Address to the Nation
September 20, 2001
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore,
members of Congress, and fellow Americans:
In the normal course of events, Presidents come to this
chamber to report on the state of the Union. Tonight, no
such report is needed. It has already been delivered by
the American people.
We have seen it in the courage of passengers, who rushed
terrorists to save others on the ground -- passengers like
an exceptional man named Todd Beamer. And would you please
help me to welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight.
We have seen the state of our Union in the endurance of
rescuers, working past exhaustion. We have seen the unfurling
of flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood,
the saying of prayers -- in English, Hebrew, and Arabic.
We have seen the decency of a loving and giving people
who have made the grief of strangers their own.
My fellow citizens, for the last nine days, the entire
world has seen for itself the state of our Union -- and
it is strong. (Applause.)
Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called
to defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger
to resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice,
or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done.
I thank the Congress for its leadership at such an important
time. All of America was touched on the evening of the
tragedy to see Republicans and Democrats joined together
on the steps of this Capitol, singing "God Bless America." And
you did more than sing; you acted, by delivering $40 billion
to rebuild our communities and meet the needs of our military.
Speaker Hastert, Minority Leader Gephardt, Majority Leader
Daschle and Senator Lott, I thank you for your friendship,
for your leadership and for your service to our country.
And on behalf of the American people, I thank the world
for its outpouring of support. America will never forget
the sounds of our National Anthem playing at Buckingham
Palace, on the streets of Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg
We will not forget South Korean children gathering to
pray outside our embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy
offered at a mosque in Cairo. We will not forget moments
of silence and days of mourning in Australia and Africa
and Latin America.
Nor will we forget the citizens of 80 other nations who
died with our own: dozens of Pakistanis; more than 130
Israelis; more than 250 citizens of India; men and women
from El Salvador, Iran, Mexico and Japan; and hundreds
of British citizens. America has no truer friend than Great
Britain. (Applause.) Once again, we are joined together
in a great cause -- so honored the British Prime Minister
has crossed an ocean to show his unity of purpose with
America. Thank you for coming, friend. (Applause.)
On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an
act of war against our country. Americans have known wars
-- but for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign
soil, except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known
the casualties of war -- but not at the center of a great
city on a peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise
attacks -- but never before on thousands of civilians.
All of this was brought upon us in a single day -- and
night fell on a different world, a world where freedom
itself is under attack.
Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking:
Who attacked our country? The evidence we have gathered
all points to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist
organizations known as al Qaeda. They are the same murderers
indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and
Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole.
Al Qaeda is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But
its goal is not making money; its goal is remaking the
world -- and imposing its radical beliefs on people everywhere.
The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism
that has been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast
majority of Muslim clerics -- a fringe movement that perverts
the peaceful teachings of Islam. The terrorists' directive
commands them to kill Christians and Jews, to kill all
Americans, and make no distinction among military and civilians,
including women and children.
This group and its leader -- a person named Osama bin
Laden -- are linked to many other organizations in different
countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the
Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of
these terrorists in more than 60 countries. They are recruited
from their own nations and neighborhoods and brought to
camps in places like Afghanistan, where they are trained
in the tactics of terror. They are sent back to their homes
or sent to hide in countries around the world to plot evil
The leadership of al Qaeda has great influence in Afghanistan
and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of
that country. In Afghanistan, we see al Qaeda's vision
for the world.
Afghanistan's people have been brutalized -- many are
starving and many have fled. Women are not allowed to attend
school. You can be jailed for owning a television. Religion
can be practiced only as their leaders dictate. A man can
be jailed in Afghanistan if his beard is not long enough.
The United States respects the people of Afghanistan --
after all, we are currently its largest source of humanitarian
aid -- but we condemn the Taliban regime. (Applause.) It
is not only repressing its own people, it is threatening
people everywhere by sponsoring and sheltering and supplying
terrorists. By aiding and abetting murder, the Taliban
regime is committing murder.
