Remarks by President Bush at the United States Air Force Academy Graduation Ceremony

Jun 02, 2004, 01:00 ET from White House Press Office

    WASHINGTON, June 2 /PRNewswire/ -- The following is a transcript of
 remarks by President Bush at the United States Air Force Academy Graduation
     Falcon Stadium
     United States Air Force Academy
     11:17 A.M. MDT
     THE PRESIDENT:  Secretary Roche and General Jumper, General Rosa, Attorney
 General Ashcroft, Congresswoman Heather Wilson -- Air Force Academy graduate
 1982 -- Academy staff and faculty, distinguished guests, officers, cadets,
 members of the graduating class, and your families:  Thank you for the warm
 welcome.  (Applause.)  And thank you for the honor to visit the United States
 Air Force Academy on your 50th anniversary.  (Applause.)
     You've worked hard to get to this moment.  You survived "Beast," spent
 seven months eating your meals at attention, carried boulders from Cathedral
 rock, and endured countless hours in "Jack's Valley."  In four years, you've
 been transformed from "basics" and "smacks" -- (laughter) -- to proud officers
 and airmen, worthy of the degree and the commission you receive.
 Congratulations on a great achievement.  (Applause.)
     Your superintendent has made a positive difference in a short time.  I
 thank him for helping to restore the Academy's tradition of honor, which
 applies to every man and woman, without exception.  (Applause.)  I thank the
 superb faculty for your high standards and dedication to preparing Air Force
 officers.  And I thank the parents here today for standing behind your sons
 and daughters as they step forward to serve America.  (Applause.)
     This is a week of remembrance for our country.  On Saturday we dedicated
 the World War II Memorial in Washington, in the company of veterans who fought
 and flew at places like Midway, and Iwo Jima and Normandy.  This weekend I
 will go to France for the ceremonies marking the 60th anniversary of D-Day, at
 a place where the fate of millions turned on the courage of thousands.  In
 these events we recall a time of peril, and national unity, and individual
 courage.  We honor a generation of Americans who served this country and saved
 the liberty of the world.  (Applause.)
     On this day in 1944, General Eisenhower sat down at his headquarters in
 the English countryside, and wrote out a message to the troops who would soon
 invade Normandy.  "Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen of the Allied Expeditionary
 Force," he wrote, "the eyes of the world are upon you.  The hopes and prayers
 of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you."
     Each of you receiving a commission today in the United States military
 will also carry the hopes of free people everywhere.  (Applause.)  As your
 generation assumes its own duties during a global conflict that will define
 your careers, you will be called upon to take brave action and serve with
 honor.  In some ways, this struggle we're in is unique.  In other ways, it
 resembles the great clashes of the last century -- between those who put their
 trust in tyrants and those who put their trust in liberty.  Our goal, the goal
 of this generation, is the same:  We will secure our nation and defend the
 peace through the forward march of freedom.
     Like the Second World War, our present conflict began with a ruthless,
 surprise attack on the United States.  We will not forget that treachery, and
 we will accept nothing less than victory over the enemy.
     Like the murderous ideologies of the 20th century, the ideology of
 terrorism reaches across boarders, and seeks recruits in every country.  So
 we're fighting these enemies wherever they hide across the earth.
     Like other totalitarian movements, the terrorists seek to impose a grim
 vision in which dissent is crushed, and every man and woman must think and
 live in colorless conformity.  So to the oppressed peoples everywhere, we are
 offering the great alternative of human liberty.
     Like enemies of the past, the terrorists underestimate the strength of
 free peoples.  The terrorists believe that free societies are essentially
 corrupt and decadent, and with a few hard blows will collapse in weakness and
 in panic.  The enemy has learned that America is strong and determined,
 because of the steady resolve of our citizens, and because of the skill and
 strength of the Army, Navy, Marines, Coast Guard and the United States Air
 Force.  (Applause.)
     And like the aggressive ideologies that rose up in the early 1900s, our
 enemies have clearly and proudly stated their intentions:  Here are the words
 of al Qaeda's self-described military spokesman in Europe, on a tape claiming
 responsibility for the Madrid bombings.  He said, "We choose death, while you
 choose life.  If you do not stop your injustices, more and more blood will
 flow and these attacks will seem very small compared to what can occur in what
 you call terrorism."
     Here are the words of another al Qaeda spokesman, Suleiman Abu Gheith.
 Last year, in an article published on an al Qaeda website, he said, "We have
 the right to kill four million Americans -- two million of them children --
 and to exile twice as many and wound and cripple hundreds of thousands.
