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Bush Praises Citizen Soldiers, Affirms Nation's Resolve

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Oct. 9, 2003 - Citizen soldiers are "serving on every front in the war on terror, " an, Oct. 9, 2003 – You're guarding suspected terrorists at Guantanamo Bay, (and) preparing for homeland security missions."

The president cited the sacrifice, uncertainty and separation reserve component members must endure. "Your lives can be changed in a moment with the sudden call to duty," he said. "I want to thank you for your willingness to heed that important call."

Bush also acknowledged the families of Guard and Reserve forces. "I want to thank your sons, daughters, your husbands and wives, who share in your sacrifice -- who are willing to sacrifice for our country and to stand behind you," he said.

Noting the current world situation, the president reminded the assembled Guard and Reserve members of their work's importance.

"You're serving at a time of testing for this nation, and we're meeting the tests of history," he said. "We're defeating the enemies of freedom."

Recalling the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, Bush said Americans have shown resolve in confronting the challenges.

"Every test of America has revealed the character of America," the president said. "And after the last two years, no one in the world - friend or foe - can doubt the will and the character and the strength of the American people."

Bush said the challenges ahead "cannot be met with timid actions or bitter words." Optimism, resolve and confidence in the nation's ideals are the means of meeting those challenges, he said, along with continuing to take the offensive in the war on terror.

"Sept. 11, 2001, moved our country to grief and moved our country to action. We made a pledge that day, and we have kept it," he said. "We will bring the guilty to justice. We will take the fight to the enemy."

Noting that terrorists plot in secret, prey on the innocent, "defile a great religion" and hate everything America stands for, Bush said negotiations and appeasement won't stop them.

"They must be found, they must be fought, and they must be defeated," he said.

Calling the war on terror a "new kind of war," Bush said America has adopted a new strategy.

"We're not waiting for further attacks," he said. "We're striking our enemies before they can strike us again."

With two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders either captured or killed, the president had a message for those who remain at large.

"No matter how long it takes," he said, "all who plot against America will face the justice of America. We have sent a message understood throughout the world: If you harbor a terrorist, if you support a terrorist, if you feed a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorists - and the Taliban found out what we meant."

Turning to Iraq, Bush said Saddam Hussein's regime used weapons of mass destruction, sponsored terrorist groups and inflicted terror on the Iraqi people.

"Nearly every nation recognized and denounced this threat for over a decade," he said. "Last year the U.N. Security Council, in Resolution 1441, demanded that Saddam Hussein disarm, prove his disarmament to the world or face serious consequences. The choice was up to the dictator, and he chose poorly.

"I acted because I was not about to leave the security of the American people in the hands of a madman," Bush continued. "I was not about to stand by and wait, and trust in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein. So our coalition acted in one of the swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history. And six months ago today, the statue of the dictator was pulled down."

The president pointed out that weapons inspectors have found evidence in Iraq of secret biological laboratories, advanced design work on prohibited long-range missiles and an elaborate campaign to hide the programs.

"There is still much to investigate," he said, "but it is now undeniable that Saddam Hussein was in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441. It is undeniable that Saddam Hussein was a deceiver, and a danger.

"The Security Council was right to demand that Saddam Hussein disarm," the president continued, "and we were right to enforce that demand."

Bush said the only "decent and humane reaction" to Saddam's fall is "Good riddance."

Despite actions taken so far and the progress that has been made, the president warned, the danger is not over. He listed a litany of places where terrorism has claimed lives since the Sept. 11 attacks, said terrorists continue to plot, and cautioned that America must not forget the lessons of Sept. 11.

"I believe America has only one option," he said. "We must fight this war until our work is done."

Calling Iraq the "central front" in the war on terror, Bush said remnants of Saddam's regime and foreign terrorists in "are trying desperately to undermine Iraq's progress and to throw that country into chaos." He said the terrorists believe their attacks on innocent people will weaken America's resolve result in abandonment of its efforts.

"The United States did not run from Germany or Japan following World War II," Bush said. "We helped those nations become strong and decent democratic societies that no longer waged war on America.

"And that's our mission in Iraq today," he continued. The president noted schools and hospitals are being rebuilt and reopened in Iraq, children are being immunized, and water and electricity are being restored.

"A stable and democratic and hopeful Iraq will no longer be a breeding ground for terror, tyranny and aggression," he said. "Our work in Iraq is essential to our own security, and no band of murderers of gangsters will stop that work or shake the will of America."

Of the 55 most wanted former Iraqi leaders portrayed in a deck of playing cards, Bush said 43 have been killed or captured. "And the other 12 have a lot to worry about," he added. "Anyone who seeks to hunt our soldiers can know that our soldiers are hunting for them."

The president said the military has served with "great courage," and that the nation grieves for those who have given their lives.

"We mourn every loss. We honor every name. We grieve with every family. And we will always be grateful that liberty has found such brave defenders," he said.

Bush noted that more than 30 nations are contributing military forces to the effort in Iraq, and that the Iraqi people have begun the process of self- government and taking responsibility for their country's security.

"Our goal in Iraq is to leave behind a stable, self-governing society," he said, "which will no longer be a threat to the Middle East or to the United States. We're following an orderly plan to reach this goal." He cited the new Iraqi Governing Council and the interim ministers it has appointed, and that the next step in Iraqi self-government is a new constitution, followed by elections.

"We want this process to go as quickly as possible," he said, "yet it must be done right. The free institutions of Iraq must stand the test of time, and a democratic Iraq will stand as an example to all the Middle East."

The effort in Iraq has been long and hard, Bush said, and it's not finished. He said the United States "will stay the course" and complete the job.

"And beyond Iraq," he added, "the war on terror continues. There will be no quick victory in this war, (but) we will persevere, and victory is certain."

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