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Staying on Offense Key to Defeating Terrorism, Bush Says

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2005 – The Sept. 11, 2001, attacks showed that the United States could no longer ignore the threat of global terrorism and that America must go on the attack, President Bush said during a nationally televised address Dec. 18.

The United States did not start the war against global terrorism, Bush pointed out. Terrorists flew commercial airliners into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City, crashed another plane into the Pentagon, and commandeered another that crashed in a Pennsylvania field.

"On that day, we were not in Iraq, we were not in Afghanistan," Bush said, "but the terrorists attacked us anyway and killed nearly 3,000 men, women and children in our own country." Those deadly attacks changed U.S. policy toward terrorism, Bush said.

"September the 11th, 2001, required us to take every emerging threat to our country seriously," the president said, "and it shattered the illusion that terrorists attack us only after we provoke them."

Going on the offense against global terrorists is the only way to defeat them and make America safe, Bush said. "We do not create terrorism by fighting the terrorists. We invite terrorism by ignoring them," Bush said. "And we will defeat the terrorists by capturing and killing them abroad, removing their safe havens, and strengthening new allies -- like Iraq and Afghanistan -- in the fight we share."

Bush said he was responsible for the decision that sent U.S. forces into Iraq in March 2003 and that it was right to remove Saddam from power. The former dictator, now incarcerated and being tried for crimes against humanity, was a murderous ruler and a threat to world peace, Bush said.

"Saddam Hussein, captured and jailed, is still the same raging tyrant, only now without a throne," Bush said. "His power to harm a single man, woman or child is gone forever, and the world is better for it."

Bush acknowledged that post-war stabilization and reconstruction in Iraq has taken longer than originally thought. "The work in Iraq has been especially difficult, more difficult than we expected," Bush said.

"Reconstruction efforts and the training of Iraqi security forces started more slowly than we hoped," he noted. "We continue to see violence and suffering caused by an enemy that is determined and brutal, unconstrained by conscience or the rules of war."

Yet, U.S., coalition and Iraqi forces are achieving much headway against the terrorists, who see Iraq as another battlefield -- like Afghanistan -- and a contest of wills, Bush said.

"The terrorists do not merely object to American actions in Iraq and elsewhere; they object to our deepest values and way of life," Bush said. "And if we were not fighting them in Iraq and Afghanistan, in Southeast Asia and in other places, the terrorists would not be peaceful citizens.

"They would be on the offense and headed our way," he said.

Although these are difficult times, the war in Iraq is not lost, as some critics may think, the president said. "I don't believe that. Our military commanders do not believe that. Our troops in the field who bear the burden and make the sacrifices do not believe that American has lost," he said.

The terrorists hate the idea of a democratic Iraq, Bush said, pointing to Iraq's successful Dec. 15 nationwide elections.

"We know from their own communications that they feel a tightening noose and fear the rise of a democratic Iraq," Bush said. In desperation, the terrorists in Iraq will continue to employ roadside bombs and recruit suicide bombers in cowardly attempts to obtain headlines, he said. "This proves the war is difficult; it doesn't mean that we are losing," he said.

Steady gains are being made in establishing a new democratic Iraq, despite terrorists' counter efforts, Bush said. He said the strategy for victory over the terrorists in Iraq employs three elements: security, democracy and reconstruction.

First, U.S., coalition and Iraqi troops are staying on the offensive against the terrorists and securing territory, Bush said. As they increase in numbers and capability Iraqi security forces are taking over more and more security duties, he said.

Second, the U.S. and its allies are helping the new Iraqi government establish institutions required for a unified and lasting democracy, Bush said. On Dec. 15 more than 10 million Iraqis voted for a new government assembly, he said, noting that many of those voters were Sunnis who boycotted the Jan. 30 elections.

Third, after initial setbacks, reconstruction efforts to restore Iraq's infrastructure and economy are moving vigorously forward, Bush said.

"Iraqis are optimistic and that optimism is justified," Bush said, noting that two-thirds of Iraqis polled believe their lives will improve in the coming year.

The president said he sees the consequences of his decision to depose Hussein when he visits wounded servicemembers and the families of those who've fallen. "I see the consequences when I talk to parents who miss a child so much but tell me he loved being a soldier, he believed in his mission, and, 'Mr. President, finish the job,'" he said.

Bush acknowledged that not all Americans agree with his decisions regarding Iraq, noting none of those decisions was taken lightly. Yet, Bush said, he's sure of victory in Iraq.

"I have never been more certain that America's actions in Iraq are essential to the security of our citizens and will lay the foundation of peace for our children and grandchildren," Bush said.

Americans will soon observe Christmas, Hanukkah and other holiday celebrations, Bush said. And many families will be praying for the safety of loved ones deployed far from home in Iraq, Afghanistan and other dangerous places.

"We pray for the safety and strength of our troops," Bush said. "We trust with them in a love that conquers all fear, in a light that reaches the darkest corners of the Earth."

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