US Will Target States Backing Terror
September 17, 2003
Dow Jones Newswires
A Dow Jones Newswires Analysis
U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney Wednesday reiterated the Bush administration's policy of using preemptive attacks to destroy threats to the U.S.'s security by saying the U.S. and its allies have a moral duty to target states that back and support terrorism.
However, coincidentally or not, Cheney's tough talk backing preemptive attacks comes amid escalating rhetoric and accusations from White House officials about Syria.
"Prior to 9/11, too many nations tended to draw a distinction between terrorist groups and the states that provided these groups with support, sanctuary and safe harbor. They were unwilling to hold these terror-sponsoring states accountable for their actions," Cheney told the Air Force Association National Convention.
Given the grave threat posed by terrorists groups armed with weapons of mass destruction, Cheney said the U.S. can no longer afford to wait for a threat to emerge and an enemy to strike.
"So in addition to going after the terrorists, we are also taking on states that sponsor terror," Cheney said.
The vice president said that Bush has already ordered the U.S. military to topple two regimes that backed terrorists - Afghanistan and Iraq.
While Cheney made no mention of any other countries that back terrorism, other administration officials haven't been reluctant to provide a list of states sponsoring terrorism and building weapons of mass destruction.
Undersecretary of State for Arms Control John Bolton pointed a finger at four countries in a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday when he said that Iran , North Korea, Syria and Libya are all building weapons and helping terrorists.
Getting more specific, Bolton said Syria has stockpiled thousands of chemical-weapons munitions, including artillery shells and bombs, in addition to backing Hezbollah, Islamic Jihad and Hamas.
Bolton acknowledged Syria has not supplied any terrorist groups with these weapons or used the weapons itself, but he said the nexus of terrorism and weapons of mass destruction causes great "anxiety" within policy-making circles.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan backed up this assessment by saying Syria's current course of actions is unacceptable, and added that the regime of Bashir Assad needs to amend his ways.
"We're making it very clear that any support or harboring of terrorists is unacceptable, and you will be held accountable. That's why we are continuing to pressure Syria to reverse course, to change its behavior," McClellan said.
McClellan added that it is not just Syria's support for terrorism and its pursuit of chemical and biological weapons that are bothering the U.S.
In addition, the U.S. has demanded Syria seal its borders with Iraq to prevent the infiltration of foreign terrorists, he said.
"These are very real and serious concerns that we have," he added.
Cheney didn't say military action against terror states is inevitable, but he did note that several past strategies the U.S. has employed to defend itself simply don't work against terrorists and their sponsors.
While the U.S. was able to hold the Soviet Union at bay during the Cold War with the threat of massive retaliation, this strategy of deterrence is now on the ash heap of history, Cheney said.
"There is nothing they (the terrorists) value highly enough that we can put at risk to keep them from launching an attack against the United States. So no treaty or arms control agreement or strategy of deterrence will end this conflict," Cheney said.
Another strategy, raising ever thicker and more formidable defenses against a terror strike, likewise will not succeed in the end, Cheney said.
"The problem with terrorist organizations is that even if you build defenses that are 99% successful, the 1% that gets through can still kill you," he said.
Given these realities, Cheney said the only realistic action is a strategy aimed at hitting terrorists where they gather and where they are helped.
"We will be much more secure if we aggressively go after the terrorists - and after the nations and the mechanisms that support them - than if we lay back and wait for them to strike us again here in the United States," the vice president said.
Cheney acknowledged that some key allies are not comfortable with a policy of destroying regimes that back terrorism, but he derided these critics as out of touch with the new strategic reality created by the Sept. 11th attacks in which a small number of terrorists killed thousands.
"Some people - both in this nation and abroad - have questions about that strategy. They suggest that somehow it's wrong for us to strike before an enemy strikes us. But as President Bush said, 'If the threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations, would come too late'," Cheney said.
In any case, Cheney said the U.S. has a moral obligation to pursue the war on terrorism "well into the foreseeable future."
"It is a struggle against evil - against an enemy that rejoices in the murder of innocent, unsuspecting human beings," Cheney said. http://www.iranvajahan.net/cgi-bin/news.pl?l=en&y=2003&m=09&d=18&a=8