Update in the War on Terror
September 7, 2003
Good evening. I have asked for this time
to keep you informed of America's actions in the war on
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 great progress.
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 its power.
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
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
This violence is directed not only against our coalition,
but against anyone in Iraq who stands for decency, and
freedom and progress.
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 own future.
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
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 and Iraq.
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
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.
Thank you, and may God continue to bless America.
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