Iraqi Freedom, we've averted a large-scale humanitarian crisis. U.S. and Royal Marines succeeded in taking the Al Faw Peninsula and cleared a path for humanitarian aid. And today, even as fighting continues, coalition forces are bringing food and water and medical supplies to liberated Iraqis.
Looking at the overall effort, Saddam Hussein apparently expected that this war would essentially be a replay of Desert Storm. And although he realized that some 250,000 Americans and coalition forces were stationed in the Gulf on the eve of the war, he seems to have assumed there was ample time to destroy the oil fields he had rigged to explode and the bridges that he had wired. But the tactics employed by General Franks were bold. They made the most of every technological advantage of our military, and they succeeded in taking the enemy by surprise.
Let me quote the military historian Victor Davis Hanson writing several days ago: "By any fair standard of even the most dazzling charges in military history, the Germans in the Ardennes in the Spring of 1940, or Patton's romp in July of 1944, the present race to Baghdad is unprecedented in its speed and daring, and in the lightness of its casualties." Hanson calls the campaign "historically unprecedented" and predicts that its "logistics will be studied for decades". Bottom line, with less than half of the ground forces and two-thirds of the air assets used 12 years ago in Desert Storm, Secretary Rumsfeld and General Franks have achieved a far more difficult objective.
Yet until this war is fully won, we cannot be overconfident in our position, and we must not underestimate the desperation of whatever forces remain loyal to the dictator. We know full well the nature of the enemy we are dealing with. Servants of the regime have used hospitals, schools and mosques for military operations. They have tortured and executed prisoners of war. They have forced women and children to serve as human shields. They have transported death squads in ambulances, fought in civilian clothes, feigned surrender and opened fire on our forces, and shot civilians who welcomed coalition troops.
In dealing with such an enemy, we must expect vicious tactics until the regime's final breath. The hardest combat could still be ahead of us. Only the outcome can be predicted with certainty: Iraq will be disarmed of its weapons of mass destruction; the regime will end; and the Iraqi people will be free.
In removing the terror regime from Iraq, we send a very clear message to all groups that operate by means of terror and violence against the innocent. The United States and our coalition partners are showing that we have the capacity and the will to wage war on terror -- and to win decisively.
When I last spoke to this organization in 1990, the Cold War was ending, and I said then that we were looking at a new era in national security policy. Today, we are not just looking at a new era, we are actually living through it. The exact nature of the new dangers revealed themselves on September 11, 2001, with the murder of 3,000 innocent, unsuspecting men, women and children right here at home. The attack on our country forced us to come to grips with the possibility that the next time terrorists strike, they may well be armed with more than just plane tickets and box cutters. The next time they might direct chemical agents or diseases at our population, or attempt to detonate a nuclear weapon in one of our cities. These are not abstract matters to ponder -- they are real dangers that we must guard against and confront before it's too late. From the training manuals and documents that we've seized in the war on terror, and from the interrogations we've conducted, we know the terrorists are determined to acquire weapons of mass destruction, and to use them against us. With September 11th as a fresh memory, no rational person can doubt that terrorists would use such weapons of mass murder the moment they are able to do so.
The government of the United States has a moral duty to confront those threats, and to do whatever it takes to defeat them. And as the leading power, we have a further responsibility to help keep the peace of the world and to prevent terrorists and their sponsors from plunging the world into horrific violence. President Bush takes that responsibility very seriously, and he is meeting it with great resolve and with clarity of purpose.
If we are to protect the American people and defend civilization against determined enemies, we cannot always rely on the old Cold War remedies of containment and deterrence. Containment does not work against a rogue state that possesses weapons of mass destruction and chooses to secretly deliver them to its terrorist allies. Deterrence does not work when we are dealing with terrorists who have no country to defend, who revel in violence, and who are willing to sacrifice their own lives in order to kill millions of others. To meet the unprecedented dangers posed by rogue states with weapons of mass destruction, and terrorist networks with global reach, our administration has taken urgent and, at times, unprecedented action.
One of these important things we have done is to strengthen the defense of the homeland. As the President requested, Congress created the Department of Homeland Security to mobilize against a wide range of potential threats. We have put more marshals on airplanes; stepped up security at airports, power plants, ports and border crossings. We have inoculated our troops against anthrax and smallpox and made the vaccines available for first responders, who are stockpiling enough smallpox vaccine for every American. We have proposed and urge Congress to pass Project BioShield -- a comprehensive effort to develop and make available modern, effective drugs and treatments to counter a chemical or biological attack. And Project Bioshield is a critical element of defense in this new era.
