AUDIO: Bush authorized US forces in Iraq to confront IranTue Aug 28, 2007 19:24
Bush authorized US forces in Iraq to confront Iran
AUDIO: 8/28/07 Recorded from C-SPAN
August 28, 2007. President Bush Addresses the 89th Annual National Convention of the American Legion Reno-Sparks Convention Center Reno, Nevada ...
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. (Applause.) Thank you all. Please be seated. Commander, thank you very much for the invitation to come. I'm honored to be here. I'm honored to represent Post 77 of Houston, Texas. (Applause.) I hope my fellow Texans behave themselves here in Reno. (Laughter.) You won't? Okay, well -- (Laughter.)
I appreciate the fact that nearly every community in America has been enriched by the American Legion and the Women's Auxiliary. I appreciate the work that you do to remind our citizens about the blessings of America. You have the profound gratitude of the President and the people of this country. Thank you for your service. (Applause.)
I particularly appreciate the work you do with our country's young. I like the fact that you have a oratorical competition that, according to your organization, helps Americans communicate their ideas clearly and effectively. Paul suggested I might want to sign up. (Laughter and applause.) I appreciate the fact that through Boys and Girls Nation you teach young people who are interested in public service about how Washington really works. (Laughter.) I'm not there. (Laughter and applause.)
We meet today at a critical time for our country. America is engaged in a great ideological struggle -- fighting Islamic extremists across the globe. Today I want to talk to you and to the American people about a key aspect of the struggle: the fight for the future of the Middle East. I'm going to explain why defeating the extremists in this troubled region is essential to our nation's security, and why success in Iraq is vital to winning this larger ideological battle. (Applause.)
I do want to thank your Commander. It's been my pleasure to work with Paul. He's been in the White House a lot, along with the Executive Director, John Sommer. He's represented you well, and he's served with distinction. (Applause.)
I thank JoAnn Cronin, the National President of the American Legion Auxiliary. I appreciate Bob Spanogle, the National Adjutant of the American Legion. I want to welcome the Governor of the great state of Nevada with us today -- Governor Jim Gibbons is with us. Mr. Governor, thanks for coming. (Applause.) The Congressman from this district is the fine representative named Dean Heller. His wife Lynne sang the National Anthem. Thank you both for being here today. (Applause.)
I'm honored to be in the presence of those who wear our nation's uniform. I thank General Charles Campbell, Commanding General U.S. Army Forces Command, for joining us. Major General Gale Pollock, Acting Surgeon General of the U.S. Army. And for all those who wear the uniform, thank you for volunteering to defend this nation in a time of peril. I'm proud to be your Commander-in-Chief. (Applause.)
For nearly a century, Presidents have looked to the American Legion to provide an example of vision, valor, and love of country. In times of peace, you counseled vigilance. In times of war, you counseled resolve. And in every era, you have carried the well-being of our men and women in uniform in your prayers and in your hearts. We're grateful to your service.
You have an appreciation for how special America is because you have defended her. You know how fragile freedom is because you have seen it under attack. And you know the pain of war because you have lost friends and family members on distant shores -- including those whose fates are still unknown. We must not, and we will not, end our search until we have accounted for every member of our Armed Forces from every war and every corner of the Earth. (Applause.)
I appreciate your efforts to honor the American flag. There are those who say the flag is just a piece of cloth. That's not the view of those who bled for it and saw it drape the caskets of some of our finest men and women. It was the American flag that we planted proudly on Iwo Jima, that first graced the silver surface of the moon. The country is careful to protect many things because of what they symbolize. Surely we can find a way to show equal respect for the symbol that our soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines and Coast Guard's men and women have risked their lives for -- the flag of our nation. So today I join the Legion in calling on the United States Congress to make protection of the flag the law of our land. (Applause.)
I also thank you for your strong support of our nation's veterans. We share a common goal: to make sure our veterans have all the help they need. (Applause.) We have worked together to achieve that goal. The budget this year that I submitted is nearly $87 billion for our veterans. That's a 77-percent increase since I took office. It is the highest level of support for veterans in America's history. (Applause.)
