(Author’s note: If Democrats want President George W. Bush to provide an explanation for taking the War on Terror to Iraq, let him give it. The following is my proposed text.)
MY FELLOW AMERICANS:
A few short hours ago our country began its next phase in the War on Terror—the liberation of Iraq. At this very moment, our planes are methodically taking out Saddam Hussein’s military installations, government facilities, and infrastructure. In due time, our ground forces will join the battle. Their work will not be complete until Saddam has been removed from power, until Iraq is free, and its threat to the peace-loving world has been eliminated.
On this evening, our hearts and prayers are with those brave servicemen and women who are risking their lives for our freedom. Our debt and gratitude to them are beyond calculation. They humble us with their sacrifice and inspire us with their dedication.
When I spoke before Congress and the nation last September, ours was a country still grieving in the face of attack, yet resolute in her commitment to deliver a swift and overwhelming defeat to the forces of evil. Tragedy did not make us weak, as our enemies had hoped. Instead, it made us even stronger. Those images of collapsing buildings, of innocents leaping to their deaths, seared our minds, while those words, “Let’s roll,” echoed in our ears and beat in our hearts.
On that night, we as a nation, committed ourselves to doing whatever it would take to make our world safe for freedom. We had been drawn, against our will and our very nature, into a war that we would not lose—no matter how long it would take, how hard we would have to fight, or where the mission might bring us.
While the road ahead was unclear, we were certain about the ultimate destination: complete and total victory.
My fellow Americans, I want to salute you for the way we have come together to win this war. What began with the resistance of those brave souls aboard flight 93, quickly moved to the efforts of law enforcement to find and capture the evil-doers on our very soil, those plotting the next lethal attack.
At this moment, I would especially like to salute Attorney General John Ashcroft and Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge for the extraordinary efforts they have made toward making our planes, our public places, and our society safer. Theirs is an enormous task, and with the help of thousands of loyal government employees and millions of other concerned citizens, they have performed it valiantly.
At that time last year, we also turned our efforts outward, and began a patient, thorough, and crucial campaign to hunt down and destroy terrorists wherever they are, and to eliminate the regimes that harbor or support them. Our efforts began, naturally, in Afghanistan, where, the brutal Taliban regime had provided a home to Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda network, which orchestrated the Sept. 11 attacks.
At the time, there was a small but vocal minority, both in America and abroad, who said it couldn’t be done. Our forces, they warned, were no match for the tenacity of terrorists, for Afghanistan’s treacherous terrain, for a hardened regime that knew what it meant to fight to the last man. America, they predicted, would lose in Afghanistan just as badly as the Soviet Union had before it.
Well, America proved its critics wrong. Unlike the old Soviet Union, our mission in Afghanistan was about promoting freedom, not crushing it. And freedom won.
I am proud to serve as the Commander-in-Chief of the thousands of American men and women who risked, and in some cases lost, their very lives to free Afghanistan. Their heroism inspired our nation, and it has changed the face of the world.
The Taliban—that repressive regime that our critics called invincible, has been toppled. Its leaders are either dead or in hiding, cowering in fear from the very people they had brutally oppressed only months before. Men have shaved their beards; women have shed their burqas; boys are playing soccer and girls are going to school for the first time in their lives.
More importantly, al Qaeda is now an organization without a safe home. Its surviving members are scattered, disorganized, and fearful that the cruel fate they had planned for the world’s freedom-loving people will instead be their own. They no longer have a place to freely train and conduct their grisly experiments with some of the most lethal weapons imaginable.
We have frozen their assets, unraveled many of their plans, and discovered invaluable information about their organization and their designs. And, yes, we have crushed their spirit.
Osama bin Laden, who laughed and boasted of his strength only months ago, has gotten a taste of what true strength really is: The strength of a nation committed to freedom, undeterred in its self-defense.
The effort to finish off al Qaeda continues, but as I said last September, this war will not end there. Our struggle is against all those who refuse to honor the rule of law, who distort their faith and manipulate their people in the service of evil. It is a struggle against all those who plot, day and night, to attack and kill more innocents by any means possible.
And now that struggle has moved into Iraq, a country of good, peaceful people, trapped under the tyranny of Saddam Hussein’s evil and brutal regime.
For decades, Saddam has been a consistent supporter of terrorist organizations, giving them money, arms, and a home. He has aided the homicide bombers in Israel, plotted the attempted assassination of a former American president, and, our intelligence tells us, he cooperated with the terrorists who orchestrated and executed the Sept. 11 attacks.
