Bush: West Point Grads Answer History's Call to Duty
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, June 1, 2002 President Bush today told graduates of U.S. Military Academy's Class of 2002 at West Point, N.Y., that America's war against terrorism is an unprecedented confrontation between good and evil.
In his commencement address, Bush noted that academy grads did their part to protect the nation and to fight foes of freedom during 20th century conflicts. He pointed to the Class of 1942, which went forth to battle totalitarianism after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
"History has also issued its call to your generation," he told the graduates, adding that during their last year, "America was attacked by a ruthless and resourceful enemy."
Bush noted the new officers are graduating "in a time of war, taking your place in an American military that is powerful and honorable."
America's war on terrorism "is only begun, ... but in Afghanistan it was begun well," Bush said. The course of the anti-terror war is unpredictable, he said, but "wherever we carry it, the American flag will stand not only for our power, but for freedom.
"We fight as we always fight, for a just peace, a peace that favors human liberty," he explained. "We will defend the peace against threats from terrorists and tyrants."
Bush said peace would be preserved and extended by building good relations among nations and promoting free and open societies.
"Building this just peace is America's opportunity and America's duty," Bush said. "It is your challenge as well, and we will meet this challenge together."
In defending peace, America now faces a threat without precedent, Bush said. Today's terrorists don't need powerful armies and considerable industrial capability to challenge the United States as did past enemies, he noted.
"The attacks of Sept. 11 required a few hundred thousand dollars in the hands of a few dozen evil and deluded men," Bush explained. "All of the chaos and suffering they caused came at much less than the cost of a single tank."
The chief danger to freedom today "lies at the perilous crossroads of radicalism and technology," Bush emphasized. Terrorists and some states unfriendly to America are seeking out weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them, he said.
"When that occurs, even weak states and small groups could obtain a catastrophic power to strike at great nations," Bush continued, "Our enemies have declared this very intention. ... They want the capability to blackmail us or to harm us, or to harm our friends. And we will oppose them with all our power."
Combating terrorism, Bush said, requires new thinking. Past deterrence methods, such as the possibility of massive military retaliation, mean nothing to shadowy terrorist networks that lack a nation or citizens to defend, he said.
"We cannot defend America and our allies by hoping for the best," he said. America and its allies must boldly confront global terrorism and the states that support terrorists, he contended.
"If we wait for threats to fully materialize, we will have waited too long," he said.
Homeland and missile defense are top U.S. security priorities, Bush noted, but "the war on terror will not be won on the defensive. We must take the battle to the enemy, disrupt his plans and confront the worst threats before they emerge. In the world we have entered, the only path to safety is the path to action. And this nation will act."
America's military, Bush noted, is being transformed so it "is ready to strike at a moment's notice in any dark corner of the world." He called on all Americans "to be ready for pre-emptive action, when necessary, to defend our liberty and to defend our lives."
The way ahead in the fight against global terrorism will be difficult with complex choices, Bush noted. America and her allies "must uncover terror cells in 60 or more countries," he said, and use all available financial, intelligence and law enforcement means to do so.
America and its friends and allies must also oppose the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and "confront regimes that sponsor terror, as each case requires," Bush said.
He said the United States would employ diplomacy in the war against global terrorism, when needed. "And we will send you, our soldiers, where you're needed. All nations that decide for aggression and terror will pay a price," he told the graduates.
"We will not leave the safety of America, and the peace of the planet, at the mercy of a few mad terrorists and tyrants," he said. "We will lift this dark threat from the country and the world."
Bush said the war on terror requires American resolve, patience and a firm, moral purpose, such as displayed during the Cold War.
Cold War leaders like Presidents Kennedy and Reagan gave hope to people imprisoned by communism because they "refused to gloss over the brutality of tyrants," he said.
"Moral truth is the same in every culture, in every time, and in every place," he said, making the case that terrorism is as morally bankrupt as Cold War-era communism. "Targeting innocent civilians for murder is always and everywhere, wrong. Brutality against women is always and everywhere, wrong.
"We are in a conflict between good and evil, and America will call evil by its name," he said. "We will lead the world in opposing it."
Bush noted that countries worldwide are finding common ground in the fight against terrorism -- and in other matters. He noted Russia is reaching for democracy and is a partner in the war against terror. China leaders, he added, are discovering that economic freedom is the only lasting source of national wealth.
"When the great powers share common values, we are better able to confront serious regional conflicts together, better able to cooperate in preventing the spread of violence or economic chaos," he said. "In the past, great power rivals took sides in difficult regional problems, making divisions deeper and more complicated.
"Today, from the Middle East to South Asia, we're gathering broad international coalitions to increase the pressure for peace. We must build strong great power relations when times are good to help manage crisis when times are bad.
Bush said America needs partners "to preserve the peace and we will need partners to share this noble goal."
Looking toward peace after defeating the terrorists, "we have a great opportunity to replace poverty, repression, and resentment around the world with hope for a better day," Bush said.
The war against global terrorism isn't a clash of cultures, Bush said, noting, "the peoples of the Islamic nations want and deserve the same freedoms and opportunities as people in every nation, and their governments should listen to their hopes.
"A truly strong nation will permit legal avenues of dissent for all groups that pursue their aspirations without violence," he continued. "An advancing nation will pursue economic reform to release the great entrepreneurial energy of its people. A thriving nation will respect the rights of women because no society can prosper while denying opportunity to half its citizens."
Bush said, "Mothers and fathers and children across the Islamic world and all (over) the world share the same fears and aspirations. In poverty they struggle, in tyranny they suffer, and as we saw in Afghanistan, in liberation, they celebrate."
"You will stand between your fellow citizens and grave danger, face times of calm and crisis," Bush told the class. "Every test will find you prepared because you are the men and women of West Point, marked by the character of this academy."
"Today, you begin a life of service in a career unlike any other," Bush continued. "May you always be worthy of the long gray line that stretches two centuries behind you.
"On behalf of the nation, I congratulate each one of you for the commission you have earned and the credit you bring to the United States of America. May God bless you all."