 Furthermore, it is our right to fight them with chemical and biological
     In all these threats, we hear the echoes of other enemies in other times
 -- that same swagger and demented logic of the fanatic.  Like their kind in
 the past, these murderers have left scars and suffering.  And like their kind
 in the past, they will flame and fail and suffer defeat by free men and women.
     The enemies of freedom are opposed by a great and growing alliance.
 Nations that won the Cold War, nations once behind an Iron Curtain, and
 nations on every continent see this threat clearly.  We're cooperating at
 every level of our military, law enforcement and intelligence to meet the
 danger.  The war on terror is civilization's fight.  And, as in the struggles
 of the last century, civilized nations are waging this fight together.
     The terrorists of our day are, in some ways, unlike the enemies of the
 past.  The terrorist ideology has not yet taken control of a great power like
 Germany or the Soviet Union.  And so the terrorists have adopted a strategy
 different from the gathering of vast and standing armies.  They seek, instead,
 to demoralize free nations with dramatic acts of murder.  They seek to wear
 down our resolve and will by killing the innocent and spreading fear and
 anarchy.  And they seek weapons of mass destruction, so they can threaten or
 attack even the most powerful nations.
     Fighting this kind of enemy is a complex mission that will require all
 your skill and resourcefulness.  Our enemies have no capital or nation-state
 to defend.  They share a vision and operate as a network of dozens of violent
 extremist groups around the world, striking separately and in concert.  Al
 Qaeda is the vanguard of these loosely affiliated groups, and we estimate that
 over the years many thousands of recruits have passed through its training
 camps.  Al Qaeda has been wounded by losing nearly two-thirds of its known
 leadership, and most of its important sanctuaries.  Yet many of the terrorists
 it trained are still active in hidden cells or in other groups.  Home-grown
 extremists, incited by al Qaeda's example, are at work in many nations.
     And since September the 11th, we've seen terrorist violence in an arc from
 Morocco to Spain to Turkey to Russia to Uzbekistan to Pakistan to India to
 Thailand to Indonesia.  Yet the center of the conflict, the platform for their
 global expansion, the region they seek to remake in their image, is the
 broader Middle East.
     Just as events in Europe determined the outcome of the Cold War, events in
 the Middle East will set the course of our current struggle.  If that region
 is abandoned to dictators and terrorists, it will be a constant source of
 violence andd alarm, exporting killers of increasing destructive power to
 attack America and other free nations.  If that region grows in democracy and
 prosperity and hope, the terrorist movement will lose its sponsors, lose its
 recruits, and lose the festering grievances that keep terrorists in business.
 The stakes of this struggle are high.  The security and peace of our country
 are at stake, and success in this struggle is our only option.  (Applause.)
     This is the great challenge of our time, the storm in which we fly.
 History is once again witnessing a great clash.  This is not a clash of
 civilizations.  The civilization of Islam, with its humane traditions of
 learning and tolerance, has no place for this violent sect of killers and
 aspiring tyrants.  This is not a clash of religions.  The faith of Islam
 teaches moral responsibility that enobles men and women, and forbids the
 shedding of innocent blood.  Instead, this is a clash of political visions.
     In the terrorists' vision of the world, the Middle East must fall under
 the rule of radical governments, moderate Arab states must be overthrown,
 nonbelievers must be expelled from Muslim lands, and the harshest practice of
 extremist rule must be universally enforced.  In this vision, books are
 burned, terrorists are sheltered, women are whipped, and children are schooled
 in hatred and murder and suicide.
     Our vision is completely different.  We believe that every person has a
 right to think and pray and live in obedience to God and conscience, not in
 frightened submission to despots.  (Applause.)  We believe that societies find
 their greatness by encouraging the creative gifts of their people, not in
 controlling their lives and feeding their resentments.  And we have confidence
 that people share this vision of dignity and freedom in every culture because
 liberty is not the invention of Western culture, liberty is the deepest need
 and hope of all humanity.  The vast majority of men and women in Muslim
 societies reject the domination of extremists like Osama bin Laden.  They're
 looking to the world's free nations to support them in their struggle against
 the violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle
 East.  We will not abandon them to the designs of evil men.  We will stand
 with the people of that region as they seek their future in freedom.
     We bring more than a vision to this conflict -- we bring a strategy that
 will lead to victory.  And that strategy has four commitments:
     First, we are using every available tool to dismantle, disrupt and destroy
 terrorists and their organizations.  With all the skill of our law
 enforcement, all the stealth of our special forces, and all the global reach
 of our air power, we will strike the terrorists before they can strike our
 people.  The best way to protect America is to stay on the offensive.
     Secondly, we are denying terrorists places of sanctuary or support.  The
 power of terrorists is multiplied when they have safe havens to gather and
 train recruits.  Terrorist havens are found within states that have difficulty
 controlling areas of their own territory.  So we're helping governments like
 the Philippines and Kenya to enforce anti-terrorist laws, through information
 sharing and joint training.
