President Bush said Thursday that a foiled plot to blow up multiple flights from Britain to the United States shows "this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."
"This country is safer than it was prior to 9-11," Bush said from the tarmac at Austin Straubel International Airport. "We've taken a lot of measures to protect the American people. But obviously we still aren't completely safe. ... It is a mistake to believe there is no threat to the United States of America."
The president laid the blame for the would-be attack squarely on Al Qaeda-type terrorism.
"This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," he said, his remarks carried live on television.
Bush read from remarks he had written himself on sheets of white paper. He spoke for just two minutes and took no questions. His brief message, aside from focusing on the "stark reminder" of the U.S.-led global war on terror, mostly appeared to be a promise that his administration was working to keep citizens safe.
"The American people need to know we live in a dangerous world, but our government will do everything we can to protect our people from those dangers," the president said.
Bush's spokesman had earlier declared "it is safe to travel." The president urged Americans to be vigilant, and patient with the many inconveniences that will result from the increased threat level that the plot prompted him to approve.
While on vacation at his ranch in Crawford, Texas, over the last several days, Bush has been fully informed of the investigations that led to the arrest of 21 people in Britain who are accused of being involved in the plan. Officials said involved the plot involved explosives smuggled on board flights in hand luggage.
White House press secretary Tony Snow said Bush on Wednesday approved raising the threat level for all flights from Britain to red, designating a severe risk of terrorist attacks. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and the Homeland Security Council also recommended that all other flights be put under an orange alert, one step below the highest level, and the president approved that as well.
"We do believe the plot involved flights from the U.K. to the U.S. and was a direct threat to the United States," Snow said.
"You can't go overboard when you're trying to save lives," Snow added, speaking to reporters traveling with Bush on Air Force One en route to Wisconsin.
"What we do know is that there were some people who were determined to try to carry out, as the Brits said, a plot to kill people on a horrifying scale," Snow said.
Because Bush had been getting regular briefings on the developments, Snow said the president was not awakened overnight as action by British authorities was made public.
He and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held a lengthy teleconference on the matter Sunday and spoke again Wednesday by phone, Snow said.
"There were some signs," Snow said. "They thought it was time to move," he said of British authorities.
Bush called the cooperation between British and U.S. officials "solid" and "excellent."
After the remarks, Bush toured the Fox Valley Metal-Tech factory, using a machine to bend a piece of metal and greeting employees who stopped to stare by playfully shouting "Get back to work!"
With the workers as a backdrop, Bush spoke briefly to his traveling group of reporters about the importance of supporting small businesses and keeping taxes low. He did not mention the terror plot and he walked away as they asked questions about it.
Later, Bush headlined a $1,000-per-person fund-raiser that brought in over $500,00 for Republican congressional candidate John Gard and the Wisconsin Republican Party at a home in nearby Oneida. At an Oneida police station, he also met privately with families of soldiers killed in Iraq.