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For Immediate Release
October 9, 2003
President Discusses Progress in Iraq
Excerpts from October 9, 2003 Speech in Portsmouth, New Hampshire
Click here to read full remarks (/news/releases/2003/10/20031009-9.html)
And as we overcome our challenges to the economy, we're answering great threats to our security. September the 11, 2001, moved our country to grief -- and moved our country to action. We made a pledge that day, and we have kept it: We will bring the guilty to justice; we will take the fight to the enemy. (Applause.) We now see our enemy clearly. The terrorists plot in secret. They target the innocent. They defile a great religion. They hate everything this nation stands for. These committed killers will not be stopped by negotiations; they won't respond to reason. The terrorists who threaten America cannot be appeased -- they must be found, they must be fought, and they must be defeated. (Applause.)
This is a new kind of war, and we must adjust. It's a new kind of war, and America is following a new strategy. We're not waiting for further attacks. We're striking our enemies before they can strike us again. We've taken unprecedented steps to protect our homeland. And for those of you who are here who are on the front lines of homeland protection, thank you. Thank you for what you're doing. (Applause.)
Yet wars are won on the offensive -- and our friends and America are staying on the offensive. (Applause.) We're finding them. We're on the hunt. We're rolling back the terrorist threats -- not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power. We're making good progress. We're hunting the al Qaeda terrorists wherever they hide -- from Pakistan, to the Philippines, to the Horn of Africa, to Iraq. Nearly two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed. Our resolve is firm; our resolve is clear: No matter how long it takes, all who plot against America will face the justice of America. (Applause.)
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 are just as guilty as the terrorists. And the Taliban found out what we meant. (Applause.) Thanks to our great military, Afghanistan is no longer a safe-haven for terror, the Afghan people are free, and the people of America are more secure from attack. (Applause.) And we have fought the war on terror in Iraq. The regime of Saddam Hussein possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, sponsored terrorist groups, and inflicted terror on its own people. Nearly every nation recognized and denounced this threat for over a decade. 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. 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. (Applause.)
Since the liberation of Iraq, our investigators have found evidence of a clandestine network of biological laboratories. They found advanced design work on prohibited longer-range missiles. They found an elaborate campaign to hide these illegal programs. There's still much to investigate, yet 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, and we were right to enforce that demand. (Applause.) Who can possibly think that the world would be better off with Saddam Hussein still in power? Surely not the dissidents who would be in his prisons or end up in mass graves. Surely not the men and women who would fill Saddam's torture chambers, or the women in his rape rooms. Surely not the victims he murdered with poison gas. Surely not anyone who cares about human rights and democracy and stability in the Middle East. There is only one decent and humane reaction to the fall of Saddam Hussein: Good riddance. (Applause.)
Now our country is approaching a choice. After all the action we have taken, after all the progress we have made against terror, there is a temptation to think the danger has passed. The danger hadn't passed. Since September the 11th, the terrorists have taken lives -- since the attacks on our nation that fateful day, the terrorists have attacked in Casablanca, Mombasa, Jerusalem, Amman, Riyadh, Baghdad, Karachi, New Delhi, Bali, and Jakarta. The terrorists continue to plot and plan against our country and our people. America must not forget the lessons of September 11th. (Applause.) America cannot retreat from our responsibilities and hope for the best. Our security will not be gained by timid measures. Our security requires constant vigilance and decisive action. I believe America has only one option: We must fight this war until the work is done. (Applause.)
We're fighting on many fronts, and Iraq is now the central front. Saddam holdouts and foreign terrorists are trying desperately to undermine Iraq's progress and to throw that country into chaos. The terrorists in Iraq believe their attacks on innocent people will weaken our resolve. That's what they believe. They believe that America will run from a challenge. They're mistaken. Americans are not the running kind.
The United States did not run from Germany and Japan following World War II. We helped those nations to become strong and decent, democratic societies that no longer waged war on America. And that's our mission in Iraq today. We're rebuilding schools. A lot of kids are going back to schools. Reopening hospitals. Thousands of children are now being immunized. Water and electricity are being returned to the Iraqi people. Life is getting better.
It's a lot better than you probably think. Just ask people who have been there. They're stunned when they come back -- when they go to Iraq and the stories they tell are much different from the perceptions that you're being told life is like. You see, we're providing this help not only because we've got good hearts, but because our vision is clear. A stable and democratic and hopeful Iraq will no longer be a breeding ground for terror, tyranny, and aggression. (Applause.) Free nations are peaceful nations. Our work in Iraq is essential to our own security -- and no band of murderers or gangsters will stop that work, or shake the will of America. (Applause.)
Nearly every day in Iraq we're launching swift, precision raids against the enemies of peace and progress. Helped by intelligence from Iraqis, we're rounding up the enemy. We're taking their weapons. We're working our way through the famous deck of cards. We've already captured or killed 43 of the 55 most wanted former Iraqi leaders, and the other 12 have a lot to worry about. (Laughter.) Anyone who seeks to harm our soldiers can know that our soldiers are hunting for them. Our military is serving with great courage -- some of our best have fallen. 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. (Applause.) In defending liberty, we are joined by more than 30 nations now contributing military forces in Iraq. Great Britain and Poland are leading two multinational divisions. And in this cause with fine allies, we've got the Iraqis, as well. They care about the security of their country. They want to be free. They love freedom just like we love freedom. Last week, the first battalion of the New Iraqi Army completed its training. Within a year, Iraq will have a 40,000-member military force. Tens of thousands of Iraqi citizens are also guarding their own borders, defending vital facilities, and policing their own streets. Six months ago, the Iraqi people welcomed their liberation. Today, many Iraqis are armed and trained to defend their liberty.
Our goal in Iraq is to leave behind a stable, self-governing society, 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. Iraq now has a Governing Council, which has appointed interim government ministers. Once a constitution has been written, Iraq will move toward national elections. We want this process to go as quickly as possible -- 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. We believe -- and the Iraqi people will show -- that liberty is the hope and the right of every land. Our work in Iraq has been long, it's hard, and it's not finished. We will stay the course. We will complete our job. And beyond Iraq, the war on terror continues. There will be no quick victory in this war. We will persevere and victory is certain. (Applause.)
I am confident of victory because I know the character of our military -- shown in people like Master Sergeant Jake Negrotti, of Plaistow, New Hampshire. Jake is a member of the New Hampshire Air National Guard. He's volunteered for overseas deployments three times since September the 11th. He served in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Right now Jake is an airport manager at Baghdad Airport, helping make sure our military and humanitarian operations move ahead. People like Jake Negrotti are showing what it means to be a patriot and a citizen. We're honored to have Jake's wife, Donna, and his children, Alicia and Christopher, with us here today. Next time you talk to Jake, Donna, you tell him his President appreciates his service, and his country is grateful. (Applause.)
The war on terror has brought hardship and loss to our country, beginning with the grief of September the 11th. Let us also remember that the first victory in this war came on that same day, on a hijacked plane bound for the Nation's Capital. Those men and women on Flight 93 took action, served their country, knowing they would die. (Applause.) They found incredible courage in their final moments to save the lives of others. In those moments, and many times since, terrorists have learned that Americans are courageous and will not be intimidated. We will fight them with everything we have. Few are called to show the kind of valor seen on Flight 93, or on the field of battle. Yet all of us do share a calling -- to be strong in adversity, and to be unafraid in danger. We Americans have come through so much together, and we have much yet to do. If we're patient, united, determined, our nation will prosper, and our nation will win.
May God bless you all. (Applause.)
Thank you all very much. (Applause.) END 10:31 A.M. EDT