War on Terror the Calling of a Generation, Bush Says
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 19, 2004 The war on terrorism is "an inescapable calling of our generation," President Bush said today at the White House.
Bush marked the one-year anniversary of the start of military operations to topple Saddam Hussein with a measured statement of coalition goals. He spoke to an audience of military, legislative and international allies in the East Room of the White House.
The president praised the 84 countries that have joined with the United States in the fight against terrorism. "The establishment of a free Iraq is our fight," Bush said. "The success of a free Afghanistan is our fight. The war on terror is our fight. All of us are called to share the blessings of liberty and to be strong and steady in freedom's defense."
The president stressed that there is no neutral ground between good and evil. Bush said terrorists object to the very existence of free nations. He said there is no middle ground between the sides, and no concession "will appease their hatred."
He said the terrorists' ultimate goals are to dominate the people of the Middle East and to blackmail the rest of the world through weapons of mass terror. The president said the terrorist mindset "rejoices in suicide, incites murder and celebrates every death we mourn."
Those who oppose the terrorists, the president said, must be equally clear on what they defend. "We do love life, the life given to us and to all," Bush said. "We believe in the values that uphold the dignity of life: tolerance and freedom and the right of conscience. And we know that this way of life is worth defending."
Operations begun March 19, 2003, freed more than 25 million Iraqis from the vicious dictatorship of Saddam Hussein. "For Iraq it was a day of deliverance," Bush said. "For the nations of our coalition it was the moment when years of demands and pledges turned to decisive action. Today, as Iraqis join the free peoples of the world, we mark a turning point for the Middle East and a crucial advance for human liberty."
Bush said it is time to put past disagreements away. "All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator has removed a source of violence, aggression and instability in the Middle East," he said. He also said that all may agree that the actions last year proved that dictators cannot ignore the will of the world voiced through the United Nations.
"It is a good thing that years of illicit weapons developed by the dictator have come to the end," he said. "It is a good thing that the Iraqi people are now receiving aid instead of suffering under sanctions. And it's a good thing that the men and women across the Middle East looking to Iraq are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can be like."
Bush said challenges remain. Coalition forces including more than 200,000 Iraqis are dealing with remnants of the regime and foreign terrorists. "No one can argue that the Iraqi people would be better off with the thugs and murderers back in the palaces," he said. "Who would prefer that Saddam's torture chambers still be open? Who would wish that more mass graves were still being filled? Who would begrudge the Iraqi people their long-awaited liberation?"
The president praised the military personnel and civilians who helped in the liberation. "They've served in freedom's cause, and that is a privilege," he said.
And it is not just a military effort, the president said. All aspects of national power diplomacy, law enforcement, financial, intelligence and others are zeroing in on terrorist organizations, he explained.
And it is not just al Qaeda that the coalition is fighting, Bush added. The coalition is working against Ansar al-Islam in Iraq, Jemaah Islamiyah in Indonesia, Abu Sayyaf in the Philippines and many other groups. The coalition is dedicated to bringing these groups to justice, he said.
Bush called Iraq a main battleground in the war on terror. The terrorists understand, the president said, that a free, democratic, prosperous Iraq will be a serious blow against their aims to control the Middle East. "They've made the failure of democracy in Iraq one of their primary objectives," the president said. "By attacking coalition forces, by targeting innocent Iraqis and foreign civilians for murder, the terrorists are trying to weaken our will. Instead of weakness, they are finding resolve."
It will not be an easy road, the president said, but the coalition must continue on that road together. "It will surely be said of our times that we lived with great challenges," he said. "Let it also be said of our times that we understood our great duties, and met them in full."