I know health care is a concern of yours, and that's why we've extended treatment to a million additional veterans, including hundreds of thousands of men and women returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. We're building new VA facilities in places where veterans are returning [sic] so more veterans can get top-quality health care closer to your home. We've expanded grants to help homeless veterans in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. My point is this: The veterans were there when we needed them -- and this administration will be with the veterans when they need us. (Applause.)
Perhaps the most important duty that Legion members undertake is to serve as living reminders that a great country has great responsibilities. Once again, America finds itself a nation at war. Once again, we're called to assume the mantle of global leadership. And once again, the American Legion is walking point. I thank you for your fervent and enthusiastic defense of our men and women in uniform as they take the fight to the enemy in Afghanistan, in Iraq, and across the world. They're the finest military on Earth -- and we are right to be proud of them. (Applause.)
Many people in this country are asking whether the fight underway today is worth it. This is not the first time Americans have asked that question. We always enter wars reluctantly -- yet we have fought whenever dangers came. We fought when turmoil in Europe threatened to shroud the world in darkness. America sent its military to fight two bitter and bloody conflicts -- we did what we had to do to get the job done. We fought when powers in Asia attacked our country and our allies. We sent Americans to restore the peace -- and we did what we had to do to get the job done. And we responded when radicals and extremists attacked our homeland in the first ideological war of the 21st century. We toppled two regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq that gave harbor to terrorists, defied the international community, and threatened the security of our nation. And now we're working to help build free and secure societies in their place -- and like the past, we will do what we have to do to get the job done. (Applause.)
We've learned from history that dangers in other parts of the world -- such as Europe and Asia -- directly affect our security here at home. On September the 11th, 2001, we learned that there's another region of the world that directly threatens the security of the American people -- and that is the Middle East. America has enduring and vital interests in the region. Throughout our history, the American people have had strong links with this region -- through ties of commerce and education and faith. Long before oil and gas were discovered in the Middle East the region was a key source of trade. It is the home to three of the world's great religions. It remains a strategic crossroads for the world.
Yet the hope and prosperity that transformed other parts of the world in the 20th century has bypassed too many in the Middle East. For too long, the world was content to ignore forms of government in this region -- in the name of stability. The result was that a generation of young people grew up with little hope to improve their lives, and many fell under the sway of violent Islamic extremism. The terrorist movement multiplied in strength, and bitterness that had simmered for years boiled into violence across the world. The cradle of civilization became the home of the suicide bomber. And resentments that began on the streets of the Middle East are now killing innocent people in train stations and airplanes and office buildings around the world.
The murderers and beheaders are not the true face of Islam; they are the face of evil. They seek to exploit religion as a path to power and a means to dominate the Middle East. The violent Islamic radicalism that inspires them has two main strains. One is Sunni extremism, embodied by al Qaida and its terrorist allies. Their organization advances a vision that rejects tolerance, crushes all dissent, and justifies the murder of innocent men, women, and children in the pursuit of political power. We saw this vision in the brutal rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan, where women were publicly whipped, men were beaten for missing prayer meetings, and young girls could not go to school.
These extremists hope to impose that same dark vision across the Middle East by raising up a violent and radical caliphate that spans from Spain to Indonesia. So they kill fellow Muslims in places like Algeria and Jordan and Egypt and Saudi Arabia in an attempt to undermine their governments. And they kill Americans because they know we stand in their way. And that is why they attacked U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998, and killed sailors aboard the USS Cole in 2001 [sic]. And that is why they killed nearly 3,000 people on 9/11. And that is why they plot to attack us again. And that is why we must stay in the fight until the fight is won. (Applause.)
The other strain of radicalism in the Middle East is Shia extremism, supported and embodied by the regime that sits in Tehran. Iran has long been a source of trouble in the region. It is the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. Iran backs Hezbollah who are trying to undermine the democratic government of Lebanon. Iran funds terrorist groups like Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which murder the innocent, and target Israel, and destabilize the Palestinian territories. Iran is sending arms to the Taliban in Afghanistan, which could be used to attack American and NATO troops. Iran has arrested visiting American scholars who have committed no crimes and pose no threat to their regime. And Iran's active pursuit of technology that could lead to nuclear weapons threatens to put a region already known for instability and violence under the shadow of a nuclear holocaust.
