Image: Dick Cheney at West Point
Julie Jacobson  /  AP
Vice President Dick Cheney is saluted by cadets before delivering the graduation address on Saturday at West Point Military Academy in Highland Falls, N.Y.
updated 5/26/2007 6:14:02 PM ET 2007-05-26T22:14:02

Vice President Dick Cheney on Saturday urged the 978 new graduates of the U.S. Military Academy to provide leadership to troops fighting terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Noting that West Point is about 50 miles north of where terrorists struck lower Manhattan on Sept. 11, 2001, the vice president said, “Nobody can promise us we won’t be hit again.”

He received standing ovations before and after he spoke to a crowd of about 20,000. To the emerging Army second lieutenants, Cheney appealed for them to defend freedom against those who would destroy it and carry forward the academy’s values of duty, honor and country.

“We’re fighting a war over there because the enemy attacked us first,” Cheney said. “These are men who glorify murder and suicide. Terrorists are defined entirely by their hatreds.”

The terrorism fight now centers on Iraq, the vice president said, because that is where the enemy has massed. “The security of this nation depends on the outcome,” Cheney said.

He promised that the Army would have all the manpower, equipment and support it needs and referred to President Bush’s signature Friday on a spending bill for operations in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Frank Brown, a graduating cadet from Vienna, Va., said he was “ready to get out there and start leading troops.” After a 30-day leave, he is joining the 25th Infantry Division at Schofield Barracks in Hawaii.

He said Cheney’s speech “was pretty positive. He didn’t get too political.”

Protesters denied entry
Protesters who argued they should be allowed on academy grounds to present opposition to Cheney’s pro-war views were denied access by federal judges on Friday.

About 300 people rallied in the village of Highland Falls outside a gate to the post and marched to a park where speakers held signs calling for the impeachment of Cheney and Bush and the return of troops from Iraq.

“They’ll be spending their time in Iraq to protect American corporate oil interests,” protest organizer Ann Wright said.

More than 50 counterprotesters showed up, many with American flags and signs urging support for U.S. troops.

“People should support the troops and they’re going to support the enemy with their protest,” said Jim Dwyer, who was standing with a group called a “Gathering of Eagles” that had hoisted a large American flag on a crane.

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