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American Forces Press Service

Cheney: Sept. 11 Changed Everything

By K.L. Vantran
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 14, 2003 -- Emphasizing that any loss of life or injury is "regrettable," Vice President Richard B. Cheney said here today that the cost of doing nothing or being unsuccessful in the global war on terror would be far higher than getting the job done right.

Sept. 11 changed everything, continued Cheney during an interview on NBC's "Meet the Press." "It changed the way we think of threats to the United States. It changed our recognition of our vulnerabilities. It changed in terms of the security strategies we need to pursue to guarantee the safety and security of the American people."

The vice president said it would be "nice to say" that another attack on the United States can't happen. But he said he begins every day reading intelligence reports from the CIA and FBI, and the reality is that there are plots by al Qaeda and related groups to launch attacks against the United States.

If anything was learned from the tragic events of Sept. 11, it's that a campaign of terror is mounted against this country and elsewhere, he said.

Before Sept. 11, the vice president said, people tended to think of terrorist acts as "find the bad guy, put him in jail, case closed." Since then it's been learned that certain terrorist attacks -- bombings of the World Trade Center in 1993, the East Africa Embassy in 1998 and the USS Cole in 2000, as well as the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States -- all were directed by al Qaeda.

"It's very important to make the transition to the understanding that we're at war," said Cheney, a war against "a global enemy that struck not only in New York and Washington, but in Bali and Jakarta."

As of Sept. 13, the vice president said there have been 372 casualties (combat and noncombat) since the beginning of the war on terror two years ago.

Stressing that "we'd like to do everything casualty free," the vice president pointed out the loss the country suffered on Sept. 11, 2001.

America will be "safer and more secure" when the tasks in Iraq are successfully completed, said Cheney. Whatever the costs -- casualties or financial resources -- they will be a lot less than trying to recover from another attack in the United States, he asserted.

Cheney noted "significant successes" in the war on terror. He cited taking down the Taliban, destroying the al Qaeda base, launching an attack into Iraq, destroying Iraqi armed forces, taking down the government of Iraq, getting rid of Saddam Hussein, and killing or capturing 42 of the deposed regime's 55 top leaders.

There have been many changes in Iraq in the last four months, he added. The new Iraqi Governing Council is in place. Democratic councils now govern more than 90 percent of Iraq's cities, towns and villages. Schools and hospitals are open, and there's progress on restoring electricity and rebuilding infrastructure. An Iraqi security force of 55,000 continues to grow.

"We're moving aggressively," said Cheney. "We've got some first-rate troops undertaking many efforts to stand up the new government. We've achieved a great deal and (need to) stay committed to get the job done, to get the guys on the ground the resources they need."

Winning in Iraq is vital to winning the global war on terror, said the vice president.

"If we're successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States or so that it is not pursing weapons of mass destruction, so that it's not a safe haven for terrorists," Cheney said, "we would have struck a major blow right at the heart at the base of the terrorists. They understand what's at stake here, and that's one of the reasons they're putting up a struggle."

The United States will do what it has to do to prevail in this conflict, said Cheney. "Failure is not an option. This is not just about Iraq. This is about a continuing operation in the war on terror. It's very important we get it right."

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