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Bush Salutes 3rd ID's Exploits in Iraq

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Sept. 12, 2003 – The commander in chief met today with 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized) soldiers at their Georgia base, praising them for their performance in the war against global terrorism.

At Fort Stewart, Ga., President George Bush presented 3rd ID commander Maj. Gen. Buford C. Blount III with a Presidential Unit Citation in recognition of the division's role in the U.S.-coalition military campaign in Iraq that ended the rule of former dictator Saddam Hussein.

The 3rd ID was in the vanguard in the successful drive for Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Bush noted, saying the unit performed "brilliantly" in Iraq.

"You made history. You've made our nation proud. And, you have earned the Presidential Unit Citation," Bush told cheering 3rd ID soldiers.

"Our nation is grateful," the president said, and he also thanked the soldiers' families for their support.

Only recently returned to Fort Stewart after nine months of duty in Iraq, Bush noted that 3rd ID troops had previously fought in Afghanistan and hunted terrorists in Pakistan.

The 3rd ID's soldiers, Bush recounted, launched the U.S.-coalition offensive into Iraq, defeated the enemy in Najaf, secured Saddam Hussein International Airport, and seized Saddam's palaces.

"And, you led the fighting into Baghdad the day the statue of the dictator was pulled down," the president said, drawing more cheers from the troops.

Following the April 9, 2003, liberation of the Iraqi people, Bush said, "3rd ID soldiers have helped the Iraqi people to recover from years of oppression and (to) begin the work of building a free Iraq."

The war against global terrorism, Bush remarked, was precipitated by the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America which killed more than 3,000 innocent people.

"On a single morning, we suffered the highest casualties on our own soil since the Civil War," Bush pointed out, noting that today America "faces an enemy that rejects the rules of war and rejoices in the murder of the innocent."

Since 9-11, America has responded strongly against al Qaeda, other terror networks and their supporters, the president said, noting "we are bringing the guilty to justice; we are taking the fight to the enemy" in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere around the world.

"We are not waiting for further attacks on our citizens," Bush explained, noting instead the United States is "striking our enemies before they can strike us again."

The war on terrorism, he declared, "will be won on the offensive."

In confronting terrorism in places like Afghanistan and Iraq, Bush noted the United States "is rolling back the terrorist threat, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power."

In Afghanistan, Bush noted, U.S. and coalition forces removed the Taliban, a regime that "harbored al Qaeda and ruled by terror."

Bush said Operation Enduring Freedom sent this message to global terrorists: "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," he declared, "found out what we meant."

Because of U.S.-coalition military action in Afghanistan, "Americans are safer from attack," the president emphasized.

The United States and its allies "are making good progress" in the worldwide hunt for al Qaeda members, Bush said, noting two-thirds of that terror network's key operatives have been either captured or killed.

Those al Qaeda operatives still at large "are still dangerous," Bush acknowledged. But, he noted, "We're on their trail."

He pledged, "No matter how long it takes, we will bring justice to those who plot against America."

And, thanks to the successful U.S.-coalition military campaign in Iraq, "catastrophic weapons will no longer be in the hands of a reckless dictator."

After his talk to the troops, the commander in chief met with Fort Stewart military family members who'd lost loved ones in Iraq, a day after he visited with wounded troops being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

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