Iran's actions threaten the security of nations everywhere. And that is why the United States is rallying friends and allies around the world to isolate the regime, to impose economic sanctions. We will confront this danger before it is too late. (Applause.)
I want our fellow citizens to consider what would happen if these forces of radicalism and extremism are allowed to drive us out of the Middle East. The region would be dramatically transformed in a way that could imperil the civilized world. Extremists of all strains would be emboldened by the knowledge that they forced America to retreat. Terrorists could have more safe havens to conduct attacks on Americans and our friends and allies. Iran could conclude that we were weak -- and could not stop them from gaining nuclear weapons. And once Iran had nuclear weapons, it would set off a nuclear arms race in the region.
Extremists would control a key part of the world's energy supply, could blackmail and sabotage the global economy. They could use billions of dollars of oil revenues to buy weapons and pursue their deadly ambitions. Our allies in the region would be under greater siege by the enemies of freedom. Early movements toward democracy in the region would be violently reversed. This scenario would be a disaster for the people of the Middle East, a danger to our friends and allies, and a direct threat to American peace and security. This is what the extremists plan. For the sake of our own security, we'll pursue our enemies, we'll persevere and we will prevail. (Applause.)
In the short-term, we're using all elements of American power to protect the American people by taking the fight to the enemy. Our troops are carrying out operations day by day to bring the terrorists to justice. We're keeping the pressure on them. We're forcing them to move. Our law enforcement and intelligence professionals are working to cut off terrorist financing and disrupt their networks. Our diplomats are rallying our friends and allies throughout the region to share intelligence and to tighten security and to rout out the extremists hiding in their midst. Every day we work to protect the American people. Our strategy is this: We will fight them over there so we do not have to face them in the United States of America. (Applause.)
In the long-term, we are advancing freedom and liberty as the alternative to the ideologies of hatred and repression. We seek a Middle East of secure democratic states that are at peace with one another, that are participating in the global markets, and that are partners in this fight against the extremists and radicals. We seek to dry up the stream of recruits for al Qaeda and other extremists by helping nations offer their people a path to a more hopeful future. We seek an Iran whose government is accountable to its people -- instead of to leaders who promote terror and pursue the technology that could be used to develop nuclear weapons. We seek to advance a two-state solution for the Israelis and Palestinians so they can live side by side in peace and security. We seek justice and dignity and human rights for all the people of the Middle East.
Achieving this future requires hard work and strategic patience over many years. Yet our security depends on it. We have done this kind of work before in Europe. We have done this kind of work before in Japan. We have done this kind of work before -- and it can be done again. (Applause.)
The future course of the Middle East will turn heavily on the outcome of the fight in Iraq. Iraq is at the heart of the Middle East. And the two dangerous strains of extremism vying for control of the Middle East have now closed in on this country in an effort to bring down the young democracy.
In Iraq, Sunni extremists, led by al Qaeda, are staging sensational attacks on innocent men, women, and children in an attempt to stoke sectarian violence. Their operatives have assassinated those seeking to build a new future for the Iraqi people. Their targets include everyone they consider infidels -- including Christians and Jews and Yezidis and Shia, and even fellow Sunnis who do not share their radical distortion of Islam. Their ranks include foreign fighters who travel to Iraq through Syria. Their operations seek to create images of chaos and carnage to break the will of the American people. These killers don't understand our country. America does not give in to thugs and assassins -- and America will not abandon Iraq in its hour of need. (Applause.)
Shia extremists, backed by Iran, are training Iraqis to carry out attacks on our forces and the Iraqi people. Members of the Qods Force of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps are supplying extremist groups with funding and weapons, including sophisticated IEDs. And with the assistance of Hezbollah, they've provided training for these violent forces inside of Iraq. Recently, coalition forces seized 240-millimeter rockets that had been manufactured in Iran this year and that had been provided to Iraqi extremist groups by Iranian agents. The attacks on our bases and our troops by Iranian-supplied mu
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