And tonight, the United States of America makes the following
demands on the Taliban: Deliver to United States authorities
all the leaders of al Qaeda who hide in your land. (Applause.)
Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens,
you have unjustly imprisoned. Protect foreign journalists,
diplomats and aid workers in your country. Close immediately
and permanently every terrorist training camp in Afghanistan,
and hand over every terrorist, and every person in their
support structure, to appropriate authorities. (Applause.)
Give the United States full access to terrorist training
camps, so we can make sure they are no longer operating.
These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion.
(Applause.) The Taliban must act, and act immediately.
They will hand over the terrorists, or they will share
in their fate.
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout
the world. We respect your faith. It's practiced freely
by many millions of Americans, and by millions more in
countries that America counts as friends. Its teachings
are good and peaceful, and those who commit evil in the
name of Allah blaspheme the name of Allah. (Applause.)
The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying,
in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America
is not our many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab
friends. Our enemy is a radical network of terrorists,
and every government that supports them. (Applause.)
Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not
end there. It will not end until every terrorist group
of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. (Applause.)
Americans are asking, why do they hate us? They hate what
we see right here in this chamber -- a democratically elected
government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate
our freedoms -- our freedom of religion, our freedom of
speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with
They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim
countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They
want to drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want
to drive Christians and Jews out of vast regions of Asia
These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to
disrupt and end a way of life. With every atrocity, they
hope that America grows fearful, retreating from the world
and forsaking our friends. They stand against us, because
we stand in their way.
We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have
seen their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous
ideologies of the 20th century. By sacrificing human life
to serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value
except the will to power -- they follow in the path of
fascism, and Nazism, and totalitarianism. And they will
follow that path all the way, to where it ends: in history's
unmarked grave of discarded lies. (Applause.)
Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war?
We will direct every resource at our command -- every means
of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument
of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every
necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the
defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade
ago, with a decisive liberation of territory and a swift
conclusion. It will not look like the air war above Kosovo
two years ago, where no ground troops were used and not
a single American was lost in combat.
Our response involves far more than instant retaliation
and isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle,
but a lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have ever seen.
It may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, and covert
operations, secret even in success. We will starve terrorists
of funding, turn them one against another, drive them from
place to place, until there is no refuge or no rest. And
we will pursue nations that provide aid or safe haven to
terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now has a decision
to make. Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists.
(Applause.) From this day forward, any nation that continues
to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the
United States as a hostile regime.
Our nation has been put on notice: We are not immune from
attack. We will take defensive measures against terrorism
to protect Americans. Today, dozens of federal departments
and agencies, as well as state and local governments, have
responsibilities affecting homeland security. These efforts
must be coordinated at the highest level. So tonight I
announce the creation of a Cabinet-level position reporting
directly to me -- the Office of Homeland Security.
And tonight I also announce a distinguished American to
lead this effort, to strengthen American security: a military
veteran, an effective governor, a true patriot, a trusted
friend -- Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge. (Applause.) He will
lead, oversee and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy
to safeguard our country against terrorism, and respond
to any attacks that may come.
These measures are essential. But the only way to defeat
terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it,
eliminate it, and destroy it where it grows. (Applause.)
Many will be involved in this effort, from FBI agents
to intelligence operatives to the reservists we have called
to active duty. All deserve our thanks, and all have our
prayers. And tonight, a few miles from the damaged Pentagon,
I have a message for our military: Be ready. I've called
the Armed Forces to alert, and there is a reason. The hour
is coming when America will act, and you will make us proud.
This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is
at stake is not just America's freedom. This is the world's
fight. This is civilization's fight. This is the fight
of all who believe in progress and pluralism, tolerance
We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will
need, the help of police forces, intelligence services,
and banking systems around the world. The United States
is grateful that many nations and many international organizations
have already responded -- with sympathy and with support.
Nations from Latin America, to Asia, to Africa, to Europe,
to the Islamic world. Perhaps the NATO Charter reflects
best the attitude of the world: An attack on one is an
attack on all.
