WASHINGTON (BP)–President Bush warned the world’s terrorists they will be defeated and warned the American people the effort will be a long one in a speech to a joint session of Congress Sept. 20.
“I will not forget this wound to our country or those who inflicted it,” Bush said nine days after terrorist attacks killed thousands. “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.
“Fellow citizens, we’ll meet violence with patient justice — assured of the rightness of our cause and confident of the victories to come,” the president said in a 40-minute speech that was interrupted frequently by standing ovations in the chamber of the House of Representatives.
Praise for the speech was effusive afterward.
“I thought the president galvanized the nation in a new way,” said Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.
“I’m extremely pleased that the president made clear in eloquent language that there is no moral equivalence between ourselves and our enemies. We are on the civilized side of human history, and they’re on the uncivilized side,” said Land, who was in Washington to attend a meeting of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, which Bush appointed him to earlier in the week.
Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, D.-S.D., commended Bush and told a national TV audience afterward, “We want President Bush to know — we want the world to know — that he can depend on us. We are resolved to work together, not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans.
“We will be fierce in the defense of our ideals,” but “[w]e will not sacrifice the freedoms that have sustained this nation for more than two centuries,” Daschle said.
Bush told a vast television audience the hijacked jetliner crashes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had put the United States on notice it is “not immune from attack.” To protect Americans, the president announced he was establishing a Cabinet-level post, the Office of Homeland Security, to coordinate government efforts. He named Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican, to head the office.
The president said the campaign would not end quickly and implied it would not be without American casualties. He asked Americans “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.”
In a reference to reports of some attacks on Muslims in this country, he asked people to live by America’s principles and not to treat unkindly anyone “because of their ethnic background or religious faith.”
Bush asked Americans to continue giving to help victims and to “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.”
In addition, he asked for patience with heightened security and with the long campaign ahead, for cooperation with FBI agents and for confidence in the economy.
“Some speak of an age of terror,” Bush said. “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.
“It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return almost to normal,” he said. “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.
“In all that lies before us, may God grant us wisdom, and may he watch over the United States of America.”
Bush said the war on terrorism would begin with the militant Islamic organizations known as al Qaeda and headed by Osama bin Laden, but it would not end with them. The evidence the government has collected points to al Qaeda as the movement responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks, he said.
The group practices an Islamic extremism that “perverts the peaceful teachings of Islam,” the president said. It has thousands of terrorists in more than 60 countries, he said.
“The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying, in effect, to hijack Islam itself,” Bush said. “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.
“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.”
He specifically made what he described as nonnegotiable demands on the Taliban regime in Afghanistan, reportedly bin Laden’s most recent location: Turn over all leaders of al Qaeda and all terrorists in Afghanistan; close all terrorist camps in its country and give the United States access to them; protect foreign workers; and release all foreigners unjustly imprisoned. Two American women are among aid workers detained in the country facing charges of witnessing for Christ.
Bush thanked the countries that had rallied in support of the United States but also issued a warning: “Every nation, in every region, now has a decision to make,” the president said. “Either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
A transcript of President Bush’s address is available at www.bpnews.net. (BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: SOBERING SIGHT.