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American Forces Press Service

Cheney Says Democracies Must Confront Terror Together

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26, 2004 - Vice President Dick Cheney called on all democratic nations to support the war on terror during a speech to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Jan. 24.

Terrorism is a real threat, Cheney told the audience. He said that 19 men armed with "box cutters and airplane tickets" killed 3,000 people on Sept. 11, 2001. Terrorists armed with chemical, biological or nuclear weapons could kill 300,000 and would not hesitate to use them.

"We must act with all urgency that this danger demands," Cheney said. "Civilized people must do everything in our power to defeat terrorism and to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction."

The vice president said there are three fundamental responsibilities for all democracies in the war on terror. "First, we must confront the ideologies of violence at the source by promoting democracy throughout the greater Middle East and beyond," he said. "Second, we must meet these dangers together. Cooperation among our governments and effective international institutions are even more important today than they have been in the past."

Finally, if diplomacy fails, then the democracies must be prepared to use force if necessary. "Direct threats require decisive action," he said.

Cheney responded to those who say that democracy cannot work in the Middle East. He called that thinking condescending and false. He said there were many who said that Germany and Japan could never become democracies in the years following World War II, but the events of the last 50 years have proved those critics wrong.

"Democracies do not breed the anger and the radicalism that drag down whole societies or export violence," the vice president said. "Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and to choose their own leaders."

Cheney echoed a persistent point in many of President Bush's speeches - that the desire for freedom is not just for Americans or Western countries, but is universal. "Whenever ordinary people are given the chance to choose, they choose freedom, democracy and the rule of law, not slavery, tyranny and the heavy tread of the secret police," he said.

He pointed out there are many countries in the Arab world and the Middle East working toward democracy. Cheney named Morocco, Bahrain, Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia as countries making progress along that road.

He called on the rulers of Iran to follow these examples. In Iran, "there is a growing call for true democracy and human rights," he said. "Europe and America must stand as one in calling for the regime to honor the legitimate demands of the Iranian people. They ask nothing more than to enjoy their God-given right to live their lives as free men and women."

The best examples of the fruits of freedom can be seen in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cheney said. In Afghanistan, the Loya Jirga has approved a constitution that reflects the values of tolerance and equal rights for women.

In Iraq, democracy is beginning to take hold, he said. "Less than a year ago, the people of that country lived under the absolute power of one man and his apparatus of intimidation and torture," Cheney said. "Today the former dictator sits in captivity, while the people of Iraq prepare for full self-government. Saddam Hussein can no longer harbor and support terrorists, and his long efforts to acquire weapons of mass destruction are finally at an end."

Supporting democracy calls for many nations and institutions to work together. Cheney said it is vital that the nations of the world work to keep alliances and international partnerships strong and to cooperate on every front.

The vice president said there has been much progress. "Today, our intelligence and law enforcement services are cooperating to tighten the noose around terrorists, to choke off their sources of funding, to prevent them from moving freely across our borders and to apprehend them before they strike again," he said. "By these means we are safer, but we are not yet safe. Each of us bears responsibility to close the holes in our common effort against terror and weapons of mass destruction."

NATO has been a bulwark in the war on terror, and Cheney said it is no surprise that "21 of the 34 countries keeping peace with us in Iraq today are NATO allies and partners." NATO also maintains security in Kabul, Afghanistan, and is looking to expand that security zone.

But allies can do more. "Europe and Canada have 1.4 million soldiers under arms, but only 55,000 deployed, and many European militaries still maintain they are overstretched," Cheney said. "We have spoken before . about the need for more deployable European forces -- and today that need is critical."

Cheney said he was pleased that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi agreed to dispose of his weapons of mass destruction program. The vice president said the agreement came about through quiet diplomacy, but was backed by the firm principles and commitments of the United States.

"Over the last two years, we have demonstrated that when we speak of fighting terrorism and of ending the spread of weapons of mass destruction, we mean exactly what we say," Cheney said. "Our diplomacy with Libya was successful only because our word was credible.

"That kind of credibility can be earned in only one way -- by keeping commitments, even when they bring difficulty and sacrifice; by leaving potential adversaries with no doubt that dangerous conduct will invite certain consequences."

The three fundamental responsibilities that democracies must accept are not easily met, Cheney said. "Promoting freedom, justice and democracy in areas that have known generations of despotism is an enormous undertaking," he said.

"Working cooperatively against the dangers of a new era will place demands on us all, and there will be occasional differences, even among allies who have great respect for one another," Cheney noted. "And using military power, when no alternative remains, will always be the most difficult decision that leaders can make."

Still countries must accept these responsibilities, because tragedy can come from division, weakness and vacillation. "Going forward, we can be guided as well by one of the last century's more hopeful lessons, Cheney said. "History has not dealt kindly with dictators and murderous ideologies. The momentum of history is on the side of human freedom. And when free people are clear in our purposes, and confident in our ideals, and united in our defense, no enemy will prevail against us."


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