President George W. Bush's September 20th Speech
Friday, September 21, 2001
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. 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
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 forty billion dollars to rebuild our
communities and meet the needs of our military.
Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Gephardt - Majority Leader
Daschle and Senator Lott - I thank you for your friendship and your
leadership and 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, and on the streets of
Paris, and at Berlin`s Brandenburg Gate. 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 Latin America.
Nor will we forget the citizens of eighty 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. The British Prime Minister has crossed an ocean
to show his unity of purpose with America, and tonight we welcome
On September the eleventh, 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
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-Qaida. They
are the same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in
Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for the bombing of the U.S.S.
Al-Qaida 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
distinctions among military and civilians, including women and
This group and its leader - a person named Usama bin Ladin - are
linked to many other organizations in different countries,
including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of
There are thousands of these terrorists in more than sixty
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-Qaida has great influence in Afghanistan,
and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that
country. In Afghanistan, we see al-Qaida`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 long enough.
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-Qaida
who hide in your land.
Release all foreign nationals - including American citizens -
you have unjustly imprisoned, and 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 longer operating.
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 is 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
Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, 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 and Africa.
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 twentieth 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 defeat of the global terror
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago,
with its decisive liberation of territory and its 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
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 seen. It may include
dramatic strikes, visible on television, 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 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
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
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 have 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 and freedom.
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 we will not 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 religious faith.
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
The thousands of FBI agents who are now at work in this
investigation may need your cooperation, and I ask you to give
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 eleventh, and they are our strengths today.
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 this
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
We will come together to take active steps that strengthen
America`s economy, and put our people back to work.
Tonight we welcome here two leaders who embody the extraordinary
spirit of all New Yorkers: Governor George Pataki, and Mayor Rudy
Giuliani. As a symbol of America`s resolve, my Administration will
work with the 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 and 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 will remember the moment the news
came - where we were and what we were doing. Some will remember an
image of 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 the freedom and security of 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 them.
Fellow citizens, we will 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.
POSTED: Friday, September 21, 2001