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THE PRESIDENT: Good evening. I have asked for this time to keep
you informed of America's actions in the war on terror.
Nearly two years ago, following deadly attacks on our country, we
began a systematic campaign against terrorism. These months have been
a time of new responsibilities, and sacrifice, and national resolve and
America and a broad coalition acted first in Afghanistan, by
destroying the training camps of terror, and removing the regime that
harbored al Qaeda. In a series of raids and actions around the world,
nearly two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or
killed, and we continue on al Qaeda's trail. We have exposed terrorist
front groups, seized terrorist accounts, taken new measures to protect
our homeland, and uncovered sleeper cells inside the United States.
And we acted in Iraq, where the former regime sponsored terror,
possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, and for 12 years defied
the clear demands of the United Nations Security Council. Our
coalition enforced these international demands in one of the swiftest
and most humane military campaigns in history.
For a generation leading up to September the 11th, 2001, terrorists
and their radical allies attacked innocent people in the Middle East
and beyond, without facing a sustained and serious response. The
terrorists became convinced that free nations were decadent and weak.
And they grew bolder, believing that history was on their side. Since
America put out the fires of September the 11th, and mourned our dead,
and went to war, history has taken a different turn. We have carried
the fight to the enemy. We are rolling back the terrorist threat to
civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of
This work continues. In Iraq, we are helping the long suffering
people of that country to build a decent and democratic society at the
center of the Middle East. Together we are transforming a place of
torture chambers and mass graves into a nation of laws and free
institutions. This undertaking is difficult and costly -- yet worthy
of our country, and critical to our security.
The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace,
or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives
in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and
tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond would be a grave setback
for international terrorism. The terrorists thrive on the support of
tyrants and the resentments of oppressed peoples. When tyrants fall,
and resentment gives way to hope, men and women in every culture reject
the ideologies of terror, and turn to the pursuits of peace.
Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat.
Our enemies understand this. They know that a free Iraq will be
free of them -- free of assassins, and torturers, and secret police.
They know that as democracy rises in Iraq, all of their hateful
ambitions will fall like the statues of the former dictator. And that
is why, five months after we liberated Iraq, a collection of killers is
desperately trying to undermine Iraq's progress and throw the country
Some of the attackers are members of the old Saddam regime, who
fled the battlefield and now fight in the shadows. Some of the
attackers are foreign terrorists, who have come to Iraq to pursue their
war on America and other free nations. We cannot be certain to what
extent these groups work together. We do know they have a common goal
-- reclaiming Iraq for tyranny.
Most, but not all, of these killers operate in one area of the
country. The attacks you have heard and read about in the last few
weeks have occurred predominantly in the central region of Iraq,
between Baghdad and Tikrit -- Saddam Hussein's former stronghold. The
north of Iraq is generally stable and is moving forward with
reconstruction and self-government. The same trends are evident in the
south, despite recent attacks by terrorist groups.
Though their attacks are localized, the terrorists and Saddam
loyalists have done great harm. They have ambushed American and
British service members -- who stand for freedom and order. They have
killed civilian aid workers of the United Nations -- who represent the
compassion and generosity of the world. They have bombed the Jordanian
embassy -- the symbol of a peaceful Arab country. And last week they
murdered a respected cleric and over a hundred Muslims at prayer --
bombing a holy shrine and a symbol of Islam's peaceful teachings.
This violence is directed not only against our coalition, but
against anyone in Iraq who stands for decency, and freedom and
There is more at work in these attacks than blind rage. The
terrorists have a strategic goal. They want us to leave Iraq before
our work is done. They want to shake the will of the civilized world.
In the past, the terrorists have cited the examples of Beirut and
Somalia, claiming that if you inflict harm on Americans, we will run
from a challenge. In this, they are mistaken.
Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on
terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war, fought on many
fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front. Enemies of
freedom are making a desperate stand there -- and there they must be
defeated. This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do
what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this
essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make
our own nation more secure.
America has done this kind of work before. Following World War II,
we lifted up the defeated nations of Japan and Germany, and stood with
them as they built representative governments. We committed years and
resources to this cause. And that effort has been repaid many times
over in three generations of friendship and peace. America today
accepts the challenge of helping Iraq in the same spirit -- for their
sake, and our own.
Our strategy in Iraq has three objectives: destroying the
terrorists, enlisting the support of other nations for a free Iraq and
helping Iraqis assume responsibility for their own defense and their
First, we are taking direct action against the terrorists in the
Iraqi theater, which is the surest way to prevent future attacks on
coalition forces and the Iraqi people. We are staying on the
offensive, with a series of precise strikes against enemy targets
increasingly guided by intelligence given to us by Iraqi citizens.
