American Forces Press Service

"I Will Not Relent," Bush Vows

By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2002 -- America's war on terror is "not just a policy, it's a pledge," George W. Bush declared today at a White House memorial marking six months since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"I will not relent in this struggle for the freedom and security of my country and the civilized world," the president vowed. History will know Sept. 11, 2001, "not only as a day of tragedy," he said, "but as the day the civilized world was stirred to anger and to action."

Terrorists will remember Sept. 11 "as the day their reckoning began," the president told about 300 attack survivors, along with victims' family members, and members of the U.S. Cabinet and Congress. "America will not forget the lives that were taken and the justice their death requires," Bush said. "Our resolve has only grown because we remember."

Representatives of the coalition nations taking part in the U.S.-led war on terrorism also attended the memorial. The flags of 170 nations flew on the South Lawn, representing what Bush called the "mighty coalition of civilized nations" that "is now defending our common security.

"We're proud to display their flags at the White House this morning," Bush said. He expressed the deepest gratitude on behalf of the American people for the contributions "these nations have made, some well known, others not."

In all, he said, 17 nations deployed forces to Central Asia in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. More than half the forces now helping Afghan fighters and providing security in Kabul are from countries other than the United States. Australia, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Germany sent teams to fight beside American and British special operations forces.

The United States could not have done its work without support from countries like Pakistan and Uzbekistan, the president said. Japanese destroyers are refueling coalition ships in the Indian Ocean. Turkish air forces have refueled American planes. Russia, Jordan and Spain built hospitals to treat Afghans. South Korea has provided help and supplies.

The war's human toll includes people from America, Germany, Denmark and Afghanistan. "Each life taken from us is a terrible loss," Bush said. "We mourn each one, and for their bravery in a noble cause, we honor them."

Bush cited Australian Sgt. Andrew Russell as an example of those who've given their lives in the battle against terror. The Australian Special Air Service member died in Afghanistan last month, leaving behind his wife, Kiley, and infant daughter, Lisa.

"Friends said of Sgt. Russell, 'you could rely on him never to let you down,'" Bush said. "This young man and many like him have not let us down."

Andrew Russell and the other U.S., coalition and Afghan forces have achieved much in the short time the war has been under way, Bush said. The coalition has liberated the Afghan people from terrorist occupation and averted mass starvation. Coalition forces have cleared minefields, rebuilt roads and improved health care.

Schools are slated to reopen in Afghanistan next week, the president noted, stressing, "They will be open to all. Many young girls will go to school for the first time in their young lives."

The war on terrorism is entering a second stage, Bush said. The war now calls for "a sustained campaign to deny sanctuary to terrorists who would threaten our citizens from anywhere in the world," he said. More patience and more courage will be required.

U.S. forces fought a fierce battle in the Shahi Khot Valley, he noted, "yet it will not be the last battle in Afghanistan, and there will be other battles beyond that nation."

There must be no refuge or safe haven for terrorists, he stressed. Every terrorist must be forced to live as an international fugitive with no government to hide behind, no safe place to sleep. Driving terrorists from place to place will disrupt their planning and training for further attacks.

"America encourages and expects governments everywhere to help remove the terrorist parasites that threaten their own countries and peace of the world," the president said. America would provide training and resources to help governments meet this commitment.

About 500 U.S. troops are currently helping train forces in the Philippines, he said. Terrorists there linked to Al Qaeda are trying to seize the southern part of the country to set up a militant regime. At the request of the Republic of Georgia, U.S. officials plan to send up to 150 military trainers to prepare Georgian soldiers to control Al Qaeda- linked terrorists in an area near the Russian border.

In Yemen, Bush said, U.S. officials "are working to avert the possibility of another Afghanistan." Al Qaeda may attempt to reconstitute itself near the Yemeni-Saudi Arabian border with new recruits from the region. The United States plans to work with the Yemeni government to provide training and equipment to prevent that from happening.

Overall, the coalition is confronting "not a nation, but a network," Bush said. Dismantling the network will require international diplomatic, financial and military cooperation.

"Victory will come over time as that network is patiently and steadily dismantled, he said. "We will not send the American troops to every battle, but America will actively prepare other nations for the battles ahead."

This mission will end when terror networks of global reach have been defeated, he said. "The training camps of terror are a threat to our lives and to our way of lives, and they will be destroyed."

Bush called on America's coalition partners to "take seriously the growing threat of terror on a catastrophic scale"; that is, "terror armed with biological, chemical or nuclear weapons."

Terrorist groups are hungry for weapons of mass destruction, he said, and would use them without a hint of conscience. "We know that these weapons in the hands of terrorists would unleash blackmail and genocide and chaos."

"Our coalition must act deliberately. Inaction is not an option," the president said. "Men with no respect for life must never be allowed to control the ultimate instruments of death."

Every nation of good will can join the effort to create a peaceful world beyond the war on terror, he concluded. "Together, we will face the peril of our moment and seize the promise of our times. May God bless our coalition."