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Bush Signs Authorization Act, Gives Review of War on Terror

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 2, 2002 -- President Bush used the occasion of signing the 2003 National Defense Authorization Act to chart the course of the war on terror and to tell a Pentagon crowd that Iraq's responses to date "are not encouraging."

Bush thanked military and civilian personnel at the Pentagon for their service. He said the U.S. military is performing its missions with skill and speed.

Bush said the legislation gives military members higher pay, improved facilities and better housing. The act authorizes purchase of state-of-the-art weapons and equipment while ensuring funds for operations and maintenance.

"The legislation that I sign this afternoon was passed by Congress in a remarkable spirit of unity," Bush said. "It sets priorities in our Defense Department in a critical, critical period for our country."

He said military and civilian members of the department have two difficult tasks: fighting and winning a war and transforming the U.S. military to win the "new kind of war." He said the United States is facing unprecedented challenges and the military is responding with "unmatched technology, careful planning and the finest traditions of valor."

He stated that the war on terror has illustrated the future face of warfare. U.S. forces are now, and must become, more agile, mobile and lethal. U.S. weapons are "smarter" and tactics are more inventive. He said these priorities are reflected in this year's budget.

"You will see them reflected in every military budget I submit and sign as your president," Bush said. "Now and in the future, we will maintain a military that is second to none."

He said U.S. troops in Afghanistan remain engaged in a difficult mission. "We're hunting down trained killers -- and that's all they are, nothing but a bunch of cold- blooded killers," Bush said. "Thanks to the United States military, the terrorist camps are closed, many terrorists have met their fates in the caves and mountains of Afghanistan and others are now in custody."

Yet many terrorists remain at large and are plotting in more than 60 countries around the world, the president said. The United States will continue to track these people and hunt them down. "They think they can run. They can't run far enough from the long arm of justice of the United States," the president said.

He said the same thinking leads the United States to oppose Iraq, "a uniquely dangerous regime that possesses the weapons of mass murder, has used those weapons and could supply those weapons to terrorists."

He said U.N. inspectors are not in Iraq "to play hide-and- seek with Saddam Hussein." He noted that inspectors do not have the manpower or the duty to uncover weapons hidden somewhere in a vast country.

"The responsibility of inspectors is simply to confirm the evidence of voluntary and total disarmament," Bush said.

The president stressed that any act of delay, deception or defiance will prove Hussein is not complying with United Nations resolutions. The United States, he said, will make one judgment on the inspection process: has Saddam Hussein changed his behavior of the last 11 years, and decided to cooperate willingly or not.

"So far the signs are not encouraging," Bush said. "A regime that fires upon American and British pilots is not taking the path of compliance. A regime that sends letters filled with protests and falsehoods is not taking the path of compliance."

He stated that Iraq must declare its weapons of mass destruction and missile program on or before Dec. 8. He said the Iraqi dictator's declaration "must be accurate and complete or he will demonstrate that he has chosen not to change behavior."

He said the United States seeks peace and that war is the last option for confronting threats.

"Yet the temporary peace of denial and looking away from danger would only be a prelude to broader war and greater horror," he said. "America will confront gathering dangers early, before our options become limited and desperate. By showing our resolve today, we're building a future of peace."

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