|The White House
President George W. Bush
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Vice President
May 14, 2004
Remarks by the Vice President at the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County, Siemens Campus
9901 Donna Klein Boulevard
Boca Raton, Florida
12:04 P.M. EDT
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you. (Laughter.) No comment. Well, I want to thank you, Adam, for that kind introduction, and thank all of your for that warm welcome this morning. I appreciate the opportunity to be back in South Florida, and I'm grateful for the chance to spend a little time with all of you today. I want to thank the Jewish Federation of South Palm Beach County for hosting the event -- and more importantly, for the good work this organization does every day all throughout the year. From education, to recreation, to senior care, you play playing a vital role in the lives of Jewish residents and neighbors in the greater Boca Raton area.
I also want to bring all of you good wishes from our President, George W. Bush. (Applause.) The President has many friends in Florida, and even a few family members. (Applause.)
The President and I are tremendously grateful for the support we have received in this state, and especially among members of the Jewish community. It's been absolutely vital, obviously, in our ability to do our jobs in Washington. It has been honor for me to work at the President's side during an incredibly challenging period for America and for our friends around the world. He has taken confident steps to advance his vision for a free and secure Israel at the heart of a prosperous and peaceful Middle East. He has defended religious liberties for all peoples, and stood firmly against anti-Semitism. And he has helped to strengthen the bond between America and Israel that has lasted over five decades, while reinforcing one of America's most valued friendships in the world. (Applause.)
As the President has often said, we have many responsibilities in the world, but we do not have the luxury of facing them one at a time. We must move forward on many fronts, simultaneously, keeping in mind the single, overriding duty of our government: To protect the safety and security of the American people.
The attacks of September 11, 2001 signaled the arrival of an entirely new era. Some 3,000 of our fellow citizens died that morning, including citizens of Israel, and Jews from America and other nations. Some, like Stephen Belson of Manhattan's Ladder Company 24, devoted their final minutes to rushing into the burning towers to save others.
Not long after those attacks, one high-ranking al Qaeda official said, this is the beginning of the end for America. It's pretty clear that terrorist had no understanding of the American people. (Applause.) Because from the night of September 11th to this day, America has left no doubt where we stand -- we have no illusions about the nature of this struggle, or the character of the enemy. The recent murder of Nicholas Berg, like the murder of Daniel Pearl in 2002, is a reminder that there are evil people in the world capable of any atrocity, and determined to take innocent life. This nation will never be intimidated by the killers who despise us and everything we stand for. We are taking this fight to the enemy, and we will prevail. (Applause.)
Fighting the war on terror has required a shift in our national security policy. For many years prior to 9/11, terror attacks against Americans were treated as isolated incidents, as criminal acts, and answered -- if at all -- on an ad hoc basis, and rarely in a systematic way. Even after an attack inside our own country -- the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center in New York -- there was a tendency to treat terror attacks as criminal acts to be handled primarily through law enforcement.
The main perpetrator of that 1993 attack in New York was tracked down, arrested, convicted, and sent off to serve a 240-year sentence. Yet behind that man was a growing network with operatives inside and outside the United States, waging war against our country. After the World Trade Center attack in 1993 came the murders at the Saudi Arabian National Guard facility in Riyadh, in 1995; the simultaneous bombings of our embassies in East Africa -- Kenya and Tanzania -- in 1998; the bombing of the USS Cole, in 2000. In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Mohammad -- the mastermind of 9/11 -- first proposed to bin Laden that they use airliners to attack targets in the United States. Later, in 1996 and again in 1998, Osama bin Laden declared war upon the United States. During the same period, thousands of terrorists were trained at al Qaeda camps throughout Afghanistan.
The President and I understand that America requires an aggressive strategy against these enemies -- not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to fight and win a global campaign against the terror network. (Applause.) There can be no compromise in this mission. Our enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased, or negotiated with. It can only be destroyed -- and that's the business at hand. (Applause.)
As we saw on September 11th, our homeland is a battlefield in the war on terror, and we have made improving defenses here at home a central part of our strategy. We created the Department of Homeland Security, and brought together 180,000 federal employees from 22 agencies with a single purpose -- to defend America. We passed aggressive new funding for cutting-edge defenses against a biological attack. We also passed the Patriot Act, to give law enforcement the tools needed to catch terrorists inside the United States. This is urgent work. More than two-and-a-half years have passed now since 9/11, yet it would be a grave mistake to assume the threat to our country and the world has faded away.
As we have seen in many attacks since 9/11 all over the world -- in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Karbalah, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Jerusalem, Baghdad, and Madrid, terrorists are determined to intimidate free countries, and even to try to influence elections. We have to assume they will make further attempts inside the United States. And every American can be certain: This government will do everything we can to prevent another terrorist attack in America. (Applause.)
