For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
September 20, 2001
Embargoed Until Delivery September 20, 2001
Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore, Members of Congress, And
in the Normal Course of Events, Presidents Come to This Chamber To
Report on the State of the Union. Tonight, No Such Report Is Needed. It Has
already been delivered by the American people.
We have seen it in the courage of
passengers, who rushed terrorists to save others on the ground ?
passengers like an exceptional man named Todd Beamer. Please help me to
welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight.
We have seen the state of our Union in the
endurance of rescuers, working past exhaustion. We have seen the
unfurling of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the
saying of prayers ? in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. We have seen the
decency of a loving and giving people, who have made the grief of
strangers their own.
My fellow citizens, for the last nine
days, the entire world has seen for itself the state of our Union ? and
it is strong.
Tonight we are a country awakened to
danger and called to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and
anger to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring
justice to our enemies, justice will be done.
I thank the Congress for its leadership at
such an important time. All of America was touched on the evening of
the tragedy to see Republicans and Democrats, joined together on the
steps of this Capitol, singing ?God Bless America.? And you did more
than sing, you acted, by delivering forty billion dollars to rebuild
our communities and meet the needs of our military.
Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader
Gephardt ? Majority Leader Daschle and Senator Lott ? I thank you for
your friendship and your leadership and your service to our country.
And on behalf of the American people, I
thank the world for its outpouring of support. America will never
forget the sounds of our National Anthem playing at Buckingham Palace,
and on the streets of Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. We will
not forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our embassy
in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a mosque in Cairo. We
will not forget moments of silence and days of mourning in Australia
and Africa and Latin America.
Nor will we forget the citizens of eighty
other nations who died with our own. Dozens of Pakistanis. More than
130 Israelis. More than 250 citizens of India. Men and women from El
Salvador, Iran, Mexico, and Japan. And hundreds of British citizens.
America has no truer friend than Great Britain. Once again, we are
joined together in a great cause. The British Prime Minister has
crossed an ocean to show his unity of purpose with America, and tonight
we welcome Tony Blair.
On September the eleventh, enemies of
freedom committed an act of war against our country. Americans have
known wars ? but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign
soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the
casualties of war ? but not at the center of a great city on a peaceful
morning. Americans have known surprise attacks ? but never before on
thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day
? and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is
Americans have many questions tonight.
Americans are asking: Who attacked our country?
The evidence we have gathered all points
to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as
al-Qaida. They are the same murderers indicted for bombing American
embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for the bombing of the
Al-Qaida is to terror what the mafia is to
crime. But its goal is not making money; its goal is remaking the world
? and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.
The terrorists practice a fringe form of
Islamic extremism that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the
vast majority of Muslim clerics ? a fringe movement that perverts the
peaceful teachings of Islam. The terrorists? directive commands them to
kill Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans, and make no
distinctions among military and civilians, including women and
This group and its leader ? a person named
Usama bin Ladin ? are linked to many other organizations in different
countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic
Movement of Uzbekistan.
There are thousands of these terrorists in
more than sixty countries. They are recruited from their own nations
and neighborhoods, and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan
where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to
their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil
The leadership of al-Qaida has great
influence in Afghanistan, and supports the Taliban regime in
controlling most of that country. In Afghanistan, we see al-Qaida's
vision for the world.
Afghanistan's people have been brutalized
? many are starving and many have fled. Women are not allowed to attend
school. You can be jailed for owning a television. Religion can be
practiced only as their leaders dictate. A man can be jailed in
Afghanistan if his beard is not long enough.
The United States respects the people of
Afghanistan ? after all, we are currently its largest source of
humanitarian aid ? but we condemn the Taliban regime. It is not only
repressing its own people, it is threatening people everywhere by
sponsoring and sheltering and supplying terrorists. By aiding and
abetting murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder. And tonight,
the United States of America makes the following demands on the
Deliver to United States authorities all
the leaders of al-Qaida who hide in your land.
Release all foreign nationals ? including
American citizens ? you have unjustly imprisoned, and protect foreign
journalists, diplomats, and aid workers in your country.
Close immediately and permanently every
terrorist training camp in Afghanistan and hand over every terrorist,
and every person in their support structure, to appropriate
Give the United States full access to
terrorist training camps, so we can make sure they are no longer
These demands are not open to negotiation
or discussion. The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand
over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate.
I also want to speak tonight directly to
Muslims throughout the world: We respect your faith. It is practiced
freely by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries
that America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful,
and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the name of
Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in
effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our many
Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy is a
radical network of terrorists, and every government that supports
Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida,
but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group
of global reach has been found, stopped, and defeated.
Americans are asking: Why do they hate
They hate what we see right here in this
chamber ? a democratically elected government. Their leaders are
self-appointed. They hate our freedoms ? our freedom of religion, our
freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with
They want to overthrow existing
governments in many Muslim countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and
Jordan. They want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to
drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.
These terrorists kill not merely to end
lives, but to disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they
hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world and
forsaking our friends. They stand against us, because we stand in their
We are not deceived by their pretenses to
piety. We have seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the
murderous ideologies of the twentieth century. By sacrificing human
life to serve their radical visions ? by abandoning every value except
the will to power ? they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism, and
totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to where
it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies.