     Terrorists also find support and safe haven within outlaw regimes.  So I
 have set a clear doctrine that the sponsors of terror will be held equally
 accountable for the acts of terrorists.  (Applause.)  Regimes in Iraq and
 Afghanistan learned that providing support and sanctuary to terrorists carries
 with it enormous costs -- while Libya has discovered that abandoning the
 pursuit of weapons of mass murder has opened a better path to relations with
 the free world.
     Terrorists find their ultimate support and sanctuary when they gain
 control of governments and countries.  We saw the terrible harm that
 terrorists did by taking effective control over the government of Afghanistan
 -- a terrorist victory that led directly to the attacks of September the 11th.
 And terrorists have similar designs on Iraq, on Pakistan, on Saudi Arabia and
 many other regional governments they regard as illegitimate.  We can only
 imagine the scale of terrorist crimes were they to gain control of states with
 weapons of mass murder or vast oil revenues.  So we will not retreat.  We will
 prevent the emergence of terrorist-controlled states.
     Third, we are using all elements of our national power to deny terrorists
 the chemical, biological and nuclear weapons they seek.  Because this global
 threat requires a global response, we are working to strengthen international
 institutions charged with opposing proliferation.  We are working with
 regional powers and international partners to confront the threats of North
 Korea and Iran.  We have joined with 14 other nations in the Proliferation
 Security Initiative to interdict -- on sea, on land, or in the air --
 shipments of weapons of mass destruction, components to build those weapons,
 and the means to deliver them.  Our country must never allow mass murderers to
 gain hold of weapons of mass destruction.  We will lead the world and keep
 unrelenting pressure on the enemy.  (Applause.)
     Fourth and finally, we are denying the terrorists the ideological
 victories they seek by working for freedom and reform in the broader Middle
 East. Fighting terror is not just a matter of killing or capturing terrorists.
 To stop the flow of recruits into terrorist movement, young people in the
 region must see a real and hopeful alternative -- a society that rewards their
 talent and turns their energies to constructive purpose.  And here the vision
 of freedom has great advantages.  Terrorists incite young men and women to
 strap bombs on their bodies and dedicate their deaths to the death of others.
 Free societies inspire young men and women to work, and achieve, and dedicate
 their lives to the life of their country.  And in the long run, I have great
 faith that the appeal of freedom and life is stronger than the lure of hatred
 and death.
     Freedom's advance in the Middle East will have another very practical
 effect.  The terrorist movement feeds on the appearance of inevitability.  It
 claims to rise on the currents of history, using past America withdrawals from
 Somalia and Beirut to sustain this myth and to gain new followers.  The
 success of free and stable governments in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere
 will shatter the myth and discredit the radicals.  (Applause.)  And as the
 entire region sees the promise of freedom in its midst, the terrorist ideology
 will become more and more irrelevant, until that day when it is viewed with
 contempt or ignored altogether.  (Applause.)
     For decades, free nations tolerated oppression in the Middle East for the
 sake of stability.  In practice, this approach brought little stability, and
 much oppression.  So I have changed this policy.  In the short-term, we will
 work with every government in the Middle East dedicated to destroying the
 terrorist networks.  In the longer-term, we will expect a higher standard of
 reform and democracy from our friends in the region.  (Applause.)  Democracy
 and reform will make those nations stronger and more stable, and make the
 world more secure by undermining terrorism at it source.  Democratic
 institutions in the Middle East will not grow overnight; in America, they grew
 over generations. Yet the nations of the Middle East will find, as we have
 found, the only path to true progress is the path of freedom and justice and
 democracy.  (Applause.)
     America is pursuing our forward strategy for freedom in the broader Middle
 East in many ways.  Voices in that region are increasingly demanding reform
 and democratic change.  So we are working with courageous leaders like
 President Karzai of Afghanistan, who is ushering in a new era of freedom for
 the Afghan people.  We're taking aside reformers, and we're standing for human
 rights and political freedom, often at great personal risk.  We're encouraging
 economic opportunity and the rule of law and government reform and the
 expansion of liberty throughout the region.
     And we're working toward the goal of a Palestinian state living side by
 side with Israel in peace.  (Applause.)  Prime Minister Sharon's plan to
 remove all settlements from Gaza and several from the West Bank is a
 courageous step toward peace.  (Applause.)  His decision provides an historic
 moment of opportunity to begin building a future Palestinian state.  This
 initiative can stimulate progress toward peace by setting the parties back on
 the road map, the most reliable guide to ending the occupation that began in
 1967.  This success will require reform-minded Palestinians to step forward
 and lead and meet their road map obligations.  And the United States of
 America stands ready to help those dedicated to peace, those willing to fight
 violence, find a new state so we can realize peace in the greater Middle East.
