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THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you for a warm welcome. It's great to be with all of you, and to visit one of the finest military installations in America -- Fort Stewart, in the great State of Georgia.
America has always counted on the Army to defend our country and to man the watchtowers of freedom. And in our own time, soldiers of the United States are repaying that confidence every day as we fight the global war on terror. When we were attacked on a terrible September morning nearly five years ago, President Bush said that the struggle would be lengthy and difficult, and would require our best effort and unfailing resolve. It's tough; it's dangerous to fight enemies who dwell in the shadows, who target the innocent, who plot destruction on a massive scale. And in this fight some of the hardest duties have come to the men and women of the United States Army.
Five years ago Iraq and Afghanistan were both in the grip of violent, merciless regimes. Now they have democratically-elected governments, the dictators are gone, and 50 million people are awakening to a future of hope and freedom. And Americans who return home from that part of the world can be proud of their service for the rest of their lives.
The terrorists have made Iraq the central front in this war. And we wage this fight with good allies at our side, including an Iraqi Security Force growing in size and ability. We'll continue to train the Iraqi forces so they can defend their own country and make it a source of stability in a troubled region. When it comes to our own troop levels, the President will listen to the recommendations of commanders on the ground. And he'll make the call based on what is needed for victory, not according to the polls, and not by artificial time lines set by politicians in Washington, D.C. (Applause.)
In our own country, we take democratic values seriously -- and so we always have a vigorous debate on the issues. That's part of the greatness of America. We wouldn't have it any other way. But there is a difference between healthy debate and self-defeating pessimism. We have only two options in Iraq -- victory or defeat. And I want you to know, as members of the United States military, that the American people do not support a policy of retreat or defeatism. (Applause.) We want to complete the mission, to get it done right, and return with honor.
I'm afraid that as we get farther and farther away from September 11th, 2001, there is a temptation to let up in the fight against terror. We're all grateful this nation has gone four years and 10 months now without another 9/11. Obviously, no one can guarantee that we won't be hit again. But getting through these years of wartime took a lot more than just luck. We've been protected by sensible policy decisions by the President, by decisive action at home and abroad, and by round-the-clock efforts on the part of people in the armed forces, in law enforcement, in intelligence, and homeland security