- The Washington Times - Friday, October 10, 2003

Vice President Dick Cheney yesterday ridiculed the notion that America must enlist the support of every ally before defending itself, saying such a policy would have been disastrous in Iraq.

“Ultimately, America must be in charge of her own national security,” Mr. Cheney told the Heritage Foundation.

“To accept the view that action by America and our allies can be stopped by the objection of foreign governments that may not feel threatened is to confer undue power on them while leaving the rest of us powerless to act in our own defense,” he added.

It was a reference to nations like France, Germany and Russia, which balked on the eve of war against Iraq, despite a unanimous resolution by the U.N. Security Council.

Mr. Cheney did not name these nations or the Democratic presidential candidates who are still accusing President Bush of having acted unilaterally against Iraq. But he mocked their argument that “the United States, when its security is threatened, may not act without unanimous international consent.

“Under this view, even in the face of a specific stated agreed-upon danger, the mere objection of even one foreign government would be sufficient to prevent us from acting,” the vice president said.

“This view reflects a deep confusion about the requirements of our national security,” he added. “Though often couched in high-sounding terms of unity and cooperation, it is a prescription for perpetual disunity and obstructionism.”

Mr. Cheney insisted such a policy “would prevent our own country from acting with friends and allies, even in the most urgent circumstance.

“Yet we continue to hear this attitude and arguments in our own country,” he said. “So often, and so conveniently, it amounts to a policy of doing exactly nothing.”

The vice president was careful to note that America is not acting unilaterally when it proceeds without the support of a handful of nations. Indeed, he pointed out that the United States is being supported by 50 nations in postwar Iraq and 70 nations in postwar Afghanistan.

“The United States is committed to multilateral action wherever possible,” Mr. Cheney said. “Yet this commitment does not require us to stop everything and neglect our own defense merely on the say so of a single foreign government.”

The speech was part of a concerted White House effort to counter months of Democratic complaints and negative media coverage about postwar Iraq. It followed speeches earlier in the week by Mr. Bush and National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice.

But Mr. Cheney took the administration’s argument a step further by pointedly emphasizing what he characterized as the wrongheadedness of the president’s detractors.

“Had the United States been constrained by the objections of some, the regime of Saddam Hussein would still rule Iraq,” he said. “His statues would still stand; his sons would still be running the secret police; dissidents would still be in prison; the apparatus of torture and rape would still be in place; and the mass graves would be undiscovered.”

The vice president argued that while allied forces have not yet found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they have found more than enough other violations of the Security Council resolution to prove the folly of America’s doubters.

“Those who declined to support the liberation of Iraq would not deny the evil of Saddam Hussein’s regime,” he said. “They must concede, however, that had their own advice been followed, that regime would rule Iraq today.”

Mr. Cheney said America is uniquely positioned to influence other nations in the fight against terrorism.

“A watching world is depending on the United States of America,” he said. “Only America has the might and the will to lead the world through a time of peril toward greater security and peace.”

The vice president also said history will ultimately judge Mr. Bush as having been correct to aggressively confront threats like Saddam Hussein.

“The current debate over America’s national security policy is the most consequential since the early days of the Cold War and the emergence of a bipartisan commitment to face the evils of communism,” he said.

“All of us now look back with respect and gratitude on the great decisions that set America on the path to victory in the Cold War and kept us on that path through nine presidencies.”

He added: “I believe that, one day, scholars and historians will look back on our time and pay tribute to our 43rd president, who has both called upon and exemplified the courage and perseverance of the American people.”

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