Since the end of major combat operations, we have conducted raids
seizing many caches of enemy weapons and massive amounts of ammunition,
and we have captured or killed hundreds of Saddam loyalists and
terrorists. So far, of the 55 most wanted former Iraqi leaders, 42 are
dead or in custody. We are sending a clear message: anyone who seeks
to harm our soldiers can know that our soldiers are hunting for them.
Second, we are committed to expanding international cooperation in
the reconstruction and security of Iraq, just as we are in
Afghanistan. Our military commanders in Iraq advise me that the
current number of American troops -- nearly 130,000 -- is appropriate
to their mission. They are joined by over 20,000 service members from
29 other countries. Two multinational divisions, led by the British
and the Poles, are serving alongside our forces -- and in order to
share the burden more broadly, our commanders have requested a third
multinational division to serve in Iraq.
Some countries have requested an explicit authorization of the
United Nations Security Council before committing troops to Iraq. I
have directed Secretary of State Colin Powell to introduce a new
Security Council resolution, which would authorize the creation of a
multinational force in Iraq, to be led by America.
I recognize that not all of our friends agreed with our decision to
enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein from
power. Yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present
duties. Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the
civilized world, and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized
world. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity -- and
the responsibility -- to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq
becomes a free and democratic nation.
Third, we are encouraging the orderly transfer of sovereignty and
authority to the Iraqi people. Our coalition came to Iraq as
liberators and we will depart as liberators. Right now Iraq has its
own Governing Council, comprised of 25 leaders representing Iraq's
diverse people. The Governing Council recently appointed cabinet
ministers to run government departments. Already more than 90 percent
of towns and cities have functioning local governments, which are
restoring basic services. We're helping to train civil defense forces
to keep order, and an Iraqi police service to enforce the law, a
facilities protection service, Iraqi border guards to help secure the
borders, and a new Iraqi army. In all these roles, there are now some
60,000 Iraqi citizens under arms, defending the security of their own
country, and we are accelerating the training of more.
Iraq is ready to take the next steps toward self-government. The
Security Council resolution we introduce will encourage Iraq's
Governing Council to submit a plan and a timetable for the drafting of
a constitution and for free elections. From the outset, I have
expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi people to govern
themselves. Now they must rise to the responsibilities of a free
people and secure the blessings of their own liberty.
Our strategy in Iraq will require new resources. We have conducted
a thorough assessment of our military and reconstruction needs in Iraq,
and also in Afghanistan. I will soon submit to Congress a request for
$87 billion. The request will cover ongoing military and intelligence
operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, which we expect will
cost $66 billion over the next year. This budget request will also
support our commitment to helping the Iraqi and Afghan people rebuild
their own nations, after decades of oppression and mismanagement. We
will provide funds to help them improve security. And we will help
them to restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to
build new schools, roads, and medical clinics. This effort is
essential to the stability of those nations, and therefore, to our own
security. Now and in the future, we will support our troops and we
will keep our word to the more than 50 million people of Afghanistan
Later this month, Secretary Powell will meet with representatives
of many nations to discuss their financial contributions to the
reconstruction of Afghanistan. Next month, he will hold a similar
funding conference for the reconstruction of Iraq. Europe, Japan and
states in the Middle East all will benefit from the success of freedom
in these two countries, and they should contribute to that success.
The people of Iraq are emerging from a long trial. For them, there
will be no going back to the days of the dictator, to the miseries and
humiliation he inflicted on that good country. For the Middle East and
the world, there will be no going back to the days of fear, when a
brutal and aggressive tyrant possessed terrible weapons. And for
America, there will be no going back to the era before September the
11th, 2001 -- to false comfort in a dangerous world. We have learned
that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength; they are
invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid
attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and
plans. We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so
that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.
The heaviest burdens in our war on terror fall, as always, on the
men and women of our Armed Forces and our intelligence services. They
have removed gathering threats to America and our friends, and this
nation takes great pride in their incredible achievements. We are
grateful for their skill and courage, and for their acts of decency,
which have shown America's character to the world. We honor the
sacrifice of their families. And we mourn every American who has died
so bravely, so far from home.
The Americans who assume great risk overseas understand the great
cause they are in. Not long ago I received a letter from a captain in
the 3rd Infantry Division in Baghdad. He wrote about his pride in
serving a just cause, and about the deep desire of Iraqis for liberty.
"I see it," he said, "in the eyes of a hungry people every day here.
They are starved for freedom and opportunity." And he concluded, "I
just thought you'd like a note from the 'front lines of freedom.'"
That Army captain, and all of our men and women serving in the war on
terror, are on the front lines of freedom. And I want each of them to
know, your country thanks you, and your country supports you.
Fellow citizens: We've been tested these past 24 months, and the
dangers have not passed. Yet Americans are responding with courage and
confidence. We accept the duties of our generation. We are active and
resolute in our own defense. We are serving in freedom's cause -- and
that is the cause of all mankind.