Chertoff encourages audience to continue support for Iraq war

Wednesday, October 17, 2007 | 11:21 p.m. CDT; updated 3:16 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008
Michael Chertoff

Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff spoke Wednesday afternoon at Westminster College in Fulton, urging the public to maintain support for the Bush Administration’s continued military deployment in Iraq.

Chertoff, speaking at the college’s Champ Auditorium, compared the staunch foreign outlook that Churchill took during World War II to President Bush’s War on Terror.

“Recognize that Churchill’s skepticism against the global optimism driven by wishful thinking was a very courageous step,” Chertoff said.

In his speech, Chertoff insisted the American public should remain steadfast in their support of the Bush Administration’s war on terrorism.

“Simply put, this is how ideological fanatics view the world. Whether it’s Hitler or Stalin, Bin Laden or president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, for every fanatic, weakness is provocation, and that’s why we have to remain strong,” he said.

Chertoff, 53, took over as the nation’s second secretary for the Homeland Security Department in February 2005, succeeding former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge.

After his speech, which was titled “The Battle for Our Future,” Chertoff fielded questions from audience members. Questions included criticisms of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to Hurricane Katrina, the USA Patriot Act, Guantanamo Bay and the capture of Osama bin Laden.

“His speech was very well thought-out and articulated, and I think especially handling the controversial issues that the students brought up,” Jane Forsythe of Fulton said. “He handled it well, appreciating the fact that some of the students were going to perhaps disagree with his points and with the administration’s policies.”

Harry Hall, a Navy veteran who listened over a loud speaker to Churchill’s famed “Iron Curtain” speech at Westminster in 1946, said he supports the points Chertoff made.

“I think he’s on the right track,” Hall said. “We are at war with terrorism, and we better get to the point that we realize it.”

Westminster has hosted several speeches from national and international leaders, including former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev and former Polish President and Nobel Peace Prize winner Lech Walesa.

Ron Crouch, a spokesman for Westminster College, said the event provided the students with a different political outlook on current events.

“It’s always important that at a liberal arts college, students get diverse points of view,” he said.

Chertoff’s personal admiration for Churchill helped bring the Homeland Security chief to Fulton.

“Winston Churchill obviously elevated the stature of the college as a place for important ideas to be expressed,” Crouch said.

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