Thank you very much. General Huntoon, ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and visitors. It is a real privilege for me to be here with you.
It's a little embarrassing. First of all, I’m late. I apologize. Second, any time I see a general or an admiral I look down at my shoes to see if they're shined. And I had no idea the camera was on me. I was over there buffing my shoes on the back of my britches -- and was caught on camera. It's a little embarrassing.
I've not been here before and I'm very pleased to have this opportunity. I'm told that for over 100 years the War College has prepared future leaders for positions of great responsibility in our military. Many of you I'm told have -- in fact, a very large percentage -- have led troops in Afghanistan and Iraq, and I thought I'd just take a moment to say a few words to you particularly.
First of all, you can be very proud of what you've accomplished and what you are.
Over 50 million people today are living in freedom, not perfect freedom, but freedom thanks to your efforts.
The Afghan women who cried with tears of joy that their children have a chance for opportunities which previously they could only dream about.
You can be proud also that millions of Afghans and Iraqis have stood with us in building a better future despite the violence, despite the efforts at intimidation, despite the terrorists that they face.
We're proud to know that there are, I guess, at least one Afghan and one Iraqi student here for the first time. We welcome you and are proud to stand with you in the cause of freedom.
Those of you who served there are going to be able to look back in 20 or 30 years and have great pride in what you've accomplished. The sacrifices you've made [inaudible] and the contributions you've made to a better world. We are very much in your debt and we thank you for it. I'd like to express my appreciation.
We have Congressman Bill Shuster sitting down here in the front row, and Congressman Todd Platts. I want to thank you so much for being here. We appreciate your service in Congress and the fact that you both have taken the time to travel over to Afghanistan and Iraq and visit with the servicemen and women, recognizing their accomplishments. It's good to see you both. Thank you so much for coming. Why don't you stand up and let them see what you look like.
It's good to be in Pennsylvania. There are very few states that can claim a more central role in the history of our country and the defense of freedom at times when our country was in jeopardy.
To the east, of course, is Philadelphia, once the home of the Continental Congress, where a king was challenged, and independence was declared.
To the south is Gettysburg, where brother fought brother over freedom's meaning and the Union's fate in what I suppose has to be the bloodiest battlefield on American soil.
To the west is Shanksville, where a group of seemingly ordinary airline passengers gave their lives in extraordinary defiance of foreign hijackers and in defense of our country's capital.
Earlier today, I visited that field in Shanksville, to pay my respects. I don't know if you've been there, but there are memorials all along a long road where people come, some 150,000 visitors a year, more than one or two busloads filled with people a day arrive there to pay their respects.
The column of smoke that once rose from its edge of course has long since left a very peaceful space. Quiet. Expansive. The memorial they're planning is an impressive one which will include a large number of acres. It's framed by a forest and I suspect it may be what the field of Gettysburg may have looked like when the Union cavalry first found Seminary Ridge -- empty, ordinary at first glance, not a place one would expect to find heroism particularly, or even history.
I guess that seems appropriate. Some of the passengers on that airplane, Flight 93, did not think of themselves as heroes or history makers when they boarded that plane on a Tuesday morning en route to San Francisco, and undoubtedly never heard of a place called Shanksville or a man named Mohammed Attah, and they never expected to be saying into their telephones, air phones, that
“The plane's been hijacked.”
“I'm calling to say goodbye.” or the final comment,
On that day, the terrorists brought their fight to our shores and to our people. And in Shanksville, Pennsylvania -- over that quiet field -- Americans, our fellow citizens, began to fight back.
I suspect Americans will always remember where they were on September 11, 2001, when 3,000 lost their lives. Think of the questions that were asked and I suppose in some cases they're still being asked today.
Who were these people who were attacking us?
What do they want?
How can they be stopped?
I'd like to comment on those questions today.
The enemy we face maybe the most brutal in our history. They currently lack only the means -- not the desire -- to kill and murder millions of innocent people with weapons vastly more powerful than boarding passes and box cutters.
Before September 11, 2001, there was somewhat of a misunderstanding in America about terrorists and in some circles I suppose there still is today. Even today, some folks view terrorists as criminals, not as combatants -- some even consider them victims. Some seem to think that the years before September 11th were decades of peace, but that is not so.
Though we think of September 11th as the first day in the Global War on Terror, it wasn't the first day for the enemy. Extremists had declared war on free people decades ago. In 20 years terrorists attacked and killed Americans more than 20 times including the bombing at:
The U.S. embassy in Beirut, Lebanon, in 1983;
The Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983;
Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerby, Scotland, in 1988;
The New York World Trade Center the first time in 1993;
A military compound in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, in 1995;
Khobar Towers in Saudi Arabia in 1996;
U.S. Embassies in Kenya, Tanzania in 1998; and then
The war ship USS Cole in Yemen in 2000.
