George Bush: Battle for civilisation defines our century

George Bush delivered a presidential address to the American nation on the fifth anniversary of 9/11. Here is an edited transcript.

Five years ago, this date - September 11 - was seared into America's memory. Nineteen men attacked us with a barbarity unequalled in our history. They murdered people of all colours, creeds, and nationalities - and made war upon the entire free world.

Since that day, America and her allies have taken the offensive in a war unlike any we have fought before. Today, we are safer, but we are not yet safe. I've asked for some of your time to discuss the nature of the threat still before us, what we are doing to protect our nation, and the building of a more hopeful Middle East that holds the key to peace for America and the world.

Since the horror of 9/11, we've learned a great deal about the enemy. We have learned that they are evil and kill without mercy - but not without purpose. We have learned that they form a global network of extremists who are driven by a perverted vision of Islam - a totalitarian ideology that hates freedom, rejects tolerance, and despises all dissent. And we have learned that their goal is to build a radical Islamic empire where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings, and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilised nations.

The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation.

Our nation is being tested in a way that we have not seen since the start of the Cold War. We saw what a handful of our enemies can do with box-cutters and plane tickets. We hear their threats to launch even more terrible attacks on our people. And we know that if they were able to get their hands on weapons of mass destruction, they would use them against us. We face an enemy determined to bring death and suffering into our homes.

America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. So do I. But the war is not over - and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious.

If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons. We are in a war that will set the course for this new century - and determine the destiny of millions across the world.

For America, 9/11 was more than a tragedy - it changed the way we look at the world. On September 11, we resolved that we would go on the offence against our enemies, and we would not distinguish between the terrorists and those who harbour or support them.

So we helped drive the Taleban from power in Afghanistan. We put al Qaeda on the run, and killed or captured most of those who planned the 9/11 attacks, including the man believed to be the mastermind, Khalid Sheik Mohammed. He and other suspected terrorists have been questioned by the Central Intelligence Agency, and they provided valuable information that has helped stop attacks.

Now these men have been transferred to Guantanamo Bay, so they can be held to account for their actions. Osama bin Laden and other terrorists are still in hiding. Our message to them is clear: No matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice.

On September 11, we learned that America must confront threats before they reach our shores, whether those threats come from terrorist networks or terrorist states. I'm often asked why we're in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks. 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 world is safer because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power.

And now the challenge is to help the Iraqi people build a democracy that fulfils the dreams of the nearly 12 million Iraqis who came out to vote in free elections last December.

Al Qaeda and other extremists have come to Iraq to stop the rise of a free society in the heart of the Middle East. 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.

In the first days after the 9/11 attacks I promised to use every element of national power to fight the terrorists, wherever we find them. One of the strongest weapons in our arsenal is the power of freedom. The terrorists fear freedom as much as they do our firepower. They are thrown into panic at the sight of an old man pulling the election lever, girls enrolling in schools, or families worshipping God in their own traditions. They know that given a choice, people will choose freedom over their extremist ideology. So their answer is to deny people this choice by raging against the forces of freedom and moderation.

This struggle has been called a clash of civilisations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilisation. We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom.

Amid the violence, some question whether the people of the Middle East want their freedom, and whether the forces of moderation can prevail.

For 60 years, these doubts guided our policies in the Middle East. And then, on a bright September morning, it became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither. So we changed our policies, and committed America's influence in the world to advancing freedom and democracy as the great alternatives to repression and radicalism.

Across the broader Middle East, the extremists are fighting to prevent such a future. Yet America has confronted evil before, and we have defeated it - sometimes at the cost of thousands of good men in a single battle. When Franklin Roosevelt vowed to defeat two enemies across two oceans, he could not have foreseen D-Day and Iwo Jima - but he would not have been surprised at the outcome. When Harry Truman promised American support for free peoples resisting Soviet aggression, he could not have foreseen the rise of the Berlin Wall - but he would not have been surprised to see it brought down.

Throughout our history, America has seen liberty challenged, and every time, we have seen liberty triumph with sacrifice and determination.

At the start of this young century, America looks to the day when the people of the Middle East leave the desert of despotism for the fertile gardens of liberty, and resume their rightful place in a world of peace and prosperity. We look to the day when the nations of that region recognise their greatest resource is not the oil in the ground, but the talent and creativity of their people. We look to the day when moms and dads throughout the Middle East see a future of hope and opportunity for their children.

And when that good day comes, the clouds of war will part, the appeal of radicalism will decline, and we will leave our children with a better and safer world.

On this solemn anniversary, we rededicate ourselves to this cause. Winning this war will require the determined efforts of a unified country, and we must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us.

We will defeat our enemies. We will protect our people. And we will lead the 21st century into a shining age of human liberty.

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