The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
February 26, 2003

President's Remarks to the Latino Coalition

Click here for full transcript.

And, finally, we have been called to defend America and to keep the peace. We face a significant challenge, and that is to protect the homeland of the American people. Prior to September 11, 2001, we thought oceans would protect the homeland of the American people. We thought that history would continue to repeat itself, that this nation was safe and secure; that if there was a gathering threat overseas, we could deal with it if we felt like dealing with it, but it was not a problem for the home people. Yet, on September the 11th, the world changed; it changed dramatically and sadly for thousands of citizens. It also changed for how this country must view our position in the world. The strategic vision of the country shifted.

We're doing everything we can here at home to secure the homeland. We've got agencies working overtime, people sharing information. Our borders are becoming more efficient. We want people, commerce to move freely, but we don't want terrorists to move freely. So we're doing as good a job as we possibly can to protect you. But the best way to secure the homeland is to find killers before they kill us and bring them to justice. And that's what we're going to do. (Applause.)

So we're on the hunt, on al Qaeda. This is a different kind of war. It's a war which requires a good intelligence-sharing, and it requires cutting off money. It requires specially skilled troops to smoke these people out of their caves and to bring them to justice. And that's what we're doing -- one by one. Sometimes you'll see success and sometimes you won't. You just got to know the mighty United States, along with 89 other countries in our coalition for Enduring Freedom, are doing everything we can to protect you and protect other people who love freedom.

There's also a threat gathering in Iraq. It's been gathering for a long period of time. The danger with Iraq is that he can strike in the neighborhood. And the danger with Iraq is that he has got the willingness and capacity to train al Qaeda-type organizations and provide them with equipment to hurt America.

The world has waited a long time for Mr. Saddam Hussein to disarm. They've waited a long time. He is a master of disguise and delay. He'll say, oh, I'm disarming -- after he said he has no arms. (Laughter.)

We will continue to work with our friends, people who understand the value of freedom. We will insist that the United Nation Resolution 1441 be adhered to in its fullest. After all, we want the United Nations to be a legitimate, effective body. But for the safety of the American people and for peace in the world, Saddam Hussein will be disarmed, one way or the other. And this nation does so for the sake of peace.

The use of our military is the absolute last option. It is the last alternative for the -- for the President. But the risk of doing nothing, the risk of assuming that Saddam Hussein will change, the risk of thinking and hoping for the best for the American people far outweighs the risk of committing troops, if we have to. The choice is Saddam Hussein's to make. It's been his to make all along. He gets to choose between peace and war.

And the other thing that is an inherent part of our view of Iraq is how I started the discussion here. See, we believe everybody matters, everybody counts. It doesn't matter your background, where you're from, everybody has worth. As I said in my State of the Union address, liberty is not America's gift to the world; liberty is God's gift to human -- to the human -- mankind. And that's what we believe. (Applause.)

So in the days ahead, as we deal with this challenge facing our country, you need to know that the value of freedom and liberty will be at the forefront of a policy designed to make the world more peaceful, and a policy designed to protect the American people.

Thank you for your interest. May God bless you all, and may God bless America. (Applause.)

END 11:00 A.M. EST

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