November 11, 2003
By President George Bush
REMARKS BY THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
AT THE HERITAGE FOUNDATION
PRESIDENT'S CLUB LUNCHEON
Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center
November 11, 2003
THE PRESIDENT: Ed, thank you very much. It's an
honor to be here. I appreciate your invitation. I want to thank you
for your decades of leadership in the conservative movement.
Presidents come and go, except here at the Heritage Foundation.
(Laughter.) I appreciate being with your good bride, Linda; the
trustees of the Heritage; the longtime Heritage supporters; and the
Ronald Reagan Fellow at Heritage, a man who is a fine leader and a
fine Attorney General, Ed Meese. (Applause.)
It's appropriate that we gather in the building named for Ronald
Reagan. The Heritage Foundation emerged as an important voice in
Washington during the Reagan years. The American people gave Ronald
Reagan his mandate for leadership. Yet, it was the Heritage
Foundation, with a book by that title, from which he drew ideas and
inspiration. Ever since, in the councils of Washington, Heritage
has been an advocate for free enterprise, traditional values and
the advance of liberty around the world. My administration has
benefited from your good work, and so has our country. Thank you
for what you do. (Applause.)
We meet on Veterans Day, and I know there are many veterans in
this room. On behalf of the nation, I thank you for your service to
our country. (Applause.) The title of veteran is a term of great
respect in America. All who served, whether for a few years or for
many, have put the nation's needs above their own. All stood ready,
if the order came to risk everything for their country's cause. Our
wars have taken from us some of our finest citizens, and every hour
of the lifetimes they hoped to live. And the courage of our
military has given us every hour we live in freedom.
In every generation, members of the Armed Forces have been loyal
to one another, and faithful to the ideals of America. After the
second world war, returning veterans often said they had just been
doing their jobs, or didn't talk about their service at all. Yet
they knew the stakes of the fight they had been in, and the
magnitude of what they had achieved. Long after putting away his
uniform, one American expressed his pride in having served in World
War II. He said, "I feel like I played my part in turning this from
a century of darkness into a century of light." This is true of all
who served and sacrificed in the struggles of the 20th century.
They maintained the greatest fighting force in the world. They kept
our country free, and we're grateful to them all. (Applause.)
We come to this Veterans Day in a time of war. And today's
military is acting in the finest traditions of the veterans who
came before them. They've given all that we've asked of them. They
are showing bravery in the face of ruthless enemies, and compassion
to people in great need. Our men and women in uniform are warriors
and they are liberators, strong and kind and decent. By their
courage, they keep us safe; by their honor, they make us proud.
When we lose such Americans in battle we lose our best. And the
time -- this time of brave achievement is also a time of sacrifice.
Not far from this place, at Army and Navy medical centers, young
service members are recovering from injuries of war. Not far from
here, at Arlington National Cemetery, as in home towns across
America, we have laid to rest young men and women who died in
distant lands. For their families, this is a terrible sorrow, and
we pray for their comfort. For the nation, there is a feeling of
loss, and we remember and we honor every name. (Applause.)
Our people in uniform know the cost and risk of war. They also
know what is at stake in this war. Army Command Sergeant Major
Loakimo Falaniko recently lost his son, Private Jonathan Falaniko,
in an attack near Baghdad. Father and son both served in Iraq, in
the same unit, the 1st Armored Division's Engineer Brigade. At his
son's memorial service, Command Sergeant Major Falaniko said this:
"What our country brings to Iraq is a chance for freedom and
democracy. We're making a difference every day. My son died for a
good cause. He answered the nation's call."
Our mission in Iraq and Afghanistan is clear to our service
members -- and clear to our enemies. Our men and women are fighting
to secure the freedom of more than 50 million people who recently
lived under two of the cruelest dictatorships on Earth. Our men and
women are fighting to help democracy and peace and justice rise in
a troubled and violent region. Our men and women are fighting
terrorist enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and center
of their power, so that we do not face those enemies in the heart
of America. (Applause.) Our men and women are fighting for the
security of America and for the advance of freedom, and that is a
cause worth fighting for. (Applause.)
