For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
February 13, 2003
Remarks by the President at Naval Station Mayport
Naval Station Mayport
11:58 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Admiral, thank you for that
-- for those kind words. And thanks for the warm welcome. I'm honored
to be with the servicemen and women, and families of the Jacksonville
Naval community. I'm proud to be at Naval Station Mayport.
Last August, the sailors and pilots of the Big John -- (applause)
-- returned from four months in the North Arabian Sea, where you served
in Operation Enduring Freedom. With your outstanding performance, you
proved that "Jack is back." (Laughter.)
Some of you here have served in the USS Enterprise battle group.
You were among the first American ships in the Afghan theater. And when
it came time to strike the terrorists in Afghanistan, you were ready on
arrival. (Applause.) Together, the Big John and the Big E launched
thousands of sorties from their desks, supporting coalition forces on
the ground. You helped liberate the Afghan people. You defended the
American people. And each and every one of you here has made America
The United States Navy carries the might and the mission of America
to the farthest parts of this world. In this challenging period for our
country, great tasks lie ahead for the Navy, and for our entire
military. And I know we can depend on you, because this United States
military is second to none. (Applause.)
I appreciate Admiral Natter for his leadership. I want to thank the
Governor of Florida for his leadership, too. (Laughter.) He's doing
everything just like his mother told him to. (Laughter.) I'm listening
to the same mother, I want you to know. (Laughter.)
I want to thank the members from the congressional delegation --
Ander Crenshaw, who represents this district. I know he's a strong
supporter of the military families living here in Jacksonville. And I
appreciate John Mica coming, as well. These are two members of the
United States Congress that I know I can count on when it comes to
making sure this United States military is strong and ready.
I want to thank State Senator Jim King, and his wife Linda, for
being here today. I appreciate all the leadership from different battle
groups here -- based here.
Today, when I landed on Air Force One, I met a fellow named Arden
Battle. He is a machinist mate, senior chief, U.S. Navy. Let me tell
you something. He represents the spirit of this military that makes me
proud. Not only are we tough and good fighters; he leads hundreds of
your fellow sailors into volunteering in the community in Jacksonville,
Florida. He and others like him serve as a role model for young kids.
He mentors. He and his group teach children how to read. He not only
serves this country to keep the peace, he serves this country to be
more compassionate for all of our citizens.
My call to you is, a lot of people look up to you because you wear
the uniform. Do your duty. Not only work hard to be a good soldier and
sailor, but also love somebody like you'd like to be loved yourself.
I want to thank Arden and all those of you who have heard a call to
become involved in your neighborhoods and your communities to help
somebody who hurts. America is a better place for your compassion and
your love. (Applause.)
I want to thank the other community leaders who are here. I want to
thank those of you who support our military. But I'm particularly
grateful to all the military families who are here with us today.
(Applause.) Family members serve and sacrifice for our nation. Each one
of you knows that Navy life is rewarding, but it can be dangerous, it
can be difficult. Every day our military families are putting America's
interests first, and America thanks you.
Across this great land, I hear it all the time, the people of this
country admire our men and women in uniform. They're praying for you.
They're concerned about you and your families. Our people in uniform
and families deserve our gratitude and you deserve our support.
Last year, I signed the largest increase in defense spending in a
generation. (Applause.) Last week, I sent a budget to Congress with
another significant increase in defense spending. (Applause.) Those who
wear our uniform and their families deserve the best possible housing,
the best possible pay, and the best possible training. With the support
of this Congress, I will make sure that our military has every
resource, every weapon, everything you need to defend America and to
keep the peace. (Applause.)
Across six decades, ever since World War II, Mayport has been
providing the "Finest Service to the Finest Fleet." This port has been
home to generations of sailors who fought America's battles with
distinction and courage. Now you're called to defend our freedom and to
defend the security of America against a new kind of enemy.
This enemy reaches across oceans; it targets the innocent. There
are no rules of war for these cold-blooded killers. They seek
biological and chemical and nuclear weapons to commit murder on a
massive scale. This enemy will not be restrained by mercy, or by
conscience. This enemy will be stopped, and it will be stopped by the
might and will of the United States and our friends and our allies.
The terrorists brought this war to us -- and now we're taking it
back to them. (Applause.) We're on their trail, we're smoking them out,
we've got them on the run. We're hunting them down one by one, all
across the world. With our allies, we've arrested or otherwise dealt
with -- (laughter) -- many of the key commanders of al Qaeda. And that
includes the terrorist who planned the bombing of the USS Cole.
So far, more than 3,000 suspected terrorists have been arrested in
many countries. Just about that number met a different kind of fate.
They're not a problem anymore. (Applause.)
The world changed on September the 11th, 2001. You see, we learned
that oceans no longer protect us; that a threat that gathers on the
other side of the Earth can strike our own cities, can kill our own
people. That's what we learned. And I'm not going to forget that
lesson. You see, we saw what terrorists could do, with four airplanes
as weapons. We're not going to wait and see what they can do with even
deadlier weapons. (Applause.)
