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President Says U.S. Will Continue Anti-Terror Mission, 'Period'

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 11, 2003 – "We will finish the mission we have begun, period," President Bush said during a Veterans Day speech at the Heritage Foundation here today.

Bush said that two years into the war on terror, the United States cannot afford to appear weak. He contrasted the decision Harry S. Truman made to launch the Berlin Airlift to the current war on terror.

In 1948, Berlin, surrounded by the Soviets, was isolated and in danger of starvation. Bush said the whole world watched to see if America would back down. "In an urgent meeting, all the alternatives were discussed, including retreat," the president said. "When the moment of decision came, President Harry Truman said this: 'We stay in Berlin, period. We stay in Berlin, come what may.'"

Truman's decision stopped the Soviet advance across Europe, and set the stage for the later liberation of the region from communism, Bush said. The same is possible in the war on terror.

"We are not only containing the terrorist threat, we are turning it back," he said. "We believe that freedom is the right of every person. We believe that freedom is the hope of every culture. We believe that freedom is the future of every nation in the Middle East. And we know as Americans that the advance of freedom is the surest path to peace."

Bush said American service members are fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan to secure freedom for those peoples. By doing so, they advance the cause of liberty and make the world safer. "Our men and women are fighting to help democracy, and peace and justice rise in a troubled and violent region," Bush said. "Our men and women are fighting terrorist enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and center of their power so that we do not face those enemies in the heart of America. Our men and women are fighting for the security of America and for the advance of freedom, and that is a cause worth fighting for."

The president said conditions in Iraq and Afghanistan are tough, but accomplishing the mission in those countries is essential for peace in America. He said the failure to establish representative democracies in those countries "would extinguish the democratic hopes of millions in the Middle East."

Coalition failures in those countries would mean new breeding grounds for terrorism. "The failure of democracy in those two countries would convince terrorists that America backs down under attack, and more attacks on America would surely follow," Bush said.

But success in the region would be contagious, and the "stagnation and isolation and anger of that region will give way to progress and opportunity," he said. "America and the world will be safer from catastrophic violence, because terror is not the tool of the free."

The enemy in Iraq is tough. Bush said the Baath Party loyalists and Fedayeen fighters and others have organized to attack coalition forces, to terrorize international aid workers and to murder innocent Iraqis. "These bitter holdouts would rather see Iraqis dead than see them free," he said.

Enemies are also creeping across borders to attack coalition personnel and Iraqis supporting a new Iraq. He said foreign jihadists including al Qaeda are infiltrating into the country and attempting to link up with home-grown groups, such as Ansar al Islam, and Baath loyalists to attack the coalition.

"Saddam loyalists and foreign terrorists may have different long-term goals, but they share a near-term strategy: to terrorize Iraqis and to intimidate America and our allies," Bush said. "Recent reporting suggests that despite their differences, these killers are working together to spread chaos and terror and fear."

But the coalition will take the fight to the terrorists. "Our coalition is on the offensive in Iraq, and we will stay on the offensive," he said.

Bush said the coalition has a good ally in the majority of the Iraqi people. He said the people can see who is killing them and who is working toward a better Iraq. "Our coalition is training new police. The terrorists are trying to kill them," Bush said.

"We're protecting pipelines and power plants for the good of the Iraqi people. The terrorists are trying to blow them up. We're turning authority over to Iraqi leaders. The terrorists are trying to assassinate them. We're offering aid and self-rule and hope for the future. The terrorists offer nothing but oppression and death.

"The vast majority of Iraqis know exactly what is going on in their country today. Having seen the worst of tyranny, the Iraqi people will reject the return of tyranny."

Bush spoke at length about American service members on the front lines of the war on terror. "We come to this Veterans Day in a time of war," the president said. "And today's military is acting in the finest traditions of the veterans who came before them. They've given all that we've asked of them. They're showing bravery in the face of ruthless enemies, and compassion to people in great need. Our men and women in uniform are warriors and they are liberators, strong and kind and decent. By their courage, they keep us safe. By their honor, they make us proud."

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