But a good defense is not enough. We have also taken decisive action to stop the terrorist threat before it reaches our shores. We are dismantling the financial networks that fund terror against America, Israel, and other nations. We are working with military personnel and intelligence services from many nations to go after the terrorists wherever they plot and plan. From Pakistan to the Philippines to the Horn of Africa, we are giving our enemies good reason to fear the night.
Of those known to be directly involved in organizing the attacks of 9/11, most are now in custody or confirmed dead. The leadership of al Qaeda has sustained heavy losses. And with each passing day, the terrorists can be confident they will sustain more.
As we work to dismantle the terror networks, we are also applying the Bush doctrine: Any person or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and will be held to account. (Applause.) The first to see this doctrine in application were the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan by violence while turning that country into a training camp for terrorists. America and our coalition took down the regime in a matter of weeks because of our superior technology, and the unmatched skill of our armed forces, and, above all, because we came not as conquerors but as liberators. The Taliban are gone from the scene. The terrorist camps are closed. The Afghan people are reclaiming their own country and building a nation that is secure, independent, and free.
In Iraq, we took another essential step in the war on terror. Saddam Hussein brutalized his own people, supported terrorists, pursued and used weapons of mass destruction, and financed Palestinian suicide bombers to kill Israelis. Remembering what we saw on the morning of 9/11, and knowing the nature of our enemies who remain, the President and I have a clear responsibility to do everything in our power to keep terrorists from ever acquiring weapons of mass destruction. (Applause.)
Before using force to uphold that responsibility in Iraq, we tried every possible option to address the threat of Saddam Hussein. Despite 12 years of diplomacy, more than a dozen Security Council resolutions, hundreds of U.N. weapons inspectors, thousands of flights to enforce the no-fly zones, and even strikes against military targets in Iraq, Saddam Hussein refused to comply with the terms of the 1991 Gulf War cease-fire. All of these measures failed.
In October of 2002, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly to authorize the use of force in Iraq. The next month, the U.N. Security Council passed a unanimous resolution finding Iraq in material breach of its obligations, and vowing serious consequences in the event Saddam Hussein did not fully and immediately comply. When Saddam failed even then to comply, the President had a choice: To continue to take the word of a madman, or to take action to defend the security of America and our allies. Given that choice, George W. Bush will defend America every time. (Applause.)
Along with more than 30 coalition partners, we have made enormous progress in the 14 months since the liberation of Iraq began. In that time, Saddam has gone from palace, to bunker, to spider hole, to jail. (Applause.) Fourteen months ago, he was the all-powerful dictator of Iraq, in control of the lives and the future of some 25 million people, free to continue his pursuit of weapons of mass destruction and his sponsorship of terrorism. Now the people of Iraq -- and all people of the Middle East and the world -- can be certain that the dictator and his sons will never threaten them again. (Applause.)
We have vastly improved the quality of life for the Iraqi people in other ways as well. Our coalition has renovated thousands of schools, opened hundreds of hospitals, provided clean drinking water, and rebuilt the electricity grid. Businesses are up and running, a legitimate judicial system is functioning, industries like telecommunications are expanding, newspapers are being printed by a free press, and some 200,000 Iraqis are now being retrained to provide for their own defense.
As a byproduct of our actions in Afghanistan and Iraq, Colonel Moammar Gadhafi, in Libya, decided that he wanted to forego the development of nuclear weapons. (Applause.) As we launched into Iraq a year ago, he contacted the President and Prime Minister Blair and began negotiations to surrender all of his efforts -- to end all of his efforts to develop nuclear capability. In December, shortly after Saddam Hussein was captured, Colonel Gadhafi announced that he was prepared to implement that agreement. And all of the materials relating to his nuclear program are now in the possession of the United States. (Applause.)
We still face serious challenges on the ground in Iraq. Thugs and assassins are desperately trying to shake our will, and to prevent the rise of democracy, but they will fail. A new transitional law has been signed that enshrines the protection of individual rights, and the path forward is clear. On the 30th of June, Iraqi sovereignty will be placed in Iraqi hands. (Applause.)
Iraq is a central front in our war on terror. The defeat of tyranny and violence in that nation, and the rise of democracy in the heart of the Middle East, will be a crucial setback for international terror. We will do what is necessary - destroying the terrorists, returning sovereignty to the Iraqi people, and helping them to build a stable and self-governing nation. Because we are strong and resolute, Iraq will never go back to the camp of tyranny and terror. (Applause.) And America will never go back to the false comforts of the world before 9/11. Terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength. They are invited by the perception of weakness. (Applause.) And this nation has made a decision: We will engage the enemy, facing him with our military in Afghanistan and Iraq today, so we do not have to face him with armies of firefighters, police, and medical personnel on the streets of our own cities.