Today the gravest danger in the war on terror -- the gravest danger
facing America and the world -- is outlaw regimes that seek and possess
nuclear, chemical and biological weapons. These regimes could use such
weapons for blackmail, terror, mass murder. They could also give or
sell those weapons to terrorist allies who would use them without the
least bit of hesitation. That's the reality of the world we live in,
and that's what we're going to use every ounce of our power to defeat.
We have an obligation to protect America and the Americans. We
understand our responsibility, and jointly we'll do just that -- we'll
protect America and our friends and allies from these thugs.
The civilized world has awakened to the growing danger posed by the
Iraqi regime. Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein agreed to disarm as a
condition of suspending the Gulf War. Three months ago, the United
Nations Security Council gave him a final chance to meet that
obligation. Saddam Hussein is not disarming, he's deceiving.
America has laid out the facts for the world to see. Saddam Hussein
has chemical weapons programs, and the means to use them. Saddam
Hussein has a biological weapons program, and the means to deliver
those weapons. He has secretly attempted to obtain materials needed to
produce nuclear weapons. Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists,
including members of al Qaeda. He harbors a senior al Qaeda leader who
ordered the assassination of an American diplomat -- the same man who
plotted against Spain and Italy in the Republic of Georgia, and Russia,
and Great Britain, and France, and Germany. The Iraqi regime is engaged
in a massive campaign to conceal its weapons of mass destruction, and
its ties to terrorists. And that deception continues today.
At any moment during the last 97 days -- and during the last 12
years -- Saddam Hussein could have completely and immediately disarmed
himself. Instead, he's used all this time to build and to hide
weapons. He must be hoping that by stalling he'll buy himself another
12 years. He's wrong. (Applause.) This country will not accept a
serious and mounting threat to our nation, our people, and our friends
and allies. (Applause.)
Military force is always this nation's last option. Yet if force
becomes necessary to disarm Iraq and enforce the will of the United
Nations, if force becomes necessary to secure our country and to keep
the peace, America will act deliberately, America will act decisively,
and America will act victoriously with the world's greatest military.
America will also be acting with friends and allies. An
overwhelming majority of NATO members oppose the threat of Iraq, and
understand that tough choices may be necessary to keep the peace. Many
nations have offered to provide forces or other support to disarm the
Iraqi regime. Every nation of the Gulf Cooperation Council has agreed
to help defend and protect Kuwait. And now the world's most important
multilateral body faces a decision.
The decision is this for the United Nations: When you say something
does it mean anything? You've got to decide, if you lay down a
resolution, does it mean anything? The United Nations Security Council
can now decide whether or not it has the resolve to enforce it's
I'm optimistic that the U.N. Security Council will rise to its
responsibilities, and this time ensure enforcement of what it told
Saddam Hussein he must do. See, I believe when it's all said and done,
free nations will not allow the United Nations to fade into history as
an ineffective, irrelevant debating society. (Applause.) I'm optimistic
that free nations will show backbone and courage in the face of true
threats to peace and freedom.
If there is a conflict, American forces will act in the honorable
traditions of our military, and in the highest moral traditions of this
country. Our military will be fighting the oppressors of Iraq, not the
people of Iraq. (Applause.) America's military fights not to conquer,
but to liberate. (Applause.)
In case of conflict, this great nation is already putting plans and
supplies into place, so that food and other humanitarian relief will
flow quickly to the Iraqi people. You see, we seek more than the defeat
of terror; we seek an advance of freedom and a world at peace.
(Applause.) That is the charge that history has given us -- and that is
a charge we will keep. (Applause.)
In crucial hours, the success of our cause will depend on the men
and women of our military. You serve this nation's ideals, and you live
out those ideals in your code and in your character. I've seen your
love of country, and your devotion to a cause larger than yourself.
I've seen your discipline, your idealism, and your sense of honor. I
know that every mission you are given will be carried out with skill
and unselfish courage.
The first time the USS Enterprise was ever deployed in a crisis was
October 1962, when President John F. Kennedy ordered it to quarantine
Cuba, which was arming itself with nuclear missiles aimed at our
nation. President Kennedy understood that dangers to freedom had to be
confronted early and decisively. He said of the Cold War, "These are
extraordinary times. We face an extraordinary challenge. Our strength,
as well as our convictions have imposed upon this nation the role of
leader in freedom's cause."
Today, at the dawn of a new century, America is still the leader in
freedom's cause. (Applause.) And our generation is called to a central
role in this nation's history. As Americans, we can be confident: The
American people are strong and resolute. The American Armed Forces are
brave and ready. And in freedom's cause, we will prevail. (Applause.)
May God bless you all. (Applause.) May God bless our family -- your
families -- and may God continue to bless the United States of
END 12:20 P.M. EST