WASHINGTON - In a speech laced with quotes from Osama bin Laden, United States President George W. Bush said yesterday that five years after the September 11 attacks, al Qaeda wants to set up a violent, radical Islamic caliphate based in Iraq.
Bush vowed he would not let this happen on his watch.
In the speech and an updated national security strategy report on combating terrorism, Bush renewed a push to bolster support among Americans weary of the Iraq conflict by once again portraying it as part of his broader "war on terrorism".
Bush, in an unusual move, quoted extensively from bin Laden's videotaped messages and writings, and compared him to Lenin and Hitler.
Islamic radicals wanted to obtain weapons of mass destruction to "blackmail the free world and spread their ideologies of hate and raise a mortal threat to the American people".
"If we allow them to do this, if we retreat from Iraq, if we don't uphold our duty to support those who are desirous to live in liberty, 50 years from now, history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity and demand to know why we did not act. I'm not going to allow this to happen and no future American President can allow it either."
He cited a bin Laden letter in which the al Qaeda leader wrote that an objective of the network should be to launch a media campaign to try to drive a wedge between the American people and their Government and tell them that "their Government would bring them more losses, in finances and in casualties".
Bush said al Qaeda intended to create many bases worldwide "from which they can plan new attacks and advance their vision of a unified totalitarian Islamic state that can confront and eventually destroy the free world". Bin Laden had declared Iraq "the capital of the caliphate", said Bush - often criticised for trying to tie Iraq into his "war on terror".