The civilized world is rallying to America's side. They
understand that if this terror goes unpunished, their own
cities, their own citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered,
can not only bring down buildings, it can threaten the
stability of legitimate governments. And you know what
-- we're not going to allow it. (Applause.)
Americans are asking: What is expected of us? I ask you
to live your lives, and hug your children. I know many
citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and
resolute, even in the face of a continuing threat.
I ask you to uphold the values of America, and remember
why so many have come here. We are in a fight for our principles,
and our first responsibility is to live by them. No one
should be singled out for unfair treatment or unkind words
because of their ethnic background or religious faith.
I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy
with your contributions. Those who want to give can go
to a central source of information, libertyunites.org,
to find the names of groups providing direct help in New
York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia.
The thousands of FBI agents who are now at work in this
investigation may need your cooperation, and I ask you
to give it.
I ask for your patience, with the delays and inconveniences
that may accompany tighter security; and for your patience
in what will be a long struggle.
I ask your continued participation and confidence in the
American economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American
prosperity. They did not touch its source. America is successful
because of the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise
of our people. These were the true strengths of our economy
before September 11th, and they are our strengths today.
And, finally, please continue praying for the victims
of terror and their families, for those in uniform, and
for our great country. Prayer has comforted us in sorrow,
and will help strengthen us for the journey ahead.
Tonight I thank my fellow Americans for what you have already
done and for what you will do. And ladies and gentlemen
of the Congress, I thank you, their representatives, for
what you have already done and for what we will do together.
Tonight, we face new and sudden national challenges. We
will come together to improve air safety, to dramatically
expand the number of air marshals on domestic flights,
and take new measures to prevent hijacking. We will come
together to promote stability and keep our airlines flying,
with direct assistance during this emergency. (Applause.)
We will come together to give law enforcement the additional
tools it needs to track down terror here at home. (Applause.)
We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities
to know the plans of terrorists before they act, and find
them before they strike. (Applause.)
We will come together to take active steps that strengthen
America's economy, and put our people back to work.
Tonight we welcome two leaders who embody the extraordinary
spirit of all New Yorkers: Governor George Pataki, and
Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. (Applause.) As a symbol of America's
resolve, my administration will work with Congress, and
these two leaders, to show the world that we will rebuild
New York City. (Applause.)
After all that has just passed -- all the lives taken,
and all the possibilities and hopes that died with them
-- it is natural to wonder if America's future is one of
fear. Some speak of an age of terror. I know there are
struggles ahead, and dangers to face. But this country
will define our times, not be defined by them. As long
as the United States of America is determined and strong,
this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age
of liberty, here and across the world. (Applause.)
Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great
loss. And in our grief and anger we have found our mission
and our moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance
of human freedom -- the great achievement of our time,
and the great hope of every time -- now depends on us.
Our nation -- this generation -- will lift a dark threat
of violence from our people and our future. We will rally
the world to this cause by our efforts, by our courage.
We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life
will return almost to normal. We'll go back to our lives
and routines, and that is good. Even grief recedes with
time and grace. But our resolve must not pass. Each of
us will remember what happened that day, and to whom it
happened. We'll remember the moment the news came -- where
we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an image
of a fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories
of a face and a voice gone forever.
And I will carry this: It is the police shield of a man
named George Howard, who died at the World Trade Center
trying to save others. It was given to me by his mom, Arlene,
as a proud memorial to her son. This is my reminder of
lives that ended, and a task that does not end. (Applause.)
I will not forget this wound to our country or those who
inflicted it. I will not yield; I will not rest; I will
not relent in waging this struggle for freedom and security
for the American people.
The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome
is certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have
always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral
between them. (Applause.)
Fellow citizens, we'll meet violence with patient justice
-- assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident
of the victories to come. In all that lies before us, may
God grant us wisdom, and may He watch over the United States
Thank you. (Applause.)
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