`We will stay on offensive'


April 06, 2004|By Kathy Lally

In a speech yesterday at Central Piedmont Community College in Charlotte, N.C., President Bush discussed the economy and the world after Sept. 11, 2001. He also answered questions from the press. Here are excerpts from his remarks:

" ... As we were beginning to recover from the recession, the enemy hit us. September the 11th, 2001, marked a new day in American history. ... It's a day in which we realized oceans could no longer protect us from enemies which hate what we stand for. These cold-blooded killers came and attacked us because they hate freedom. They can't stand the things that we love here in America. And it hurt us. It hurt us economically. Our economy lost nearly 1 million jobs in the three months after we were attacked.

"It changed how we must view foreign policy. Before the attack, we could see a threat that might be emerging overseas and we could pick and choose whether or not we wanted to deal with it or not. Now when we see threats, we recognize that those emerging threats must be dealt with in order to protect ourselves. It changed the attitude of those of us involved with the most solemn duty of protecting the American people. On that day, I vowed that I would bring to justice those who inflicted harm on America. We're on the offensive. We will stay on the offensive until this scourge to civilization is removed.

"It is important to stay on the offensive, using all our resources to bring these people to justice, because al-Qaida is wounded, but not broken. They're still dangerous. We take them seriously, because I'm convinced they still like to inflict harm on America, or Americans.

"It's also that day, right after that day, I announced a doctrine that said, if you harbor a terrorist or feed a terrorist, you're just as guilty as the terrorist. It's very important for the American president to speak clearly and mean what he says. I meant what I said. The Taliban found out that I mean what I say. Afghanistan is now free of one of the most barbaric regimes in the history of mankind. And the al-Qaida no longer has a safe haven in Afghanistan. ...

"I looked at the information on Iraq and - the intelligence - and saw a threat. The United States Congress looked at the same intelligence and it saw a threat. My predecessor and the previous Congress looked at the same intelligence and made regime change in Iraq the policy of our government. In other words, it saw a threat, as well. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence and it saw a threat.

"And so I had a choice to make, after Saddam Hussein refused once again to disarm. That was, I went to the United Nations Security Council; I said, we all see a threat, let's do something about it, finally. And they agreed. They passed a resolution unanimously that said, disarm, get rid of your weapons programs, or face serious consequences. That was the message that the members of the United Nations Security Council said, loud and clear.

"Saddam Hussein once again defied the demands of the world. And so I had a choice: Do I take the word of a madman, do I trust a person who had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people, plus people in the neighborhood, or do I take the steps necessary to defend the country? Given that choice, I will defend America every time.

"We're still being challenged in Iraq, and the reason why is a free Iraq will be a major defeat in the cause of terror. Terrorists can't stand freedom. They hate free societies. And yet, we know that free societies will be peaceful societies. We also believe that freedom is the Almighty's gift to every person in this world. It's one of the values that we hold dear. These killers don't have values. They want to shake our will. So we've got tough action in Iraq.

"But we will stay the course. We will do what is right. We will make sure that a free Iraq emerges, not only for our own security, but for the sake of free peoples everywhere. A free Iraq will change the Middle East. A free Iraq will make the world more peaceful. A free Iraq will make America more secure. We will not be shaken by thugs and terrorists. ..."

[Addressing the press] "I just met with Specialist Chris Hill's family from North Carolina.

"You know, I told the family how much we appreciated his sacrifice - he was killed in Iraq - and assured him that we would stay the course, that a free Iraq was very important for peace in the world, long-term peace, and that we're being challenged in Iraq because there are people there that hate freedom.

"But the family was pleased to hear that ... their son would not have died in vain. And that's an important message that I wanted to share with you today. ... "

QUESTION: Mr. President, in regard to the June 30th deadline [to transfer authority to Iraqis], is there a chance that that would be moved back?

BUSH: No, the intention is to make sure the deadline remains the same. I believe we can transfer authority by June 30th. We're working toward that date. ...

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