Excerpts from the Press Briefing by Ari Fleischer, May 2, 2003 (Full Transcript)Excerpts from President's Remarks in Santa Clara, California May 2, 2003 (Full Transcript)
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all. Thank you all, very much. Thanks for the warm welcome. It's been a heck of a trip out here to California. (Laughter.) I'm honored to be here with the good folks at United Defense. I'm here to thank you for your contribution to making the world a more peaceful and free place.
Yesterday, I had the honor of speaking to the American people from the deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln. (Applause.) I made this declaration, that major combat operations in Iraq have ended, that the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.)
I spent the night -- one night. (Laughter.) Most of the crew had been on there for nine and a half months. I was so proud to be with those men and women who wear our nation's uniform. Their morale is high; they have served our nation well; and this country is proud of them. (Applause.)
We are proud of everybody who wears the nation's uniform, and we are proud of those who have contributed to the defense of the country, just like the people right here at United Defense have done. (Applause.) The technologies and products developed here at United Defense have made our military second to none. (Applause.) So I'm here to thank the folks who work for this fine company, on behalf of the American people, for your contribution to the security of your nation and for the peace of the world. (Applause.)
We've spent a lot of time in this country over the recent talking about the great military might of America. The truth of the matter is, the greatest strength of our country is the compassion of our fellow citizens to one another. The great strength of America can be found in the hearts of our fellow citizens.
My call to you is to love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved yourself. If you're worried and interested about the future of this country, find somebody who hurts. Find somebody who needs love. Put your arm around them and say, the great American experience belongs to you just as much as it belongs to me. Steve, thank you for your leadership. (Applause.)
On September the 11th, 2001, America learned that vast oceans no longer protect us from the threats of the new era. On that day, 19 months ago, we also began a relentless worldwide campaign against terrorists, those who hate freedom, in order to secure our homeland and to make the world a more peaceful place.
And we're making great progress. In the battle of Afghanistan, we destroyed one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind. A regime so barbaric, they would not allow young girls to go to school. A regime so barbaric, they were willing to house al Qaeda. That regime no longer exists. Many al Qaeda leaders no longer exist. And the training camps no longer exist. (Applause.)
In the war on terror, we're making good progress. As I said last night, nearly one-half of all al Qaeda's senior operatives are no longer a threat to the United States of America. (Applause.) And we're still on the hunt. (Applause.) We will flush them out of their caves, we'll get them on the run, and we will bring them to justice. (Applause.)
As a result of the bravery and skill of our Armed Forces and coalition forces, the war on terror is much longer down the road because of what happened in Iraq. You see, the al Qaeda no longer have a ally in the regime in Iraq. Terrorists no longer have a funding source in the regime of Iraq. One thing is for certain: Terrorists will no longer have a source of weapons of mass destruction in the regime that used to be in Iraq, because the regime that used to be in Iraq is no longer. (Applause.)
We have an obligation to future generations of Americans to make sure this country is secure. And we will keep that obligation. We have made progress, but there is more to do. In all these efforts, our men and women in uniform have performed brilliantly. (Applause.) By their courage, our nation is more secure. By their skill and sacrifice, Iraq and Afghanistan are now free. (Applause.)
The people who serve our country deserve our gratitude, and they deserve the finest equipment we can provide. (Applause.) The new technologies of war help to protect our soldiers, and as importantly, help protect innocent life. You see, new technologies allow us to redefine war on our terms, which makes it more likely the world will be more free and more peaceful. (Applause.)
You do a lot to keep the American Armed Forces on the leading edge of technological change here at United Defense. And I want to thank you for that. You not only help save lives, but you're an agent for peace. And that's important for you to know that. The better we can redefine how war is -- wars are fought and won, the more likely it is that peace will prevail -- because this is a peaceful nation. This is a nation that wants nothing more than the world to be more free and more peaceful. I want to thank you for what you've done, what you're going to do, and I want to thank you for the product you put out in the field.
In the Iraqi theater, the M4 command and control vehicles that you help produce gave our commanders unprecedented control over the battlefields. The Bradley Fighting Vehicles were responsible for a lot of tank kills. Some of the first Army units sent to take control of the Baghdad Airport were traveling in Bradleys. (Applause.)
The world witnessed one of the swiftest advances of heavy arms in the history of warfare -- a 350-mile charge from south to north in Iraq, through hostile enemy territory. We were able to do so not only because of the good strategy, great courage and skill, but because of the Bradleys and Abramses with which our soldiers were equipped. You're making a good product here.
One of the things that people learned about your company, as well, is how useful the HERCULES tank recovery system can be. (Applause.) The guy with the sledgehammer on the statue needed a little help. (Laughter.) Thankfully, there was a HERCULES close by. (Laughter.) A HERCULES which pulled that statue of Saddam Hussein to the ground.
That meant more to the Iraqi people than you can possibly imagine. It was a symbol of their future. A future based upon something that we hold dear to our hearts; a future based upon something that is not America's gift to the world, but the Almighty God's give to each and every individual -- a future based upon freedom. (Applause.)
I also appreciate so very much that 35 of your fellow workers are in theater. Some were in Kuwait; many are in Iraq, working on the products that you helped develop -- working through those sandstorms and those long hauls across hostile territory. They're still in the region. They and their families need to know America is grateful for their service and their sacrifices. (Applause.)
Just as we are grateful for the service and sacrifice of many of the families whose loved ones have been, and still are in theater. Perhaps some of you have got a relative over there, kind of like Ron Pinkney, who is an engineer here at United Defense. His son, Jason, is serving in the 101st Airborne Division. Ron, I appreciate your sacrifice for your country by being a loving dad. But you tell Jason, and you tell Jason to tell his buddies, the Commander-in-Chief and the people of Santa Clara, California are really proud of his service. (Applause.)
Major combat operations are over. Yet we have got commitments to keep in Iraq. Parts of that country are still dangerous, and we will provide security, we will establish order in the parts of Iraq that are dangerous. We will chase down the leaders of the old regime -- and they will be held account for the atrocious crimes they committed on the Iraqi people. (Applause.)
We've got hundreds of sites to exploit, looking for the chemical and biological weapons that we know Saddam Hussein had prior to our entrance into Iraq. Listen, this guy has spent years and years and years of hiding weapons from weapons inspectors. It's going to take time, but the world will see the truth.
We'll restore the hospitals, rebuild the schools, provide needed infrastructure in a country that didn't have as many hospitals as it needed, or schools as it needed, or needed infrastructure as was required, because Saddam Hussein was willing to spend money on luxurious palaces, not on the people of Iraq. (Applause.) We will stand with the new leaders of Iraq as they build a government of, by, and for the Iraqi people. (Applause.)
This is going to take time. The efforts to restore security and infrastructure is going to take time, and it's not going to be easy work. But we will stay the course. We will stay as long as necessary to get the job done, and then we will leave. And when we leave, we will leave behind a free Iraq. (Applause.)
We believe in the peace, in keeping the peace. And the best way to make the world more peaceful, and the best way to fight hatred, the hateful ideologies oftentimes found in corners of the world, is to promote freedom. Free people are less likely to hate. Free people are more likely to focus on a hopeful future. We love freedom in America. It's ingrained in our soul. We also understand the habits of freedom are more likely to make the world a more peaceful and hopeful place. We will stay in Iraq until it is free. (Applause.) And we will stay to make sure the foundations for freedom are real and solid.