NEW LONDON, Connecticut – Vice President Dick Cheney told newly minted Coast Guard officers Wednesday that the "war on terror" would be won on their watch and dismissed fears that fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan would drag on indefinitely.
Cheney, sporting a cowboy hat, said the troop surge in Iraq "has succeeded brilliantly."
"The war on terror is a lengthy enterprise, but it does not have to go on forever," he told more than 200 graduating cadets during the 127th commencement at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.
"The only way to lose this fight is to quit. That would be irresponsible," Cheney said. "More than that, quitting would be an act of betrayal and dishonor. And it's not going to happen on our watch."
The commencement address was Cheney's second in four years at the academy. He was joined by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff. President Bush addressed graduates last year.
Cheney told graduates that they will lead a branch of service that is more capable and agile than at any time in its 217-year history.
"From this day forward, you will be America's lifesavers and guardians of the seas," Cheney said. "You'll be there to provide security and to defend our American sovereignty and to enforce this nation's laws against drugs and human smuggling."
He told the cadets they have been given "an immense set of duties" that will cover some 95,000 miles (153,000 kilometers) of U.S. coastline.
The vice president's visit was both cheered and jeered by demonstrators who arrived early outside the main gates.