By Donna Miles
WASHINGTON, Sept. 11, 2006 – Success in Iraq is critical to success in the global war on terror, President Bush said tonight during a televised address to the American people on the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks on New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon. Bush, speaking from the Oval Office, marked the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks by urging national unity against terrorists and extremists that pose a threat to the United States, including those in Iraq.
"I am often asked why we are in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks," the president said. "The answer is that the regime of Saddam Hussein was a clear threat. My administration, the Congress and the United Nations saw the threat -- and after 9/11, Saddam's regime posed a risk that the world could not afford to take."
The U.S. and the world are safer with Saddam removed from power, the president said. The challenge now is to help the Iraqi people build a new democracy -- something Bush acknowledged terrorists are doing everything in their power to stop. "Al Qaeda and other extremists from across the world have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East," he said. "They have joined the remnants of Saddam's regime and other armed groups to foment sectarian violence and drive us out.
"Our enemies in Iraq are tough and they are committed, but so are Iraqi and coalition forces," the president said. "We are adapting to stay ahead of the enemy, and we are carrying out a clear plan to ensure that a democratic Iraq succeeds."
Bush cited steps under way to help realize that dream. The coalition is training Iraqi troops so they can defend their nation and helping Iraq's unity government develop so it can serve the Iraqi people.
"We will not leave until this work is done," he 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."
Osama bin Laden recognizes this fact, calling the war in Iraq "the Third World War" and boasting that victory for the terrorists there will mean America's "defeat and disgrace forever," Bush said.
"If we yield Iraq to men like bin Laden, our enemies will be emboldened," he said. "They will gain a new safe haven, and they will use Iraq's resources to fuel their extremist movement."
Bush insisted that the United States won't allow that to happen. "America will stay in the fight. Iraq will be a free nation and a strong ally in the war on terror," he said.
Americans can be confident of the coalition's success, not just because of the conviction shown by the Iraqi people, but also the skill and resolve of the U.S. armed forces, Bush said.
"Every one of our troops is a volunteer, and since the attacks of September the 11th, more than 1.6 million Americans have stepped forward to put on our nation's uniform," he said.
He noted that the accomplishments they are making in Iraq, Afghanistan and other fronts in the terror war haven't been without sacrifice. "Some (troops) have suffered terrible injuries, and nearly 3,000 have given their lives," he said. "America cherishes their memory. We pray for their families.
"And we will never back down from the work they have begun."