By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Sep. 5, 2006 – An early U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq would play into terrorists' plans of establishing a new world order of radical Islam, President Bush told members of a military officers' group here today. "These evil men know that a fundamental threat to their aspirations is a democratic Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself," Bush said in his speech to the Military Officers Association of America.
If given a choice, Iraqis would refuse to participate in the type of totalitarian society the terrorists hope to establish in Iraq and elsewhere, Bush said. "And that is why we must not and we will not give the enemy victory in Iraq by deserting the Iraqi people," the president said. Bush spoke to the group in the second of a series of speeches in coming weeks in which he'll update the U.S. public on the cause and course of the war. On Aug. 31, Bush told American Legion members in Salt Lake City that the anti-terror war represents "the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century."
As the struggle for Iraq continues, regenerated terrorists are attempting to push the U.S. and its allies out of Afghanistan. Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden has made it clear that he considers Iraq the key focus of the war, Bush said. After pushing America out of Iraq, the Islamic terrorists hope to expand their empire across the Middle East and even into Spain, Bush said. "For al Qaeda, Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America," he said. "It is the central battlefield, where the outcome of this struggle will be decided."
The United States and its allies have scored significant victories against terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere, Bush told the military officers. "Since 9/11, our coalition has captured or killed al Qaeda managers and operatives and scores of other terrorists across the world," Bush said, noting terrorists are under constant pressure. "When terrorists spend their days working to avoid death or capture, it's harder for them to plan and execute new attacks."
U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies have been provided expanded powers and capability to monitor and thwart possible terror threats in the United States, Bush said. "We've given our law enforcement and intelligence professionals the tools they need to stop the terrorists in our midst," the president said, noting that terror cells have been broken up in Illinois, Virginia, Texas, New York and Oregon.
The United States has learned volumes about the terrorists' "cunning and sophisticated" style of warfare during the past five years, Bush said. "We've witnessed their ability to change their methods and their tactics with deadly speed, even as their murderous obsessions remain unchanging," Bush said. "We've seen that it's the terrorists who have declared war on Muslims, slaughtering huge numbers of innocent Muslim men and women around the world."
The war won't end any time soon, Bush predicted. "The road ahead is going to be difficult, and it will require more sacrifice," he said. Bush compared today's anti-terror war with the 20th century's successful struggle that defeated fascism.
"This time, the battle is unfolding in a new region, the broader Middle East," Bush said. "This time, we're not waiting for our enemies to gather in strength." One day, Middle Easterners will "have governments that honor their dignity and unleash their creativity and count their votes," Bush predicted. America is battling terrorism across the globe, Bush said, "because the security of our own citizens depends upon it." He called fighting terror "the great ideological struggle of the 21st century."
"It is the calling of our generation," Bush concluded. "All civilized nations are bound together in this struggle between moderation and extremism. By coming together, we will roll back this grave threat to our way of life. We will help the people of the Middle East claim their freedom, and we will leave a safer and more hopeful world for our children and grandchildren."