Even as the Iraqi people have starved for lack of food, he has poured his national resources into developing weapons of mass destruction. He has used chemical weapons against his own people in the past, and, if given the opportunity, there can be little doubt that he—or one of the terrorist groups he supports—would use them against America or her allies.
We cannot know for sure how far along Saddam is in developing his chemical, biological, and nuclear stockpile, because in 1998, he expelled United Nations weapons inspectors from his country. To this day, he refuses to give the investigators unfettered access to his arsenal, suggesting that he has something he wants desperately to hide, something that the rest of the world ought to fear. Even if he were to relent and let UN investigators back in today, it would almost certainly be too late. He has had too much time to develop his stockpile and to find secret places to conceal it.
We have good reason to suspect that Saddam’s weapons program may be close to completion. By some estimates, he could develop intercontinental ballistic missiles capable of reaching our shores within the next two or three of years. If he is not stopped soon, America or her allies could be devastated in an attack even more deadly and diabolical—hard as that is to imagine—than Sept. 11.
While we are unsure of the extent of Saddam’s progress, we know with absolute certainty that time is a luxury we cannot afford. Every day Saddam stays in power is a day the lives of innocent people of all faiths and all nationalities are at risk That is a risk we will not tolerate.
That is why I have instructed our Armed Forces to begin this campaign. They will not stop—we will not stop—until Iraq, like Afghanistan before it, is, free. We will not rest until Saddam is either dead, captured, or running for his life, but no longer in power and menacing the world.
Once again, there are those who say we can’t do it, that this is battle is too difficult, that we lack the support, the resolve, the will to win. They will never learn.
In the last year, America has proven once again that this is a country that rises to its greatest challenges, then leaps right over them. There are no guarantees that this next phase in the war will be quick or easy, but we can be sure that it will be victorious—and decisive.
Removing Saddam and helping to install a new Iraqi government—one that respects the rights of its people and honors international law—will send the rest of the world a clear message: When we said either you are with us or you are with the terrorists, we meant it.
For those nations that haven’t yet decided where they stand, the time is now.
We are heartened by the support we have received from some of our allies. Last September, I observed that America has no truer friend than Great Britain, and that remains the case today. But we also are blessed by the friendship of Israel, which bravely wages the War on Terror on its very soil. I am proud to stand side by side with Prime Ministers Blair and Sharon in our efforts.
Unfortunately, not all of America’s allies in the War on Terror support us in this latest campaign. We respect their opinion, and we are grateful for their counsel. America treasures her friends, even when we may not agree perfectly. Our international coalition is broad enough that differences are to be expected, and it is strong enough that differences are nothing to fear.
But those differences, important though they are, will not stand in the way of our achieving our vital national interests. And today, there is no interest more vital than dismantling the international terrorist machine. With or without the support of the full international community, this is a war we are committed to winning. We have felt the sting of our enemies’ attack, and we will do all that we can—with or without the help of our friends—to prevent future tragedy.
International law is firmly on our side. When America last fought Iraq to liberate Kuwait in 1991, the war ended in an armistice—a complete Iraqi surrender—the terms of which called for ongoing and thorough international inspection of the country’s weapons program. When Saddam expelled the UN investigators in 1998, he broke the terms of that armistice. He rendered his peace agreement with the world null and void, and so the hostilities that the peace agreement suspended now must resume.
Last time around, there were some who thought that America should have finished the job and removed Saddam from power, but as a country, we held back. We were part of an international coalition united only in the goal of liberating Kuwait, and to honor our allies, we refused to step beyond that aim. This time, there is too much at stake. This time, Saddam has already proven that his word is worthless and even his surrenders are insincere. This time, we will not bow to external pressures. Our operation in Iraq will continue until our all of our objectives are met.
As Commander-in-Chief, I have a deep understanding that wars are not to be entered lightly. But this is a war we never sought. It is a war our enemies thrust upon us, and a war that must be fought only because the alternative, which we only glimpsed last Sept. 11, is so much more horrific.
Iraq is only the next phase. The war will continue after Saddam is long gone. As our enemies experience the depths of our resolve and the strength of our dedication, their numbers will start to diminish. In due time, they will all be on the run, having learned all too well the danger that comes from making enemies with the world’s greatest defender of freedom and its most steadfast champion of justice.
We can move forward assured of the righteousness or our cause, and confident in our ultimate victory. We pray for the wisdom to steer the right path, as well as the patience and the fortitude to stand down our enemies one at a time.
May God protect us all, most especially the men and women of our Armed Forces, and may He continue to watch over the United States of America.