Cheney greeted by 2,000 on Guam
The Associated Press
Posted : Thursday Feb 22, 2007 6:09:57 EST
ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — Vice President Dick Cheney returned to U.S. territory Thursday on his way from Japan to Australia, meeting with U.S. troops and local officials who support a buildup of forces on this isolated American island.
Cheney’s brief stopover — he spent about an hour on Guam — attracted 2,000 troops and residents to hear a brief speech. The visit also brought complaints from the neighboring U.S. territory of the Northern Mariana Islands, where residents awaited the remains of the latest Iraq war victim.
The vice president stayed on Andersen Air Force Base, speaking in a hangar to mostly Air Force and Navy personnel.
He discussed the strategic importance of Guam, 3,700 miles southwest of Hawaii, in protecting U.S. interests in the region.
Cheney said Pacific sea lanes must be kept open to commerce and closed to terrorists and stressed the need to keep fighting in Iraq.
“In the years ahead, more personnel will be stationed here, along with the job of maintaining a first-rate forward operating base,” he said.
Cheney also said terrorists know they cannot win in a standup fight.
“The only way they can win is if we lose our nerve and abandon our mission,” he said. “So they continue committing acts of random war, believing they can intimidate the civilized world and break the will of the American people.”
In a brief visit to Japan, Cheney also reaffirmed the Bush administration’s commitment to the war in Iraq.
He told troops at a U.S. naval base near Tokyo that America would not relent in Iraq.
“We want to complete the mission, we want to get it done right, and then we want to come home, with honor,” he said. “The American people will not support a policy of retreat.”
Cheney said his visit to Japan was a gesture of appreciation for Tokyo, which has been one of Washington’s most valuable allies in the war on terror by offering non-combat troops to assist U.S. efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Guam Gov. Felix Camacho and the territory’s delegate to Congress, Madeleine Bordallo, met with Cheney at Andersen.
Camacho has been leading local support for plans to relocate 8,000 U.S. Marines from Japan to Guam, viewing it as a boon for the island’s economy.
Debbie Quinata of the indigenous group Nasion Chamuro said her group wants Cheney to know of its strong opposition to the decision.
The group has been pushing for reparations for harm from toxic chemicals and radiation on Pacific islands as a result of war and war games. However, a petition campaign by the group to stop the planned deployment from Japan has gathered only 400 signatures.
The group is particularly concerned about the presence of B-2 bombers, joint military exercises in waters near Guam, and the greater naval presence, including the potential for more nuclear submarines and other warships in Pacific waters.
“We believe that increased militarization will put our families, friends and relatives who are living on Guam in harm’s way rather than provide safety and stability,” the group said in a statement prior to Cheney’s visit.
In the nearby Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, where family members of Army Cpl. Leroy Camacho, 27, of Kagman village, were awaiting arrival of his remains, officials said they were disappointed that Cheney did not visit their territory. Leroy Camacho was killed by an explosion in Iraq on Feb. 9 — the fifth island soldier to die in Iraq.
Camacho’s sister, Juanette Camacho, had urged that Cheney visit Saipan, pointing out that the territory has suffered more Iraq war casualties than Guam.
Gubernatorial Press Secretary Charles Reyes said officials in Saipan were not invited to join the Guam officials meeting the vice president.