|February 26, 2003|
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT - G. W. Bush
Washington Hilton Hotel
We meet here during a crucial period in the history of our nation and of the civilized world. Part of that history was written by others, the rest will be written by us.
On a September morning, threats that had gathered for years in secret and far away, led to murder in our country on a massive scale.
As a result, we must look at security in a new way because our country is a battlefield in the first war of the 21st century.
We learned a lesson: The dangers of our time must be confronted actively and forcefully before we see them again in our skies and in our cities. And we set a goal: We will not allow the triumph of hatred and violence in the affairs of men.
Our coalition of more than 90 countries is pursuing the networks of terror with every tool of law enforcement and with military power. We have arrested, or otherwise dealt with, many key commanders of al-Qaida.
Across the world we are hunting down the killers one by one. We are winning and we're showing them the definition of American justice.
And we're opposing the greatest danger in the war on terror, outlaw regimes arming with weapons of mass destruction. In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world and we will not allow it.
This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist organizations and could supply them with the terrible means to strike this country, and America will not permit it.
The danger posed by Saddam Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands of the United Nations and disarm fully and peacefully. If it does not we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be removed.
The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and growing threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the long-term safety and stability of our world. The current Iraqi regime has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the Middle East.
A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform this vital region by bringing hope and progress into the lives of millions. America's interest in security and America's belief in liberty both lead in the same direction, to a free and peaceful Iraq.
The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people themselves. Today they live in scarcity and fear, under a dictator who has brought them nothing but war and misery and torture. Their lives and their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein, but Iraqi lives and freedom matter greatly to us.
Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy, yet that is no excuse to leave the Iraqi regime's torture chambers and poison labs in operation. Any future the Iraqi people choose for themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein has chosen for them.
If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq. We will deliver medicine to the sick, and we are now moving in to place nearly 3 million emergency rations to feed the hungry. We'll make sure that Iraq's 55,000 food distribution sites operating under the Oil for Food program are stocked and open as soon as possible.
The United States and Great Britain are providing tens of millions of dollars to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees and to such groups as the World Food Program and UNICEF to provide emergency aid to the Iraqi people. We'll also lead in carrying out the urgent and dangerous work of destroying chemical and biological weapons. We will provide security against those who try to spread chaos or settle scores or threaten the territorial integrity of Iraq. We will seek to protect Iraq's natural resources from sabotage by a dying regime and ensure those resources are used for the benefit of the owners, the Iraqi people.
The United States has no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq's new government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All Iraqis must have a voice in the new government, and all citizens must have their rights protected.
Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many nations, including our own. We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment before, and the peace that followed a world war.
After defeating enemies, we did not leave behind occupying armies. We left constitutions and parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety in which responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and militarism, liberty found a permanent home.
There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken.
God bless America.
The Honorable Mr. George Walker Bush,