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Homeland Security

American Forces Press Service

Coast Guard Essential to Victory Against Terrorism, Cheney Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 21, 2008 – The efforts of the men and women of the U.S. Coast Guard are essential to victory in the war against terrorism, Vice President Richard B. Cheney told graduating cadets at their academy commencement today in New London, Conn.

“When you stepped forward to serve the United States, it was already clear that these are decisive times in the life of our country,” Cheney told members of the Class of 2008 at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. “It’s rare for an academy class to begin during a war and then graduate during that same war.”

The challenges that came to the United States as a result of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks “will be the defining issue of your career,” Cheney told the more than 200 graduating cadets.

“The Coast Guard will be essential to the fight, and the Coast Guard will be essential to victory” against terrorism, Cheney said, as America’s armed forces continue to battle transnational terrorists in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.

The terrorists have vowed to attack again, and America is taking the threat seriously, Cheney said. The United States, he said, has bolstered security at its airports and maritime entry points, increased intelligence capacity to track enemy movements and plans, and organized a global coalition that is taking the fight to overseas-based terrorists.

“This nation has kept the commitment declared by President Bush after 9/11: to wage this battle on the offensive, to track the enemy down until he has no place left to hide, and to stay in the fight until the fight is won,” Cheney observed.

The Coast Guard is one of 22 federal agencies that were merged five years ago to form the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Cheney recalled. The Coast Guard, he noted, is the only military element in that organization.

“In its five years as part of DHS, the Coast Guard has undertaken the largest commitment at port security operation since the Second World War,” Cheney noted. “That, alone, is an enormous task, given the many foreign vessels that arrive in our ports every single day.”

The Coast Guard also is improving America’s coastal defenses through implementation of better tracking technology, establishing security zones among major U.S. ports, Cheney explained, and is taking many other steps critical to keeping the American maritime domain free of terrorists.

The Coast Guard also is heavily involved in overseas anti-terrorism operations, Cheney said. Coast Guard members, he said, “are providing port security, on-and-off loading of military hardware and patrol forces to secure assets in the Persian Gulf.”

Coast Guard members “are serving along with our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines in a part of the world that is going to require America’s close attention for many years to come,” Cheney said.

The broader Middle East is home to valued U.S. friends and trading partners, Cheney said, noting the region’s “resources and commercial routes are at the very heart of the global economy.”

Middle Eastern history and holy sites hold deep meaning for hundreds of millions of people in many countries, Cheney pointed out. The region, he added, also has been “a breeding ground for the hateful ideologies that threaten the free world with repeated acts of sudden, spectacular violence.”

The war on terrorism “is a lengthy enterprise” that does not have to go on forever, Cheney said. To prevail in the war, Cheney noted, America and its allies will overcome ideologies of hate by expanding human liberty, self-government, tolerance, mercy and the dignity of every human life.

The people of Afghanistan and Iraq had suffered through decades of tyranny before they were liberated by coalition forces, he said. And Afghans and Iraqis want the same good things for their children as any other people, the vice president said.

“They’ve chosen the path of freedom and democracy,” Cheney said of the Afghan and Iraqi people. “And, no matter who lines up against them, they can know that America – the country that liberated them – still cares about their freedom.”

Meanwhile, much remains to be accomplished on every front in the war against terrorism, Cheney observed.

“But, we can take heart because American power is being used to serve American ideals,” he said. “We are doing good things for the right reasons.”

The surge strategy employed in Iraq “has succeeded brilliantly,” he noted.

“And the only way to lose this fight is to quit,” the vice president emphasized. “That would be irresponsible. More than that, quitting would be an act of betrayal and dishonor -- and it’s not going to happen on our watch.”

Cheney told the graduating cadets that he is “absolutely convinced” of achieving success against global terrorists.

“Like most Americans, I stand in awe of the people in our military,” Cheney said. “Having served as a White House chief of staff, congressman, secretary of defense, and in my present job, I’ve had no greater pleasure, no greater honor than working with those who wear the uniform of the United States.”

Military service constitutes a family commitment, as well, Cheney told the graduating cadets.

“This nation can never give enough thanks to our military families,” he said.

The Coast Guard always has been thought of as America’s lifesavers, Cheney remarked, noting the agency distinguished itself during Hurricane Katrina humanitarian-relief operations in 2005, when it saved more than 30,000 lives on the stricken Gulf Coast.

“When we think of the Coast Guard, we think of the men and women who are always ready to save us from danger, whether it comes from the furies of nature or from the designs of evil men,” Cheney said. “This branch of the armed forces has given steady service to the United States of America since the year 1790. And in that time, the Coast Guard has saved more than a million lives.

“As you step forward to accept new duties, your fellow citizens look up to you for the oath you take, the traditions you uphold and the standards you live by,” Cheney said.

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