20 September 2001
Text: Bush Announces Start of a "War on Terror"
(President Addresses Joint Session of Congress Sept. 20) (3170)
President Bush, in a speech September 20 to a joint session of
Congress, announced the start of a "war on terror," and demanded of
the Taliban leadership in Afghanistan that it turn over all the
leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist group based in that country, close
every terrorist training camp there, hand over all terrorists to
appropriate authorities, and give the United States full access to
terrorist training camps.
"These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion," the
president said. "The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will
hand over the terrorists, or they will share in their fate."
Bush said "Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end
there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has
been found, stopped, and defeated."
Following is the prepared text of the president's speech:
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
September 20, 2001
Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People
Mr. Speaker, Mr. President pro tempore, Members of Congress, and
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. Please help me to welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here
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.
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 forty billion dollars to rebuild our communities
and meet the needs of our military.
Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Gephardt -- Majority Leader
Daschle and Senator Lott -- I thank you for your friendship and your
leadership and 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, and on the streets of
Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. 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
Nor will we forget the citizens of eighty 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. Once again, we are joined together in a great
cause. The British Prime Minister has crossed an ocean to show his
unity of purpose with America, and tonight we welcome Tony Blair.
On September the eleventh, 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-Qaida. They are the
same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in Tanzania and
Kenya, and responsible for the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.
Al-Qaida 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 distinctions among military
and civilians, including women and children.
This group and its leader -- a person named Usama bin Ladin -- 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 sixty 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 and destruction.
The leadership of al-Qaida has great influence in Afghanistan, and
supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that country. In
Afghanistan, we see al-Qaida'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. 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-Qaida who
hide in your land.
Release all foreign nationals -- including American citizens -- you
have unjustly imprisoned, and 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.
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. 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 is 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. 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.
Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there. It
will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been
found, stopped, and defeated.
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 each other.
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 and Africa.
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
twentieth 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.
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 defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with its
decisive liberation of territory and its 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 seen. It may include dramatic
strikes, visible on television, 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
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. 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.
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.
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 have 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 and freedom.
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
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 we will not allow it.
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
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
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 eleventh, and they are our
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
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.
We will come together to give law enforcement the additional tools it
needs to track down terror here at home. We will come together to
strengthen our intelligence capabilities to know the plans of
terrorists before they act, and find them before they strike.
We will come together to take active steps that strengthen America's
economy, and put our people back to work.
Tonight we welcome here two leaders who embody the extraordinary
spirit of all New Yorkers: Governor George Pataki, and Mayor Rudy
Giuliani. As a symbol of America's resolve, my Administration will
work with the Congress, and these two leaders, to show the world that
we will rebuild New York City.
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.
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 and 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 will remember the moment the news came -- where we were
and what we were doing. Some will remember an image of fire, or a
story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice gone
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.
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 the freedom and security of 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 will 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 of America.
(Distributed by the Office of International Information Programs, U.S.
Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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