September 12th, 2006 05:03 EST
War on Terror a Struggle for Civilization, Bush Says By Michael Jay Friedman
Washington -- In a nationally televised address commemorating the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, President Bush depicted the resulting conflict as "a war that will set the course for this new century" and a struggle "to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations. "
The Oval Office address concluded a day in which the president and senior officials participated in ceremonies at each of the three sites attacked by the 9/11 terrorists. (See related article.)
In New York City, the president and first lady Laura Bush attended a memorial ceremony held at the site of the former World Trade Center. Along with members of the New York City police and fire departments and thousands of others in attendance, Bush observed moments of silence at 8:46 a.m. and 9:03 a.m., the times when terrorist-piloted airliners struck each of the twin towers. While in New York, the president and first lady also attended an interfaith religious service and visited with firefighters.
The president and first lady then flew to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where they observed a wreath-laying ceremony at the crash site of the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93.
The president later attended ceremonies at the Pentagon, also struck five years earlier by a hijacked passenger plane. Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld were among the speakers there.
Americans marked the 9/11 anniversary at ceremonies held throughout the nation. (See related story).
A STRUGGLE TO PRESERVE CIVILIZATION
In his address to the nation, the president depicted a decisive ideological struggle against a "global network of extremists driven by a perverted vision of Islam." These extremists, he said, have murdered people of all colors, creeds and nationalities to advance their cause: "a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations."
Bush expressed confidence that free peoples and those who yearn to be free would prevail in this "struggle for civilization," and called the power of freedom one of the strongest weapons available to the United States and its allies. The terrorists fear freedom as much as they do our firepower," he said.
The president said that the United States and partner nations have taken the offensive and that the nation "now is safer, but we are not yet safe." Bush numbered among the successes the defeat of Afghanistan`s Taliban regime and the death or capture of most of those who planned the 9/11 attacks, including the believed mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed.
Even so, Bush said, "We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes ". And we know that if they were able to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, they would use them against us."
Bush described Iraq as another crucial front in the ongoing contest. The president acknowledged that captured Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the events of September 11, 2001 but said that Iraq at that time posed a clear threat, and a risk that after 9/11 the world could no longer afford to take.
The effort to help the Iraqi people build a democracy remains crucial, Bush said. "Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad."
The president lauded the ordinary Americans who responded to the 9/11 attacks, among them the New York firefighters who rushed into the burning towers of the World Trade Center, the passengers who charged the Flight 93 cockpit and seized control of the plane from the hijackers, and Pentagon staff. "The spirit of the American people is the source of America`s strength," he said.
In addition to the 19 hijackers, 2,973 people from 90 countries were confirmed dead as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The transcript of the president`s remarks is available on the White House Web site.
For additional information, see September 11th Attacks.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)