But we know that playing defense isn't enough -- we have to seize the offense against terrorists. So we are going after the terrorists, hunting them down, freezing their assets, disrupting their chain of command. We've had great successes recently with the capture of two key figures in the September 11th attacks -- Ramzi Bin al-Shibh and Khalid Sheik Mohammed. And, of course, we still have forces on the ground in Afghanistan working with that country's government to rid it of the Taliban and al Qaeda elements.
Our war on terror continues on every front, from law enforcement, to intelligence, to military action. The President has made clear from the beginning that this will be a long and a focused effort -- not only because the terrorists operate in the shadows, but also because they enjoy the backing of outlaw states. It is this alliance between terrorist networks seeking weapons of mass destruction and rogue states developing or already possessing these weapons that constitutes the gravest current threat to America's national security.
Therefore, a vital element of our strategy against terror must be to break the alliance between terrorist organizations and terrorist-sponsoring states. The chemical and biological weapons that Saddam Hussein is known to have produced are the very instruments that terrorists are seeking in order to inflict devastating harm on the people of this country, in Europe, and in the Middle East. That's why from the day the Gulf War ended in 1991, the United States has supported the efforts of the U.N. Security Council to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction. And that is why the United States today is enforcing that demand.
As we meet this morning, I cannot predict with certainty how soon this war will be over. Although I am pleased, as is everyone else, to see the reports coming out of Baghdad today, I want to caution everybody that we still have a lot of work to do yet. I am certain that when it is successfully concluded, the friends of the United States -- throughout the world and in the Middle East -- will be deeply heartened by this victory and will prove far more willing to stand up to the tyrants and terrorists in their midst.
The end of Saddam's regime will remove a source of violence and instability in a vital part of the world. A new regime in Iraq will also serve as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom to other nations in the Middle East. As President Bush has said: "The United States, with other countries, will work to advance liberty and peace in that region. Our goal will not be achieved overnight, but it can come over time. The power and the appeal of human liberty is felt in every life and every land. And the greatest power of freedom is to overcome hatred and violence and turn the creative gifts of men and women to the pursuits of peace."
The actions of our coalition now being taken in Iraq today have come at a cost. But the cost of inaction would have been far greater. And they would have been paid, not just by future generations, but very likely by our own, as well. By their skill and courage, the American armed forces joined by the finest of allies are making this nation and the world more secure. They are bringing freedom where there is tyranny, relief where there is suffering. As a former Secretary of Defense, I've never been more proud of those who wear the uniform of the United States military.
Later this morning, here in New Orleans, my wife, Lynne, and I will visit the National D-Day Museum, the museum founded on the initiative of the late Stephen Ambrose, whose writings did so much to acquaint Americans of today with the heroism of the World War II generation. In one of his books, Ambrose related a soldier's memories of that period in our history. "In the spring of 1945," he said, "around the world, the sight of a 12-man squad of teenage boys armed, in uniform, brought terror to people's hearts. But there was an exception: a squad of G.I.'s, a sight that brought the biggest smiles you ever saw to people's lips and joy to their hearts. G.I.'s meant candy, cigarettes, C-rations, and freedom. America had sent the best of her young men around the world, not to conquer, but to liberate; not to terrorize, but to help."
Ladies and gentlemen, in the spring of 2003, the American people and the watching world are seeing another great generation. The citizens of Iraq, like so many oppressed peoples before them, are coming to know the kind of men and women that America sends forth to meet danger and to defend freedom. We can all be thankful that our country still produces such men and women -- this great force of volunteers, placing themselves between our country and our enemies. And when their mission is accomplished, we look forward to welcoming them home with pride and with gratitude.
It's my understanding the drill is, for questions, I think we've got microphones in each aisle, and anybody who wants, step up and I'll be happy to respond as best I can. Yes, sir.
Mr. Vice President, Edward Seaton (ph) from the Manhattan Mercury in Kansas. As you know, 11 journalists have been killed in this war. I think that represents about 9 percent of the total of U.S. and British troops who have been lost. Yesterday was a particularly grueling day for journalists, both U.S. journalists and international journalists. There were three journalists who died yesterday, and there were three strikes that have been questioned, particularly in the Arab world, that have the look of perhaps more than simple military action -- at least that's been the allegation in some quarters. Abudabi TV was hit, was struck by U.S. fire. A missile hit Al Jazeera TV, and the Palestine Hotel was struck by tank rounds. I wonder if you could speak to those allegations that we're hearing from the Arab world, and just generally, the issue of safety, particularly of journalists who are not embedded with U.S. forces or British forces.
Dick Cheney: Well, I appreciate the question. Obviously,, as I mentioned in my remarks, any loss of innocent life in the military action is to be regretted.