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Iraq War Is Key to U.S. Security, Cheney Says

April 10, 2004|Doyle McManus | Times Staff Writer

ANCHORAGE — Vice President Dick Cheney called on Americans on Friday to maintain support for the U.S. military effort in Iraq despite the upsurge in fighting there, and said the security of the United States "is directly dependent on our success."

Cheney told an audience of cheering military personnel at Elmendorf Air Force Base near here that the U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan are aimed at ensuring that the two countries cannot become "sanctuaries for terrorists."

"Our own security, and that of our friends in the region, is directly dependent on our success," Cheney said.

"Our will is being tested in Iraq, as we have seen in the heavy fighting this week," he said. "Yet as Americans, we understand what is at stake. It is absolutely essential in both Afghanistan and Iraq to finish the task at hand. That means helping the people of both nations to establish representative governments and the forces necessary to guarantee their security -- so that they can enjoy the blessings of liberty and their countries never again become sanctuaries for terrorists."

Cheney spoke after a week in which U.S.-led coalition forces in Iraq found themselves fighting on two fronts, against Sunni and Shiite Muslim insurgencies. President Bush, who is spending the week at his ranch near Crawford, Texas, did not speak publicly about Iraq on Friday.

Cheney, as he frequently has in the past, said the fight against the Al Qaeda terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and against Saddam Hussein in Iraq was part of a broader war against terrorism.

"In Iraq, we rid the country of a murderous dictator, a sponsor of terror," he said. "He will never again threaten the United States of America."

Critics of the Bush administration have argued that Hussein never posed a threat to the United States.

Cheney spoke during a refueling stop in Anchorage en route to a weeklong trip to Japan, China and South Korea. He also attended a fundraising reception for Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).

Officials said Cheney planned to thank Japan and South Korea, the most important U.S. diplomatic partners in Asia, for sending troops to Iraq. In Japan, emotions are running high about the Iraq war because three Japanese civilians have been taken hostage by a group that is threatening to kill them unless Tokyo withdraws its 550 troops, who are noncombat. Families of the hostages have pleaded with the government to pull out.

"In Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond, the war on terror requires tremendous coordination with allies around the world," Cheney said.

"The terrorists declared war on America, and war is what they got," Cheney said, referring to the 2001 attacks.

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