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21 February 2004

U.S. Fighting Terrorism With "Focus and Determination," Says Bush

Says creation of a free Iraq will be watershed event in Middle East history

Al Qaeda and other terrorist groups have made Iraq "the central front" in the U.S. war against terrorism, and the United States will counter this threat with "focus and determination," said President Bush.

In his weekly radio address to the nation February 21, Bush called attention to a letter intercepted from a senior al Qaeda associate describing a strategy to destabilize Iraq through ethnic violence and suicide bomb attacks on innocent Iraqis, Iraqi security, and coalition personnel.

"The terrorists know that the emergence of a free Iraq will be a major blow against a worldwide terrorist movement. In this, they are correct," he said.

"The establishment of a free Iraq will be a watershed event in the history of the Middle East, helping to advance the spread of liberty throughout that vital region," Bush said.

The president said terrorists were on the run, with nearly two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders captured or killed since the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.

He said success in the war against terror required that regimes that might arm terrorists with weapons of mass destruction should be confronted, and justified the coalition invasion of Iraq on those grounds.

The U.S. government, Congress and the United Nations Security Council knew former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's history and saw a threat based upon intelligence information, he said.

Saddam had invaded neighboring countries, cultivated ties to terrorists, built weapons of mass destruction, and had used chemical weapons against thousands of Iraqis and Iranians, said Bush.

Following is the transcript of President Bush's Radio Address to the Nation:

(begin transcript)

THE WHITE HOUSE

Office of the Press Secretary _____________________________________________________________________ Embargoed Until Delivery
At 10:06 A.M. EST
Saturday, February 21, 2004

RADIO ADDRESS OF THE PRESIDENT TO THE NATION

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week I traveled to Fort Polk, in Louisiana, to visit with soldiers and family members who are giving vital service in the war on terror. Fort Polk is home to some of the Army's oldest and finest units. Since September the 11th, 2001, Fort Polk has trained and deployed more than 10,000 troops to fight the terrorist enemy worldwide, including in Afghanistan and Iraq. Thanks to their bravery and skill, America is waging this fight with focus and determination.

Over the last 29 months, many terrorists have learned the meaning of justice. Nearly two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed. The terrorists are on the run, with good reason to fear what the night might bring. Success in the war on terror also requires that we confront regimes that might arm terrorists with the ultimate weapons. America is determined to meet this danger, and to deny terrorists and dangerous regimes the ability to threaten us with the world's most deadly weapons.

For 12 years, the former dictator of Iraq defied the international community. He refused to disarm, or account for his illegal weapons and programs. My administration looked at the intelligence information and we saw a threat. Members of Congress looked at the intelligence and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence and it saw a threat. All of us knew Saddam Hussein's history. He waged aggressive wars against neighboring countries and inspired to dominate the Middle East. He cultivated ties to terrorists. He built weapons of mass destruction. He hid those weapons. And he used chemical weapons against thousands of Iraqis and Iranians.

Saddam Hussein doubted our resolve to enforce our word. Now he sits in a prison cell while his country moves toward a democratic future. Today in Iraq, our coalition faces deadly attacks from a remnant of Saddam's supporters, joined by foreign terrorists. Recently we intercepted a letter sent by a senior al Qaeda associate named Zarqawi, to one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants. The letter describes a terrorist strategy, to tear Iraq apart with ethnic violence, to undermine Iraqi security forces, to demoralize our coalition and to prevent the rise of a sovereign, democratic government. This terrorist outlines his efforts to recruit and train suicide bombers, and boasts of 25 attacks on innocent Iraqis and coalition personnel. And he urges al Qaeda members to join him in waging war on our coalition and on the people of Iraq.

Zarqawi and men like him have made Iraq the central front in our war on terror. The terrorists know that the emergence of a free Iraq will be a major blow against a worldwide terrorist movement. In this, they are correct.

But we have seen this enemy before and we know how to deal with them. Fighting alongside the people of Afghanistan, we are defeating the terrorists in that country. And fighting alongside the people of Iraq, we will defeat the terrorists there, as well. Iraq, like Afghanistan, will be free.

Our coalition is working with Iraq's Governing Council to draft a basic law with a bill of rights. We're working with Iraqis and the United Nations to prepare for a transition to full Iraqi sovereignty. The establishment of a free Iraq will be a watershed event in the history of the Middle East, helping to advance the spread of liberty throughout that vital region. And as freedom takes hold in the greater Middle East, the people of the region will find new hope, and America will be more secure.

Two-and-a-half years ago, on a clear September morning, the enemies of America brought a new kind of war to our shores. Three days later, I stood in the rubble of the Twin Towers. My resolve today is the same as it was then: I will not relent until the terrorist threat to America is removed.

Thank you for listening.

END

(end transcript)