During those decades the West was ambivalent about how to counter extremist ideology and that type of aggression. As a result, terrorists became increasingly bolder. We should have learned the timeless truth -- that weakness is provocative.
Consider how they boasted of their murder of innocent people in the Khobar compound in Saudi Arabia. In their words,
"I went into an American's office and called him. When he turned to me I shot him in the head and his head exploded. We entered another office and found one infidel from South Africa and our brother Hussein slit his throat. We found a Swedish infidel and brother Nim cut off his head and put it at the gate so it could be seen by all entering and exiting."
On September 11th, they accomplished their most daring attack on our shores, and in the years since no part of the world has really been spared from their attacks:
In Russia terrorists held school children hostage, some as young as 20 months old; killed 186.
In Israel they hid a grenade under a baby.
In Iraq, according to the Mayor of Kalifar, they placed explosives inside the corpses of children in order to kill grieving parents coming to recover their bodies.
In Pakistan the Islamic extremists beheaded a Wall Street Journal reporter. They killed him because he was Jewish and because he was American. They bound his hands, they set up their video recorder, they sawed off his head on camera. His widow was pregnant with a son he would never see.
Those attacks, like September 11th -- were not random acts of violence. They were for a purpose and the purpose was to terrorize. If you think about it, people tend to think that the purpose of terrorism is to kill people. It really isn't. It's to terrorize, to alter behavior. In pursuit of a world where clerics issue binding edicts, where children are indoctrinated into violence and hate.
After the September 11th attacks the United States fashioned a very large global Coalition who worked together to protect our people and protect their people. This Coalition is probably the largest in the history of the world, with some 80 or 90 countries working together to make it more difficult for terrorists to do everything they need to do to be successful. More difficult to train, to recruit, to raise money, to establish sanctuaries, to acquire weapons, to cross borders, communicate.
But the strategy must do a great deal more to reduce the lure of the extremist ideology, like standing with those moderate Muslims advocating peaceful change, freedom and tolerance.
Progress is being made. Afghanistan has gone from a country where the government protected terrorists and imprisoned women, to one that imprisons terrorists and protects women. Iraq has gone from Saddam's mass graves to mass participation in democratic elections. A recent survey showed that a large and growing number of Muslims believe that free systems can work in their country.
The extremists see these changes and they're desperate to prevent that progress. One suspects that the terrorists preferred the battles before September 11th, when they were often the only ones on the offensive.
Today there are some who want America to go back on the defensive -- to the strategy that failed before September 11th. They say that a retreat from Iraq would provide an American escape from the violence. However, we know that any reprieve would short lived. To the terrorists, the West would remain the great Satan. The war that the terrorists began would continue. And free people would continue to be their target.
From time to time one hears the claim that terrorists’ acts are reactions to particular American policy. That's not so. Their violence preceded by many years operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. And their violence will not stop until their ideology is confronted by the values millions on every continent take for granted. The ideas that liberated moderate Muslims are risking their lives every day to defend -- including free systems, individual rights.
We must recognize this and steel ourselves for the long struggle ahead.
Today's debate is probably the most significant division is between those who realize that we are in fact a nation at war, and those who do not realize that fact.
Of course, those in the Department of Defense are under no illusions. We serve in a building that came under attack. A building whose bricks were charred, whose employees had to escape by crawling through smoke, when that fuel-laden jet was flown into the offices and took some 189 people's lives.
We do not of course know what the thoughts were of those people on that airplane that crashed into Shanksville, the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, or the last thoughts of the innocent men and women that were killed. Some I'm sure worried about their families. Before that last plunge to earth over Shanksville, Pennsylvania, at least one passenger on Flight 93 prayed the 23rd Psalm over the phone with a stranger -- an operator he had found while trying to reach his wife. Together they took comfort in the passage that speaks of “still waters” and “green pastures.”
Those passengers rest peacefully today and our Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines -- which many of you will command -- are doing everything possible to keep other Americans from again having to experience the heartbreak and terror of September 11th.
It's up to all of us -- military and civilian -- to commit ourselves to be patient in supporting history's great and necessary task -- aware that the enemy will not simply go away.
And aware that when future generations learn of places where freedom was defended, they will be told about a meeting hall in colonial Philadelphia, the battlefield of Gettysburg, the beaches at Normandy, and a quiet town, not far from here, called Shanksville.
So I thank you for your service to our country. Thank you for your courage and your dedication, the sacrifices you and your families have made to serve our country. I hope that you know our people thank you.
Now I'd be delighted to answer some questions. I will answer the ones I know the answers to and I'll respond gracefully to the ones I don't.
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