The work we are in is not easy; yet it is essential. The failure
of democracy in Afghanistan and Iraq will condemn every advocate of
freedom in those two countries to prison or death, and would
extinguish the democratic hopes of millions in the Middle East. The
failure of democracy in those two countries would provide new basis
for the terrorist network and embolden terrorists and their allies
around the world. The failure of democracy in those two countries
would convince terrorists that America backs down under attack, and
more attacks on America would surely follow.
The terrorists cite the examples of Beirut and Somalia as evidence
that America can be made to run. Five years ago one of the
terrorists said that an attack could make America retreat in less
than 24 hours. The terrorists are mistaken. (Applause.) The United
States will complete our work in Iraq and in Afghanistan. Democracy
in those two countries will succeed. And that success will be a
great milestone in the history of liberty.
A democratic revolution that has reached across the globe will
finally take root in the Middle East. The stagnation and isolation
and anger of that region will give way to progress and opportunity.
(Applause.) America and the world will be safer from catastrophic
violence because terror is not the tool of the free.
The United States has made an unbreakable commitment to the
success of freedom in Afghanistan and Iraq. We have a strategy to
see that commitment through. In Afghanistan, we're helping to build
a free and stable democracy, as we continue to track down and
destroy Taliban and al Qaeda forces. Following years of cruel
oppression, the Afghan people are living with hope and they're
making steady progress.
In Iraq, the terrorists have chosen to make a stand and to test
our resolve. Their violence is concentrated in a relatively small
area of that country. Yet, the terrorists are dangerous. For the
sake of Iraq's future, for the sake of America's security, these
killers must be defeated. (Applause.)
After the swift advance of our coalition to Baghdad and the
removal of Saddam Hussein from power, some remnants of the regime
fled from the battlefield. Over time, Baath Party and Fedayeen
fighters and other Saddam loyalists have organized to attack our
forces, to terrorize international aid workers and to murder
innocent Iraqis. These bitter holdouts would rather see Iraqis dead
than see them free.
Foreign jihadists have arrived across Iraq's borders in small
groups with the goal of installing a Taliban-like regime. Also
present in the country are some terrorists from Ansar Islam and
from al Qaeda, who are always eager to join in the killing and who
seek revenge after their defeat in Afghanistan. Saddam loyalists
and foreign terrorists may have different long-term goals, but they
share a near-term strategy -- to terrorize Iraqis and to intimidate
America and our allies.
Recent reporting suggests that despite their differences, these
killers are working together to spread chaos and terror and fear.
Since the fall of Saddam Hussein, 93 percent of terror attacks have
occurred in Baghdad and five of Iraq's 18 provinces. The violence
is focused in 200 square miles known as the Baathist Triangle, the
home area to Saddam Hussein and most of his associates. Here, the
enemy is waging the battle -- and it is here that the enemy will be
In the last few months, the adversary has changed its
composition and method, and our coalition is adapting accordingly.
We're employing the latest battlefield technology to locate mortar
positions and roadside bombs. Our forces are moving against
specific targets based on intelligence gathered from Iraqis. We're
conducting hundreds of daily patrols. Last month alone we made
1,500 raids against terrorists. The recent operations have resulted
in the capture or death of more than a thousand killers, the
seizure of 4,500 mortar rounds; 1,600 rocket-propelled grenades
have been seized, thousands of other weapons and military
equipment. Our coalition is on the offensive in Iraq, and we will
stay on the offensive. (Applause.)
The long-term security of Iraq will be assured by the Iraqis,
themselves: 118,000 Iraqis are now serving as police officers and
border guards, civil defense personnel and in the facilities
protection service. Iraq's security forces join in operations with
our troops and they patrol towns and cities independently. Some 700
troops are now serving in the new Iraqi army. Thousands more are
being trained, and we expect to see 35,000 Iraqi troops in the
field by the end of next year. Increasingly, the Iraqi people are
assuming the responsibilities and the risks of protecting their own
country. And their willingness to accept these duties is one of the
surest signs that the Iraqis want freedom, and that the Iraqis are
headed toward self-government. (Applause.)
