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No Excuses By: Condoleezza Rice
FrontPageMagazine.com | Monday, November 01, 2004

[The following article is a transcript of remarks made by National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice at an AIPAC conference in Florida last Monday.]

Well, thank you so much for that very warm welcome.  And, Bernice, thank you for that extraordinary introduction.  I'll never forget it.  Thank you. To Amy Friedkin thank you very much for the invitation to be here.  The AIPAC Board of Directors, Howard Kohr, Executive Director, and all of you who are here to support this organization, I appreciate very much the chance to spend a few minutes talking with you about some of the challenges that we face in the war on terror.

I want to start by relaying to you something that happened to me about a year after the September 11th attacks.  I was in London, at the American Embassy.  And Embassy personnel had taken the front pages of major newspapers from September 12, 2001, and they had mounted them on the walls.  And when I first saw those newspaper accounts, I realized that I'd actually never read a newspaper account of September 11th, because, frankly, after the  attack, I was too busy to do so. 


But as I stood there in the Embassy, I couldn't take my eyes off the newspapers.  The story they told was familiar:  America attacked, thousands of Americans dead, our financial markets at a standstill, central bankers standing by to intervene should markets collapse, American armed forces placed on high alert,  America fears follow-on attacks.  I remember thinking that the killers who perpetrated those attacks were not just trying to terrorize us.  They were trying symbolically to bring us down.  They chose the center of our economic might; they chose the headquarters of our military power, and the seats of our democratic government.  These were not criminal acts.  These were acts of war, designed to cripple us as a nation.  We had been drawn into a global war against a determined enemy.


Now, there are different views of what the global war on terror calls us to do.  For some, it is a limited engagement whose goal is to go after Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, assume a more defensive posture here at home, and one day be able to put it out of our minds.  They see this as a narrow struggle against a narrow enemy.  But this is not the struggle that we face.  What happened to us on that September day should have changed us all, and it most certainly should have changed the strategic direction of American foreign policy. 


The global war on terror calls us, as President Bush immediately understood, to marshal all elements of our national power to defeat terrorists and the ideology of hatred that sustains them and recruits others to their ranks.  Yes, we must capture or kill bin Laden, and as we meet today American and Afghan and Pakistani forces are hunting him down.  Moreover, more than three-quarters of al Qaida’s known leaders and associates have been detained or killed.  We've frozen millions of dollars of their assets and we've ended their sanctuary in Afghanistan.  Three years ago, that nation was home to dozens of training camps that graduated thousands of trained killers over the course of the decade.  Today, the Taliban regime which sheltered and supported al Qaida has been overthrown and it's been replaced with a free Afghan government that is helping American soldiers to hunt Taliban remnants and al Qaida terrorists who still hide in caves.


Yes, we must defend the homeland and we must make it more secure.  We have tightened security at our airports and seaports.  We have developed a comprehensive plan for biodefense.  We've broken down the bureaucratic walls and legal barriers that prevented the sharing of vital threat information between our domestic agencies and our foreign intelligence agencies.  And we are reorganizing our government and reforming our intelligence agencies.


But the terrorists only have to be right once; we have to be right 100 percent of the time.  That is an unfair fight on the defense.  And so the President believes that this is a war that we must fight on the offense.  (Applause.)  The fact is that unless we change the circumstances that produced this ideology of hatred and hopelessness so great that it causes people to fly planes into buildings and to strap suicide bombs on their bodies,  our children and our grandchildren will still be fighting this war decades from now.  But if we choose to wage a broad war against this global menace, and if we choose to create a lasting foundation for peace, we can defeat the terrorists and their ideology of murder, and leave a safer world.  (Applause.)


Since September 11th, America has built a coalition of some 90 countries that are sharing intelligence and working to combat the terror.  Together, we've captured or killed thousands of terrorists.  We've disrupted plots and broken up terrorist cells from Europe to the Middle East to Southeast Asia.  Through action and diplomacy, we are also shifting the geostrategic balance and shrinking the terrorists’ world. 


