Bush: Sept. 11 Lessons Still Relevant in War on Terror
By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Mar. 22, 2006 As more time passes since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Americans must not forget the lessons of that fateful day - lessons that are being applied today in the global war on terror, President Bush said today in Wheeling, W.Va.
"The job of those of us who have been entrusted to protect you and defend you is really to do so in such a way that you feel comfortable about going about your life. And it's fine that people forget the lessons (of Sept. 11), but one of my jobs is to constantly remind people of the lessons," Bush said to an audience of military families in the Capitol Music Hall.
An important lesson from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks is that oceans can no longer protect the United States from its enemies, Bush said. The terrorists brought the fight home to America that day and declared war on this country's way of life, and the United States has to take their declaration seriously, he said.
Sept. 11 also taught U.S. leaders that the best way to defend America is to stay on the offensive against terrorists, Bush said. All the strength of the national government is being rallied to find terrorists where they hide and to keep pressure on them, he said.
"There's some unbelievably brave troops and intelligence officers working around the clock to keep an enemy that would like to strike us again on the move and to bring them to justice," he said.
Another lesson from Sept. 11 is that the enemy in the war on terror is not a nation state, but is a highly adaptive group of people that needs a safe haven from which to operate, Bush said. For a time, the terrorists had a safe haven in Afghanistan, he said, but U.S. forces cleaned them out and liberated 25 million people.
"That's important for us to realize, that not only are we defending ourselves, but in this instance we've given a chance to people to realize the beauties of freedom," he said.
Liberty is not just an American ideal, but is universal and should be shared with countries that desire freedom, Bush said. Americans should be eager to promote liberty around the world, remembering the principles this country was founded on, he said.
"We were founded on the natural rights of men and women; that speaks to the universality of liberty," he said. "And we must never forget the origin of our own founding as we look around the world."
Sept. 11 taught America that threats need to be taken seriously, Bush said. The world saw a threat in Saddam Hussein, and so took action to prevent terror and weapons of mass destruction from coming together, he said.
"That was Saddam Hussein's choice to disclose, disarm or face serious consequences," he said. "And he made the choice. And then I was confronted with a choice. And I made my choice, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power."
Iraq is only part of the global war on terror, but the United States has a strategy for victory there that encompasses political, security and economic development, Bush said. As progress continues, the most important thing is for Iraqis to take responsibility for their own country and form a strong government, he said.
"It's the Iraqis' fight," he said. "Ultimately, the Iraqis are going to have to determine their future. They've made their decision politically -- they voted. And these troops that we're training are going to have to stand up and defend their democracy."
Iraq's government had a chance to fall apart amid the sectarian violence that erupted after the Feb. 22 bombing of a mosque in Samarra, Bush said, but the political leaders united and the Iraqi security forces stepped up and prevented the country from falling into civil war.
A free Iraq is important to the United States, not only because it removes a threat, but also because it provides an example of freedom and reform for the broader Middle East and the rest of the world, Bush said. There is tough work ahead in the war on terror, but it is important work to lay a foundation of peace for generations to come, he said.
"History has proven democracies do not fight each other," he said. "Democracies can yield peace we want, so let's advance freedom."