Presidential Radio Address - 9 September 2006
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This Monday, our Nation will mark the 5th anniversary of the attacks of September the 11th, 2001. On this solemn occasion, Americans will observe a day of prayer and remembrance, and Laura and I will travel to New York City, Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon to take part in memorial ceremonies. Our Nation honors the memory of every person we lost on that day of terror, and we pray that the Almighty will continue to comfort the families who had so much taken away from them.
On this anniversary, we also remember the brutality of the enemy who struck our country and renew our resolve to defeat this enemy and secure a future of peace and freedom.
So this week I've given a series of speeches about the nature of our enemy, the stakes of the struggle, and the progress we have made during the past five years. On Tuesday in Washington, I described in the terrorists own words what they believe, what they hope to accomplish, and how they intend to accomplish it. We know what the terrorists intend, because they have told us. They hope to establish a totalitarian Islamic empire across the Middle East, which they call a Caliphate, where all would be ruled according to their hateful ideology.
Osama bin Laden has called the 9/11 attacks, "A great step towards the unity of Muslims and establishing the righteous [Caliphate]." Al Qaeda and its allies reject any possibility of coexistence with those they call "infidels." Hear the words of Osama bin Laden: "Death is better than living on this earth with the unbelievers amongst us." We must take the words of these extremists seriously, and we must act decisively to stop them from achieving their evil aims.
On Wednesday at the White House, I described for the first time a CIA program we established after 9/11 to detain and question key terrorist leaders and operatives, so we can prevent new terrorist attacks. This program has been invaluable to the security of America and its allies, and helped us identify and capture men who our intelligence community believes were key architects of the September the 11th attacks.
Information from terrorists held by the CIA also helped us uncover an al Qaeda cell's efforts to obtain biological weapons, identify individuals sent by al Qaeda to case targets for attacks in the United States, stop the planned strike on a U.S. Marine base in Djibouti, prevent an attack on the U.S. consulate in Karachi, and help break up a plot to hijack passenger planes and fly them into Heathrow Airport or the Canary Wharf in London.
Information from the terrorists in CIA custody has also played a role in the capture or questioning of nearly every senior al Qaeda member or associate detained by the U.S. and its allies since this program began. Were it not for this program, our intelligence community believes that al Qaeda and its allies would have succeeded in launching another attack against the American homeland. We have largely completed our questioning of these men, and now it is time that they are tried for their crimes.
So this week I announced that the men we believe orchestrated the 9/11 attacks had been transferred to Guantanamo Bay. And I called on Congress to pass legislation creating military commissions to try suspected terrorists for war crimes. As soon as Congress acts to authorize these military commissions, we will prosecute these men and send a clear message to those who kill Americans: No matter how long it takes, we will find you and bring you to justice.
As we bring terrorists to justice, we're acting to secure the homeland. On Thursday in Atlanta, I delivered a progress report on the steps we have taken since 9/11 to protect the American people and win the war on terror. We are safer today because we've acted to address the gaps in security, intelligence, and information sharing that the terrorists exploited in the 9/11 attacks. No one can say for sure that we would have prevented the attacks had these reforms been in place in 2001 -- yet, we can say that terrorists would have found it harder to plan and finance their operations, harder to slip into our country undetected, and harder to board the planes, take control of the cockpits, and succeed in striking their targets.
America still faces determined enemies. And in the long run, defeating these enemies requires more than improved security at home and military action abroad. We must also offer a hopeful alternative to the terrorists' hateful ideology. So America is taking the side of democratic leaders and reformers and supporting the voices of tolerance and moderation across the Middle East. By advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternative to repression and radicalism, and by supporting young democracies like Iraq, we are helping to bring a brighter future to this region -- and that will make America and the world more secure.
The war on terror will be long and difficult, and more tough days lie ahead. Yet, we can have confidence in the final outcome, because we know what America can achieve when our Nation acts with resolve and clear purpose. With vigilance, determination and courage, we will defeat the enemies of freedom, and we will leave behind a more peaceful world for our children and our grandchildren.
Thank you for listening.