A fundamental objective of war is to take the enemy’s territory, and this war is no different.  But the way that we're taking their territory is different.  State sponsors of terror have a choice:  abandon their support of terror, or face the consequences.  The Taliban made the wrong choice and paid the price.  But other nations have made responsible choices and are active allies in the war on terrorism.  Before September 11, Pakistan was one of the few countries that recognized the Taliban.  Not long ago, al Qaida was actively recruiting in that country without serious opposition.  Today, Pakistan’s President is a friend and ally, whose government helped capture such killers as Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational planner behind September 11th.  Until recently, terrorists were well-established in Saudi Arabia and faced little scrutiny and even less opposition.  But today, particularly after the May bombings in Riyadh, the Saudi government is shutting down the facilitators and financial supporters of terrorism.


The result of these efforts is plain:  the terrorists’ world is growing smaller.  The places where they can operate with impunity are becoming fewer and fewer.  And we will not rest until there is no safe place for terrorists to hide.  (Applause.)


A second front in the global war on terror is to stop the spread of the world’s mosOctober 27, 2004 dangerous weapons.  And the President has had concrete successes in doing so. The President’s policy on weapons of mass destruction is very clear:  regimes can pursue WMD at great cost and great peril.  Or regimes can give up their WMD and embark on a path to better relations with the international community.  Some have listened.  Colonel Ghadaffi chose wisely and he gave up his weapons.  And because of the President’s plainspoken and resolute leadership in combating WMD, sensitive nuclear plans, dozens of SCUD missiles, and thousand of pieces of dangerous equipment from Libya are now safely locked away in the United States.  (Applause.)


We are also taking action to stop the trade in deadly weapons.  Under the Proliferation Security Initiative, one of the  President's signature programs, more than 60 nations are sharing information and using their sovereign authorities to search ships and trains and planes and trucks carrying suspect cargo, and, where necessary, to seize dangerous materials.  Last year, working with our British and German and Italian allies, we seized a large shipment of centrifuge parts bound for Libya -- just in time to help convince Colonel Ghadaffi of the wisdom of his decision.  (Applause.)


Less than a year ago, a network headed by the Pakistani nuclear scientist, A. Q. Khan, was selling nuclear plans and equipment to countries like Libya and Iran and North Korea.  Working closely with other governments, we painstakingly pieced together the nature of that network, whose operatives spanned three continents.  Today, this dangerous source for deadly weapons is no longer in business. 


And it was the United States that blew the whistle on Iran and North Korea and their dangerous efforts to get nuclear weapons.  Now the world, through the International Atomic Energy Agency, is focused on Iran, and five nations -- China and Russia, South Korea and Japan and the United States -- have delivered a clear message to Pyongyang, your nuclear weapons programs must be eliminated.


But, ladies and gentlemen, these are all just battles in the global war on terror.  To achieve permanent victory, we must do more.  We must affirm the truth that we have learned the hard way time and again in our history -- in World War I, in the lead to World War II -- we learned that tyranny must always be opposed.  (Applause.)  We must affirm the truth that when freedom is on the march, America is more secure; and when freedom is in retreat, America is more vulnerable.  The


That is why the President has broken with 60 years of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East in the hope of purchasing stability at the price of liberty.  (Applause.)  The stakes could not be higher.  As long as the broader Middle East region remains a region of tyranny and despair and anger, it will produce men and movements that threaten the safety of America and our friends.


Already our commitment to freedom is helping to spur a great debate throughout the broader Middle East.  From Morocco to Jordan to Qatar, we are seeing elections and new protections for women, and the beginnings of political pluralism.  Political, civil society, and business leaders have issued stirring calls for political, economic and social change.


