Address One Year After
Operation Iraqi Freedom
March 19, 2004
Good morning and thanks
for coming. Laura and I are pleased to welcome you all
to the White House. Mr. Secretary, thank you for being
here. Members of my National Security Council are here,
members of the administration, members of our armed forces,
members of the United States Congress. Thank you for being
here. Ladies and gentlemen. I particularly want to thank
the members of the Diplomatic Corps who are here; thank
the ambassadors for coming today.
We are representing 84 countries united against a common
danger, and joined in a common purpose. We are the nations
that have recognized the threat of terrorism, and we are
the nations that will defeat that threat. Each of us has
pledged before the world: We will never bow to the violence
of a few. We will face this mortal danger, and we will
overcome it together.
As we meet, violence and death at the hands of terrorists
are still fresh in our memory. The people of Spain are
burying their innocent dead. These men and women and children
began their day in a great and peaceful city, yet lost
their lives on a battlefield, murdered at random and without
remorse. Americans saw the chaos and the grief, and the
vigils and the funerals, and we have shared in the sorrow
of the Spanish people. Ambassador Ruperez, please accept
our deepest sympathy for the great loss that your country
The murders in Madrid are a reminder that the civilized
world is at war. And in this new kind of war, civilians
find themselves suddenly on the front lines. In recent
years, terrorists have struck from Spain, to Russia, to
Israel, to East Africa, to Morocco, to the Philippines,
and to America. They've targeted Arab states such as Saudi
Arabia, Jordan, and Yemen. They have attacked Muslims in
Indonesia, Turkey, Pakistan, Iraq, and Afghanistan. No
nation or region is exempt from the terrorists' campaign
Each of these attacks on the innocent is a shock, and
a tragedy, and a test of our will. Each attack is designed
to demoralize our people and divide us from one another.
And each attack must be answered, not only with sorrow,
but with greater determination, deeper resolve, and bolder
action against the killers. It is the interest of every
country, and the duty of every government, to fight and
destroy this threat to our people.
There is no dividing line -- there is a dividing line
in our world, not between nations, and not between religions
or cultures, but a dividing line separating two visions
of justice and the value of life. On a tape claiming responsibility
for the atrocities in Madrid, a man is heard to say, "We
choose death, while you choose life." We don't know
if this is the voice of the actual killers, but we do know
it expresses the creed of the enemy. It is a mind set that
rejoices in suicide, incites murder, and celebrates every
death we mourn. And we who stand on the other side of the
line must be equally clear and certain of our convictions.
We do love live, the life given to us and to all. We believe
in the values that uphold the dignity of life, tolerance,
and freedom, and the right of conscience. And we know that
this way of life is worth defending. There is no neutral
ground -- no neutral ground -- in the fight between civilization
and terror, because there is no neutral ground between
good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death.
The war on terror is not a figure of speech. It is an
inescapable calling of our generation. The terrorists are
offended not merely by our policies -- they are offended
by our existence as free nations. No concession will appease
their hatred. No accommodation will satisfy their endless
demands. Their ultimate ambitions are to control the peoples
of the Middle East, and to blackmail the rest of the world
with weapons of mass terror. There can be no separate peace
with the terrorist enemy. Any sign of weakness or retreat
simply validates terrorist violence, and invites more violence
for all nations. The only certain way to protect our people
is by early, united, and decisive action.
In this contest of will and purpose, not every nation
joins every mission, or participates in the same way. Yet,
every nation makes a vital contribution, and America is
proud to stand with all of you as we pursue a broad strategy
in the war against terror.
We are using every tool of finance, intelligence, law
enforcement and military power to break terror networks,
to deny them refuge, and to find their leaders. Over the
past 30 months, we have frozen or seized nearly $200 million
in assets of terror networks. We have captured or killed
some two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders, as well as
many of al Qaeda's associates countries like the United
States, or Germany, or Pakistan, or Saudi Arabia, or Thailand.
We are taking the fight to al Qaeda allies, such as Ansar-al-Islam
in Iraq, Jemaah Islamiya in Indonesia, and Southeast Asia.
Our coalition is sending an unmistakable message to the
terrorists, including those who struck in Madrid: These
killers will be tracked down and found, they will face
their day of justice.
Our coalition is taking urgent action to stop the transfer
of deadly weapon and materials. America and the nations
of Australia, and France, and Germany, and Italy, and Japan,
and the Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain, the United
Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, and Norway have joined in the
Proliferation Security Initiative all aimed to bind together,
to interdict lethal materials transported by air or sea
or land. Many governments have cooperated to expose and
dismantle the network of A.Q. Khan, which sold nuclear
secrets to Libya, Iran and North Korea. By all these efforts,
we are determined to prevent catastrophic technologies
from falling into the hands of an embittered few.
Our coalition is also confronting the dangerous combination
of outlaw states, terrorist groups, and weapons of mass
destruction. For years, the Taliban made Afghanistan the
home base of al Qaeda. And so we gave the Taliban a choice:
to abandon forever their support for terror, or face the
destruction of their regime. Because the Taliban chose
defiance, our coalition acted to remove this threat. And
now the terror camps are closed, and the government of
a free Afghanistan is represented here today as an active
partner in the war on terror.
The people of Afghanistan are a world away from the nightmare
of the Taliban. Citizens of Afghanistan have adopted a
new constitution, guaranteeing free elections and full
participation by women. The new Afghan army is becoming
a vital force of stability in that country. Businesses
are opening, health care centers are being established,
and the children of Afghanistan are back in school, boys
This progress is a tribute to the brave Afghan people,
and to the efforts of many nations. NATO -- including forces
from Canada, France, Germany, and other nations -- is leading
the effort to provide security. Japan and Saudi Arabia
have helped to complete the highway from Kabul to Kandahar,
which is furthering commerce and unifying the country.
