Bush Pledges to Hunt Terrorists, Calls for Quick Budget Approval
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, March 15, 2002 President Bush told soldiers and airmen at Fayetteville, N.C., that the United States has finished the first phase of the war on terrorism and is entering the second stage of what he believes will be a long struggle.
The service members and their families from Fort Bragg and neighboring Pope Air Force Base chanted "USA, USA!" as the president was introduced. The area is home to many of the special operations forces that have deployed to various parts of the world to fight against al Qaeda and other terror organizations.
Bush said routing the Taliban from power in Afghanistan ended the first phase of the war. Now begins "a sustained campaign, a tireless, relentless campaign, to deny sanctuary, to deny safe haven to terrorists who would threaten citizens anywhere in the world, threaten our way of life, threaten our friends, threaten our allies," he said. "These terrorists are now on the run, and we intend to keep them on the run."
Bush praised the American military for its part in the war. He said that early on he made no distinction between terrorists and those who harbor them. "Thanks to the mighty United States military, the Taliban found out exactly what I meant," he said.
But while U.S. forces have again proved themselves the best in the world, he said, "The world has seen we are not conquerors; we're liberators. We fight for freedom, and at the same time we have saved a people from mass starvation. We fight for freedom, but at the same time we're clearing away minefields, rebuilding roads and opening up hospitals.
"We fight for freedom, and yet, next week, schools will reopen in Afghanistan and ... many young girls will go to school for the first time in their lives."
Bush said that in the six months since the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States has made a lot of progress. He told the crowd that the terrorists have figured out that they picked on the wrong people. "They must have thought we were soft," he said. "They must have thought we were so materialistic that we wouldn't fight for values that we loved. They must have thought that we were so self-absorbed that the word 'sacrifice' had left the American vocabulary. And, my, were they wrong."
Bush said that thousands of terrorists have been brought to justice around the world. "But I want you to know, my fellow citizens, we will not relent," he said. "We will not slow down until the threat of global terrorism has been destroyed. I have made this message clear to the American people. I have made this message clear to our vast coalition. And I've made this message clear to our enemies -- and our military has delivered the message."
Bush said the terrorist strategy is to try to regroup and hit America or its allies again. He said the groups being hunted today are the most committed, the most dangerous, the least likely to surrender.
The United States has an answering strategy. The president repeated his comments from his Sept. 11 six-month remembrance ceremony at the White House on March 11.
"We want every terrorist to be made to live like an international fugitive, on the run, with no place to settle, no place to organize, no place to hide, no governments to hide behind, not even a safe place to sleep," he said. "And we're going to stay at it. You watch, we're going to stay at it for however long it takes."
While the terrorists are on the run, he warned, the United States and its allies must take seriously the possibility that terror groups may obtain weapons of mass destruction. Bush said the world must prevent the spread of such weapons because "there is no margin for error and there is no chance to learn from any mistake."
He said the United States "will not let the most dangerous regimes in the world team up with killers and, therefore, hold this great nation hostage. Whatever it takes to defend the liberty of America, this administration will do."
Bush reiterated that the U.S. military in the coming years would have all it needs to fight the battle against terrorism. He said that just as service members have responsibilities, he does, too.
"At every stage of the war on terror, I can assure you our actions will be carefully planned and carefully prepared," he vowed. "Our objectives will be clear. We will be deliberate, but when we act, we'll be decisive. I will give clear orders, and I will make sure that you have every tool you need to do your job." Cheers erupted after this statement.
Bush used the stop at Fort Bragg to call on Congress to quickly pass his fiscal 2003 defense budget request. The request calls for $48 billion more than in fiscal 2002. He asked that Congress not wait until September or October to pass the legislation as it has done in years past.
"That's bad budgeting practices in times of peace," Bush said. "It's really bad budgeting practices in times of war. I expect the United States Congress to not only pass the budget as I submitted, I expect them to make it the first order of business, so we can plan for this war.
"Now is not the time to play politics with the defense budget," he continued. "Now is the time to get it out first, and get it on my desk. We need to send the clear message that not only are we in this for the long haul, but the elected representatives of the United States people understand it, as well. I'm proud of the bipartisan spirit that exists in our war against terror. Now, let's just make sure we've got some good budgeting practices to go along with it."