President Bush’s forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East is now unfolding in Afghanistan and in Iraq.  Earlier this month in Afghanistan, the world witnessed the extraordinary testimony to the power of the vote.  A U.S. soldier in Afghanistan reported with awe what he saw as the Afghan people exercised their newfound right to choose their leaders.  This soldier talked about Afghans that began lining up hours before the vote in the snowfall.  He talked about lines of patient Afghans, some of them amputees, waiting to vote in lines that reached, in one case, 2.5 kilometers long.  And he talked about former Taliban elements who came into one Afghan town to try to intimidate the local citizens and were literally run out of town.


To those that have seen only chaos, to those who said that Afghanistan was a failure, to those who do not believe that freedom can change people’s lives, or that America is somehow trying to impose freedom, the Afghan people have delivered a crushing rebuke.  The Taliban could not stop the advance of freedom, votes have been cast, and the elections were a success.  (Applause.)  Challenges lie ahead, but Afghanistan shows what is possible when democracy is an answer to terrorism and fear. 


When Iraqis go to the polls next year to elect a government and to try to put behind them their brutal history, democracy’s power will be affirmed again.  That opportunity exists today because America and a coalition of like-minded states acted to remove one of the most brutal and dangerous regimes in the Middle East, a regime that could no longer be tolerated in that vital region.  (Applause.)


Now, to be sue, the period since the liberation of Iraq has been difficult.  But an interim Iraq government is now preparing for transitional elections next January.  They will be the first free and fair nationwide elections in that country’s history.  Iraqi security forces will number 125,000 by the end of the year, as Iraqis take more responsibility for their own security.  The Iraqis are bravely and defiantly meeting the challenges that confront them and it takes bravery in the face of what they see.


Next year, an elected transitional assembly will draft a new constitution with a bill of rights that provides the framework for a permanent government.  And under that constitution, the people of Iraq will go to the polls again in December of 2005, to elect a permanent government.  There will be 145,000 men in the security forces by February, and 200,000 at the time of their permanent election.  And at that point, Iraq will have achieved for themselves what people all over the world have sought for centuries:  a decent government that protects their rights, and allows them to fulfill their aspirations in freedom and peace.


Through suicide bombings and beheadings and other horrific acts, terrorists and Saddamists are trying to ensure that the Iraqi people never achieve that goal.  And there will be more violence in the coming weeks.  These killers know that a free Iraq will be free of them, and free of their cruelty and their ideology of murder.  They know that the success of democracy in Iraq will be a mortal blow to their ambition to impose Taliban-like rule throughout the Middle East.  Iraq is a central front in the war on terror, and there they must be defeated.  And they will be defeated.  (Applause.)


To be sure, their tactics grab headlines with their brutality and daily toll in blood and treasure.  But this strategy will not work.  They seek to intimidate Iraqi leaders through assassination and other forms of violence, but those leaders refuse to be intimidated.  They seek to demoralize Iraq’s security forces and to discourage new recruits.  No matter the atrocities, every day brave Iraqis come forward to volunteer to serve their country.  They seek to sow sectarian violence, but Shi’a and Kurd and Sunni and others continue to build toward a unified Iraq.  The future that the Iraqi people seek, and that they deserve, will be achieved.


This forward strategy of freedom is also at the heart of the President's approach to the Arab-Israeli conflict.  President Bush is the first American President to support the creation of  a Palestinian state.  As a committed friend of Israel, he views a peaceful and democratic Palestinian state as being in the best interests of both Palestinians and Israel -- Israelis.  But he is also the first American President to say clearly that the nature  of any Palestinian state is as important as its borders.  A Palestinian state must have a just and democratic government that serves the true interests of the Palestinian people, and that is a true partner for Israel in peace. 


Creating such a government is the right road, the only road, to realizing the President’s vision of two states, Israel and Palestine living side by side.  A Palestinian state will never be achieved through terrorism.  Israel will not permit it, and the United States of America will not permit it.  (Applause.)  The President’s refusal to meet with Yasser Arafat reflects his absolute determination that people know clearly the American view:  There is never an excuse for terrorism and we will not legitimize those who employ it.  (Applause.)