Italy is working with Afghans to reform their legal system,
and strengthening an independent judiciary. Three years
ago, the people of Afghanistan were oppressed and isolated
from the world by a terrorist regime. Today, that nation
has a democratic government and many allies -- and all
of us are proud to be friends of the Afghan people.
Many countries represented here today also acted to liberate
the people of Iraq. One year ago, military forces of a
strong coalition entered Iraq to enforce United Nations
demands, to defend our security, and to liberate that country
from the rule of a tyrant. For Iraq, it was a day of deliverance.
For the nations of our coalition, it was the moment when
years of demands and pledges turned to decisive action.
Today, as Iraqis join the free peoples of the world, we
mark a turning point for the Middle East, and a crucial
advance for human liberty.
There have been disagreements in this matter, among old
and valued friends. Those differences belong to the past.
All of us can now agree that the fall of the Iraqi dictator
has removed a source of violence, aggression, and instability
in the Middle East. It's a good thing that the demands
of the United Nations were enforced, not ignored with impunity.
It is a good thing that years of illicit weapons development
by the dictator have come to the end. It is a good thing
that the Iraqi people are now receiving aid, instead of
suffering under sanctions. And it is a good thing that
the men and women across the Middle East, looking to Iraq,
are getting a glimpse of what life in a free country can
There are still violent thugs and murderers in Iraq, and
we're dealing with them. But no one can argue that the
Iraqi people would be better off with the thugs and murderers
back in the palaces. Who would prefer that Saddam's torture
chambers still be open? Who would wish that more mass graves
were still being filled? Who would begrudge the Iraqi people
their long-awaited liberation? On year after the armies
of liberation arrived, every soldier who has fought, every
aid worker who has served, every Iraqi who has joined in
their country's defense can look with pride on a brave
and historic achievement. They've served freedom's cause,
and that is a privilege.
Today in Iraq, a British-led division is securing the
southern city of Basra. Poland continues to lead a multinational
division in south-central Iraq. Japan and the Republic
of Korea -- of South Korea have made historic commitments
of troops to help bring peace to Iraq. Special forces from
El Salvador, Macedonia, and other nations are helping to
find and defeat Baathist and terrorist killers. Military
engineers from Kazakhstan have cleared more than a half
a million explosive devices from Iraq. Turkey is helping
to resupply coalition forces. All of these nations, and
many others, are meeting their responsibilities to the
people of Iraq.
Whatever their past views, every nation now has an interest
in a free, successful, stable Iraq. And the terrorists
understand their own interest in the fate of that country.
For them, the connection between Iraq's future and the
course of the war on terror is very clear. They understand
that a free Iraq will be a devastating setback to their
ambitions of tyranny over the Middle East. And they have
made the failure of democracy in Iraq one of their primary
By attacking coalition forces -- by targeting innocent
Iraqis and foreign civilians for murder -- the terrorists
are trying to weaken our will. Instead of weakness, they're
finding resolve. Not long ago, we intercepted a planning
document being sent to leaders of al Qaeda by one of their
associates, a man named Zarqawi. Along with the usual threats,
he had a complaint: "Our enemy," said Zarqawi, "is
growing stronger and his intelligence data are increasing
day by day -- this is suffocation." Zarqawi is getting
the idea. We will never turn over Iraq to terrorists who
intend our own destruction. We will not fail the Iraqi
people, who have placed their trust in us. Whatever it
takes, we will fight and work to assure the success of
freedom in Iraq.
Many coalition countries have sacrificed in both Iraq
and Afghanistan. Among the fallen soldiers and civilians
are sons and daughters of Australia, Bulgaria, Canada,
Denmark, Estonia, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan,
the Republic of Korea, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania,
Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, Ukraine, Uzbekistan,
the United Kingdom, and the United States. We honor their
courage, we pray for the comfort of their families. We
will uphold the cause they served.
The rise of democratic institutions in Afghanistan and
Iraq is a great step toward a goal of lasting importance
to the world. We have set out to encourage reform and democracy
in the greater Middle East as the alternatives to fanaticism,
resentment, and terror. We've set out to break the cycle
of bitterness and radicalism that has brought stagnation
to a vital region, and destruction to cities in America
and Europe and around the world. This task is historic,
and difficult; this task is necessary and worthy of our
In the 1970s, the advance of democracy in Lisbon and Madrid
inspired democratic change in Latin America. In the 1980s,
the example of Poland ignited a fire of freedom in all
of Eastern Europe. With Afghanistan and Iraq showing the
way, we are confident that freedom will lift the sights
and hopes of millions in the greater Middle East.
One man who believed in our cause was a Japanese diplomat
named Katsuhiko Oku. He worked for the Coalition Provision
Authority in Iraq. Mr. Oku was killed when his car was
ambushed. In his diary he described his pride in the cause
he had joined. "The free people of Iraq," he
wrote, "are now making steady progress in reconstructing
their country -- while also fighting against the threat
of terrorism. We must join hands with the Iraqi people
in their effort to prevent Iraq from falling into the hands
of terrorists." This good, decent man concluded, "This
is also our fight to defend freedom."
Ladies and gentlemen, this good man from Japan was right.
The establishment of a free Iraq is our fight. The success
of a free Afghanistan is our fight. The war on terror is
our fight. All of us are called to share the blessings
of liberty, and to be strong and steady in freedom's defense.
It will surely be said of our times that we lived with
great challenges. Let it also be said of our times that
we understood our great duties, and met them in full.
May God bless our efforts. (Applause.)
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