GEORGE W. BUSH SPEECH AFTER THE
SEPTEMBER 11 ATTACKS
Freedom at War With Fear
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It follows the full text transcript of
George W. Bush's Freedom at War with Fear speech, delivered at the
United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. - September 20,
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. And would you please help me
to welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight.
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
$40 billion to rebuild our communities and meet
the needs of our military.
Speaker Hastert, Minority Leader Gephardt,
Majority Leader Daschle and Senator Lott, I
thank you for your friendship, for your
leadership and for 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, on the
streets of Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg
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 80 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 -- so honored the
British Prime Minister has crossed an ocean to
show his unity of purpose with America. Thank
you for coming, friend.
On September the 11th, 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 Qaeda. They are the
same murderers indicted for bombing American
embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible
for bombing the USS Cole.
Al Qaeda 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 distinction
among military and civilians, including women
This group and its leader -- a person named
Osama bin Laden -- 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 60 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 Qaeda has great influence
in Afghanistan and supports the Taliban regime
in controlling most of that country. In
Afghanistan, we see al Qaeda's vision for the
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
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
Qaeda who hide in your land. Release all foreign
nationals, including American citizens, you have
unjustly imprisoned. 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
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's 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 Qaeda, 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
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
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.
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 to the defeat of the global
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a
decade ago, with a decisive liberation of
territory and a 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 ever seen. It
may include dramatic strikes, visible on TV, 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 no 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.
And tonight I also announce a distinguished
American to lead this effort, to strengthen
American security: a military veteran, an
effective governor, a true patriot, a trusted
friend -- Pennsylvania's Tom Ridge. He will
lead, oversee and coordinate a comprehensive
national strategy to safeguard our country
against terrorism, and respond to any attacks
that may come.
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've 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
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 on all.
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 you
know what -- we're not going to 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 long struggle.
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 11th,
and they are our strengths today.
And, 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 ahead.
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
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 two leaders who embody the
extraordinary spirit of all New Yorkers:
Governor George Pataki, and Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani. As a symbol of America's resolve, my
administration will work with 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, 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'll remember the moment the news
came -- where we were and what we were doing.
Some will remember an image of a fire, or a
story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a
face and a voice gone forever.
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 freedom and security for the
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
Fellow citizens, we'll 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.