WASHINGTON – Good morning.
This week, I spoke to the American Legion in Salt Lake City. I thanked the military veterans for their lifetime of service to our country. And I gave them an update on the war that America is now fighting in defense of freedom in our time.
We're approaching the fifth anniversary of the September the 11th attacks — and since that day, we have taken the fight to the enemy. Yet this war is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. On one side are those who believe in freedom and moderation — the right of all people to speak, worship, and live in liberty. On the other side are those driven by tyranny and extremism — the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest. We did not ask for this war, but we're answering history's call with confidence — and we will prevail.
We are using every element of national power to defeat the terrorists. First, we're staying on the offense against the terrorists, fighting them overseas so we do not have to face them here at home. Second, we made it clear to all nations, if you harbor terrorists, you're as guilty as the terrorists, you're an enemy of the United States, and you will be held to account. And third, we have launched a bold new agenda to defeat the ideology of the enemy by supporting the forces of freedom and moderation in the Middle East and beyond.
A vital part of our strategy to defeat the terrorists is to help establish a democratic Iraq, which will be a beacon of liberty in the region and an ally in the global war on terror. The terrorists understand the threat a democratic Iraq poses to their cause, so they've been fighting a bloody campaign of sectarian violence, which they hope will plunge that country into a civil war. Our commanders and diplomats on the ground believe that Iraq has not descended into a civil war. They report that only a small number of Iraqis are engaged in sectarian violence, while the overwhelming majority want peace and a normal life in a unified country. America will stand with the Iraqi people as they protect their new freedom — and build a democracy that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.
Working side-by-side with Iraqi forces, we recently launched a major new campaign to end the security crisis in Baghdad. This operation is still in its early stages, yet the initial results are encouraging. The people of Baghdad are seeing their security forces in the streets, dealing a blow to criminals and terrorists. According to one military report, a Sunni man in a diverse Baghdad neighborhood said this about the Shia soldiers on patrol: "Their image has changed. Now you feel they are there to protect you." Over the coming weeks and months, the operation will expand throughout Baghdad — until Iraq's democratic government is in full control of the capital. This work is difficult and dangerous, but Iraqi forces are determined to succeed — and America is determined to help them.
Here at home, some politicians say that our best option is to pull out of Iraq, regardless of the situation on the ground. Many of these people are sincere and patriotic — but they could not be more wrong. If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be disastrous. We would be handing Iraq over to the terrorists, giving them a base of operations and huge oil riches to fund their ambitions. And we know exactly where those ambitions lead. If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities. The security of the civilized world depends on victory in the war on terror, and that depends on victory in Iraq, so America will not leave until victory is achieved.
For all the debate, American policy in the Middle East comes down to a straightforward choice: We can allow the Middle East to continue on the course that led to September the 11th — and a generation from now, our children will face a region dominated by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. Or we can stop that from happening, by rallying the world to confront the ideology of hate, by supporting the forces of liberty and moderation in the region, and by helping give the people of the Middle East a future of hope. And that is the choice America has made.
The path to victory will be uphill and uneven, and it will require more patience and sacrifice from our Nation. Yet we can be confident of the outcome, because America will not waver — and because the direction of history leads toward freedom.
Thank you for listening.