Under our strategy, increasing authority is being transferred to
the Iraqi people. The Iraqi Governing Council has appointed
ministers who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the
Iraqi government. The Council has also begun the process that will
lead to a new constitution. No friend or enemy should doubt Iraq
liberty will find a lasting home.
Iraqis are a proud people and they want their national
independence. And they can see the difference between those who are
attacking their country and those who are helping to build it. Our
coalition is training new police; the terrorists are trying to kill
them. We're protecting pipelines and power plants for the good of
the Iraqi people; the terrorists are trying to blow them up. We're
turning authority over to Iraqi leaders; the terrorists are trying
to assassinate them. We're offering aid and self-rule and hope for
the future; the terrorists offer nothing but oppression and death.
The vast majority of Iraqis know exactly what is going on in their
country today. Having seen the worst of tyranny, the Iraqi people
will reject the return of tyranny. (Applause.)
After decades of dictator's sustained assault on Iraq's society
and dignity and spirit, a Jeffersonian democracy will not spring up
in a matter of months. We know that our Baathist and terrorist
enemies are ruthless and cunning. We also know that the lives of
Iraqis have improved greatly in seven short months. Yet, we know
the remaining tasks are difficult.
We also know a few things about our own country. America gained
its own independence and helped free much of the world by taking on
difficult tasks. We're a confident people, and we have a reason to
be confident. Our Armed Forces are skilled and powerful and humane.
They're the best in the world. (Applause.) I will keep them that
We've got good friends and allies serving with us in Iraq. There
are 32 countries standing beside our troops. Our commanders have
the capabilities they have requested, and they're meeting a
changing enemy with flexible tactics. The Congress has provided the
resources we need to support our military and to improve the daily
lives of newly-liberated people. Other nations and organizations
have stepped up to provide more than $18 billion to the emerging
democracies of Afghanistan and Iraq. The peoples of those two
countries are sacrificing for their own liberty. And the United
States once again is fighting in the cause of our nation, the great
cause of liberty. And we know that the cause of liberty will
Much is asked of us, and we have answered this kind of challenge
before. In the summer of 1948, the Soviet Union imposed a sudden
and total blockade on the city of Berlin in order to force the
allies out. More than 2 million people would soon be without food
or fuel or medicine. The entire world watched and wondered if free
peoples would back down -- wondered whether free people would
abandon their commitments. It was at the outset of the Cold War,
and the will and the resolve of America were being
In an urgent meeting, all the alternatives were discussed,
including retreat. When the moment of decision came, President
Harry Truman said this: "We stay in Berlin, period. We stay in
Berlin, come what may." By the determination of President Truman,
America and our allies launched the Berlin Airlift, and overcame
more than 10 months of siege. That resolve and the daring of our
military saved a city, and held back the communist threat in
Nearly four decades later, Ronald Reagan came to West Berlin with
the same kind of resolve, and vision beyond the Cold War. When he
called on the Soviets to tear down that wall, he was asserting a
confident new doctrine. He believed that communism can not only be
contained, but transcended; that no human barrier could hold back
the spread of human liberty. The triumph of that vision eventually
turned enemies into friends, healed a divided continent, and
brought security and peace to Europe and America.
Two years into the war on terror, the will and resolve of America
are being tested, in Afghanistan and in Iraq. Again, the world is
watching. Again, we will be steadfast. We will finish the mission
we have begun, period. (Applause.)
We are not only containing the terrorist threat, we are turning it
back. We believe that freedom is the right of every person. We
believe that freedom is the hope of every culture. We believe that
freedom is the future of every nation in the Middle East. And we
know as Americans that the advance of freedom is the surest path to
May God bless you all. (Applause.)
Speech given to Heritage's President Club Meeting, November 11, 2003.
What our country brings to Iraq is a chance for freedom and democracy. Our men and women are fighting terrorist enemies thousands of miles away in the heart and center of their power so that we do not face those enemies in the heart of America.
President George Bush
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