Our strategy is beginning to change the terms of debate in the Middle East.  Palestinians are beginning to demand accountability and transparency from their government, and to voice their frustration with years of corruption.  The Palestinian people must replace the failed leadership of decades and build a practicing democracy based on tolerance and liberty.  A Palestinian state will require a vibrant economy, and it will find friends to help it build that.  Other states have responsibilities, as well.  Arab states committed to peace must end incitement to violence in their official media, cut off public and private funding for terrorism, and establish normal relations with Israel.  (Applause.)


Israel, for its part, must take concrete steps to support the emergence of a viable Palestinian state.  As violence subsides, freedom of movement must be restored, permitting innocent Palestinians to resume work and normal life.  And, in accordance with the road map, settlement activity in the occupied territories needs to stop.


Prime Minister Sharon’s plan for disengagement from the Gaza can significantly advance this vision of greater peace and security, and that is why the President has supported it.  The plan stands to do more than just begin the withdrawal of Israeli forces and the dismantlement of Israeli settlements in the Gaza, and four settlements in the West Bank.  This disengagement plan could provide a new opportunity for reform of Palestinian institutions and the emergence of new leadership there.


I'm often told that relations between Israel and the United States have never been closer.  This is due in large part to the fact that the President has spoken openly and candidly about the conditions that we must all fulfill so that Palestinians and Israelis can live in peace.  It is also due to the fact that this President recognizes that no cause justifies terrorism, and that terror -- not an absence of will, terror -- remains the single largest impediment to peace in the Middle East.  (Applause.)


I began today by saying that there are different views about what the global war on terror calls us to do.  Ladies and gentleman, this is not a limited engagement; this is the struggle of our times.  As I stand here today, American men and women in uniform are in peril, on the front lines of freedom.  Some have made the ultimate sacrifice, and others have suffered wounds that will change their lives forever.  Their sacrifice is honored, and every death is mourned.  But we know, too, that nothing of value is ever won without sacrifice.  And we are not the first generation to face a defining struggle or to be called to defend freedom.


The last time I was in government, 1989 to 1991, I was pretty lucky.  I was the Soviet specialist in the White House at the end of the Cold War.  (Laughter.)  I got a chance to participate in the liberation of Eastern Europe.  I got a chance to participate in the unification of Germany and to see the beginnings of the breakup -- the peaceful breakup -- of the Soviet Union.  It was an incredible and heady time.  But, you know, when you look back, you realize that we were just harvesting good decisions that had been taken in 1946, in 1947, and 1948, when Truman and Acheson and Kennan and others recognized that we were not in a limited engagement with communism, we were in a struggle of those times.  And how  difficult the world must have looked to them when, in 1946, the communists in Italy and in France did exceptionally well in the elections, about 40 percent in both countries.


In 1946, Germans were still starving, and people said that the reconstruction of Germany had failed.  In 1947, there was civil strife and civil war in Turkey and in Greece.  In 1948, Germany was permanently divided by the Berlin crisis, and Czechoslovakia fell to a communist coup.  And President Truman had to make the fateful decision whether or not to recognize the struggling young Jewish state of Israel.  In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule, and the Chinese communists won their civil war.


Those weren't just tactical setbacks.  The world must have seen a place hostile to the forward march of freedom.  And yet, the people of the United States and their leadership understood that there was no reason for retreat, that, instead, we were called to dig deep within ourselves, to believe in the power of liberty and the power of freedom and the power of democracy, to stand fast against the Soviet threat, to mobilize all elements of our national power, and to win the struggle of ideas.  And because they did,  50 years later, when President Bush sits across the table from German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, or Prime Minister Koizumi of Japan, he sits across from not just a friend and ally, but a democratic friend and ally.


Europe and Asia are safer because they understood that our security and our values are linked.  The promotion of democracy and political reform, of economic growth and open societies, of educational opportunity and freedom of speech, are not marginal to the war on terror.  They're central.  They provide the path to a future of progress and of hope, as they have done for human beings across the globe.  So, too, it shall be in the Middle East. 

Thank you very much.

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