Americans are asking: How will we fight
and win this war?
We will direct every resource at our
command ? every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every
instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every
necessary weapon of war ? to the disruption and defeat of the global
This war will not be like the war against
Iraq a decade ago, with its decisive liberation of territory and its
swift conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo two
years ago, where no ground troops were used and not a single American
was lost in combat.
Our response involves far more than
instant retaliation and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect
one battle, but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have seen. It
may include dramatic strikes, visible on television, and covert
operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of
funding, turn them one against another, drive them from place to place,
until there is no refuge or rest. And we will pursue nations that
provide aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region,
now has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the
terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor
or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile
Our Nation has been put on notice: We are
not immune from attack. We will take defensive measures against
terrorism to protect Americans.
Today, dozens of federal departments and
agencies, as well as state and local governments, have responsibilities
affecting homeland security. These efforts must be coordinated at the
highest level. So tonight I announce the creation of a Cabinet-level
position reporting directly to me ? the Office of Homeland Security.
These measures are essential. But the only
way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it,
eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows.
Many will be involved in this effort, from
FBI agents to intelligence operatives to the reservists we have called
to active duty. All deserve our thanks, and all have our prayers. And
tonight, a few miles from the damaged Pentagon, I have a message for
our military: Be ready. I have called the armed forces to alert, and
there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act, and you
will make us proud.
This is not, however, just America's
fight. And what is at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the
world's fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight of all
who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.
We ask every nation to join us. We will
ask, and we will need, the help of police forces, intelligence
services, and banking systems around the world. The United States is
grateful that many nations and many international organizations have
already responded ? with sympathy and with support. Nations from Latin
America, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe, to the Islamic world. Perhaps
the NATO Charter reflects best the attitude of the world: an attack on
one is an attack on all.
The civilized world is rallying to
America's side. They understand that if this terror goes unpunished,
their own cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered,
can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the stability of
legitimate governments. And we will not allow it.
Americans are asking: What is expected of
I ask you to live your lives and hug your
children. I know many citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be
calm and resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.
I ask you to uphold the values of America,
and remember why so many have come here. We are in a fight for our
principles, and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one
should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of
their ethnic background or religious faith.
I ask you to continue to support the
victims of this tragedy with your contributions. Those who want to give
can go to a central source of information, libertyunites.org, to find
the names of groups providing direct help in New York, Pennsylvania,
The thousands of FBI agents who are now at
work in this investigation may need your cooperation, and I ask you to
I ask for your patience, with the delays
and inconveniences that may accompany tighter security ? and for your
patience in what will be a long struggle.
I ask your continued participation and
confidence in the American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of
American prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is
successful because of the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise of
our people. These were the true strengths of our economy before
September eleventh, and they are our strengths today.
Finally, please continue praying for the
victims of terror and their families, for those in uniform, and for our
great country. Prayer has comforted us in sorrow, and will help
strengthen us for the journey ahead.
Tonight I thank my fellow Americans for
what you have already done and for what you will do. And ladies and
gentlemen of the Congress, I thank you, their representatives, for what
you have already done, and for what we will do together.
Tonight, we face new and sudden national
challenges. We will come together to improve air safety, to
dramatically expand the number of air marshals on domestic flights, and
take new measures to prevent hijacking. We will come together to
promote stability and keep our airlines flying with direct assistance
during this emergency.
We will come together to give law
enforcement the additional tools it needs to track down terror here at
home. We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities
to know the plans of terrorists before they act, and find them before
We will come together to take active steps
that strengthen America's economy, and put our people back to work.
Tonight we welcome here two leaders who
embody the extraordinary spirit of all New Yorkers: Governor George
Pataki, and Mayor Rudy Giuliani. As a symbol of America's resolve, my
Administration will work with the Congress, and these two leaders, to
show the world that we will rebuild New York City.
After all that has just passed ? all the
lives taken, and all the possibilities and hopes that died with them ?
it is natural to wonder if America's future is one of fear. Some speak
of an age of terror. I know there are struggles ahead, and dangers to
face. But this country will define our times, not be defined by them.
As long as the United States of America is determined and strong, this
will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here and
across the world.
Great harm has been done to us. We have
suffered great loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our
mission and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of
human freedom ? the great achievement of our time, and the great hope
of every time ? now depends on us. Our Nation ? this generation ? will
lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future. We will
rally the world to this cause, by our efforts and by our courage. We
will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
It is my hope that in the months and years
ahead, life will return almost to normal. We'll go back to our lives
and routines, and that is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace.
But our resolve must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened
that day, and to whom it happened. We will remember the moment the news
came ? where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an
image of fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face
and a voice gone forever.
And I will carry this. It is the police
shield of a man named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center
trying to save others. It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a
proud memorial to her son. This is my reminder of lives that ended, and
a task that does not end.
I will not forget this wound to our
country, or those who inflicted it. I will not yield ? I will not rest
? I will not relent in waging this struggle for the freedom and
security of the American people.
The course of this conflict is not known,
yet its outcome is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty,
have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between
Fellow citizens, we will meet violence
with patient justice ? assured of the rightness of our cause, and
confident of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God
grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.