Our nation is extremely fortunate during these times of testing to have the dedicated service of our men and women in uniform. (Applause.) The recent misconduct of a few does not diminish the honor and the decency that our servicemen and women have shown in Iraq. (Applause.)
They have seen hard duty, long deployments, and fierce fighting. They've endured the loss of friends and comrades. And they are unwavering in their mission. They are proving every day that when we send them to defend this nation and our interests, we are sending the very best of the United States of America. (Applause.)
Our work in Afghanistan and Iraq is part of a forward strategy of freedom that we are pursuing throughout the greater Middle East. We know from experience that the institutions of self-government turn the energies of human beings away from violence, to the peaceful work of building better lives. Democracies do not breed the anger and radicalism that drag down whole societies or export violence. Terrorists do not find fertile recruiting grounds or welcome bases of operations in societies where young people have the right to guide their own destinies and to choose their own leaders. By helping nations to build the institutions of freedom, and turning the energies of men and women away from violence, we not only make those countries more peaceful, we add to the security of our own country. (Applause.)
Just as democratic reform is the key to the future that the people of the Middle East deserve, it is essential to the peaceful resolution of the long-standing conflict in the Holy Land. President Bush has expressed his unwavering commitment to the security of Israel as a vibrant Jewish state. (Applause.)
And in the Rose Garden almost two years ago, he laid out a clear vision for the road to peace. Our vision is for a viable, independent Palestinian state, living side-by-side at peace with Israel. Yet we recognize that peace will not be achieved by Palestinian rulers who intimidate opposition, tolerate and profit from corruption and maintain ties to and encourage terrorist groups. The best hope for a lasting peace depends on true democracy. And a true Palestinian democracy requires leaders who understand that terror has, in fact, been the worst enemy of the Palestinian people, and who are prepared to remove it from their midst. (Applause.)
Americans and Israelis have shared the pain of terrorist attack, and we are joined in our refusal to tolerate a future based on fear and terror. As the President has said, Israel must redouble its efforts by alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people and avoiding actions that undermine the long-term viability of a two-state solution. A month ago today, President Bush told Prime Minister Sharon that he welcomed his courageous decision to withdraw Israeli forces and remove all settlements from Gaza, as well as certain settlements from the West Bank. The President called on Palestinians, and their Arab neighbors, to match that boldness, and that courage.
We believe that the removal of Saddam Hussein and the rise of a free Iraq will, in time, help create the conditions in which a lasting peace between Israelis and their Palestinian neighbors is more likely. (Applause.)
As the President has said, "the establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." And progress toward democracy for the Palestinian people will be a crucial step toward peace.
President Bush will continue working with Israelis and Palestinians to make further progress on the road map. We will go about this work with confidence but without illusion. We will continue working closely with Prime Minister Sharon to confront terrorism in all its forms. And we will remain steadfast in our support of Israel's right to defend herself. (Applause.)
President Bush is also taking new steps to confront the resurgence of an old evil. Nearly six decades after the end of the Holocaust, anti-Semitism is on the rise. Our administration led the effort to convene a conference on anti-Semitism in Berlin this spring. More than 50 nations sent representatives to the meeting, which included an American delegation led by former Mayor Ed Koch. America will continue working to eliminate anti-Semitism wherever it is found, from the Middle East, to Europe, to our own streets. (Applause.)
On national security, and on so many other issues -- from economic growth to improving our schools to better health care and prescription drug coverage for our seniors -- President Bush has led the way in making progress for the American people. He has a hopeful, optimistic vision for the future of this nation.
Abroad, we will use America's great power to serve great purposes -- to turn back the forces of terror, and to spread hope and freedom throughout the world. Here at home, we will continue building prosperity that reaches every corner of the land, so that every child who grows up in the United States will have a chance to learn, and to succeed, and to rise in the world.
These past three years, as our country experienced war and national emergency, I have watched our Commander-in-Chief make the decisions and set the strategy. I have seen a man who is calm and deliberate; comfortable with responsibility; consistent in his objectives, and resolute in his actions. These times have tested the character of our nation, and they have tested the character of our nation's leader. (Applause.) When he makes a commitment, there is no doubt he will follow through. As a result, America's friends know they can trust -- and America's enemies know they must fear -- the decisive leadership of President George W. Bush. (Applause.)
Once again, I want thank you for the chance to be here today. By upholding your proud Jewish traditions, and reaching out to your neighbors in the South Florida community, you're helping to make America a stronger, better country. I'm grateful for your warm welcome and your support, and I wish you all the best in the years to come.
Thank you very much. (Applause.)
END 12:24 P.M. EDT