     Some who call themselves "realists" question whether the spread of
 democracy in the Middle East should be any concern of ours.  But the realists
 in this case have lost contact with a fundamental reality.  America has always
 been less secure when freedom is in retreat.  America is always more secure
 when freedom is on the march.
     All our commitments in the Middle East -- all of the four commitments of
 our strategy -- are now being tested in Iraq.  We have removed a state-sponsor
 of terror with a history of using weapons of mass destruction.  And the whole
 world is better off with Saddam Hussein sitting in a prison cell.  (Applause.)
 We now face al Qaeda associates like the terrorist Zarqawi, who seek to hijack
 the future of that nation.  We are fighting enemies who want us to retreat,
 and leave Iraq to tyranny, so they can claim an ideological victory over
 America. They would use that victory to gather new strength, and take their
 violence directly to America and to our friends.
     Yet our coalition is determined, and the Iraqi people have made clear:
 Iraq will remain in the camp of free nations.  (Applause.)
     The Iraqi people are moving forward, in clear, steady steps, with our
 support, to achieve democracy.  Iraq now has a designated Prime Minister, Ayad
 Allawi, a respected Iraqi patriot once targeted by Saddam Hussein's assassins.
 I spoke with the Prime Minister yesterday.  He recognized the sacrifice of
 brave Americans who have given their lives in Iraq, and he pledged that his
 country would be a friend and ally of America in peace.  (Applause.)
     Along with a president and two deputy presidents, Prime Minister Allawi
 will lead a government of 33 ministers, which take office immediately, and
 begin preparing for the transfer of full sovereignty by June the 30th.
 America and Great Britain are now working with the United Nations Security
 Council and Iraq's new leaders on a resolution that will endorse the sovereign
 government of Iraq, and urge other nations to actively support it.
     The Iraqi people are looking to us for help, and we will provide it.  Many
 fine civilian professionals are now working in that country, helping Iraqis to
 rebuild their infrastructure and build the institutions of a free country.
 Along with the United Nations, we will help Iraq's new government to prepare
 for national elections by January of 2005.  This free election is what the
 terrorists in the country fear most.  Free elections are  exactly what they
 are going to see.
     Our military is performing with skill and courage, and our nation is proud
 of the United States military.  (Applause.)  Many brave Iraqis have stepped
 forward to fight for their own freedom, and we are working closely with them
 to disband and destroy the illegal militia, to defeat the terrorists, and to
 secure the safe arrival of Iraqi democracy.  We're stepping up our efforts to
 train effective Iraqi security forces that will eventually defend the liberty
 of their own country.
     At every stage of this process, before and after the transition to Iraqi
 sovereignty, the enemy is likely to be active and brutal.  They know the
 stakes as well as we do.  But our coalition is prepared, our will is strong,
 and neither Iraq's new leadership nor the United States will be intimidated by
 thugs and assassins.
     As we fight the war on terror in Iraq and on other fronts, we must keep in
 mind the nature of the enemy.  No act of America explains terrorist violence,
 and no concession of America could appease it.  The terrorists who attacked
 our country on September the 11th, 2001 were not protesting our policies.
 They were protesting our existence.  Some say that by fighting the terrorists
 abroad since September the 11th, we only stir up a hornet's nest.  But the
 terrorists who struck that day were stirred up already.  (Applause.)  If
 America were not fighting terrorists in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and elsewhere,
 what would these thousands of killers do, suddenly begin leading productive
 lives of service and charity?  (Laughter.)  Would the terrorists who beheaded
 an American on camera just be quiet, peaceful citizens if America had not
 liberated Iraq?  We are dealing here with killers who have made the death of
 Americans the calling of their lives.  And America has made a decision about
 these terrorists:  Instead of waiting for them to strike again in our midst,
 we will take this fight to the enemy.  (Applause.)
     We are confident of our cause in Iraq, but the struggle we have entered
 will not end with success in Iraq.  Overcoming terrorism, and bringing greater
 freedom to the nations of the Middle East, is the work of decades.  To
 prevail, America will need the swift and able transformed military you will
 help to build and lead.  America will need a generation of Arab linguists, and
 experts on Middle Eastern history and culture.  America will need improved
 intelligence capabilities to track threats and expose the plans of unseen
     Above all, America will need perseverance.  This conflict will take many
 turns, with setbacks on the course to victory.  Through it all, our confidence
 comes from one unshakable belief:  We believe, in Ronald Reagan's words, that
 "the future belongs to the free."  (Applause.)  And we've seen the appeal of
 liberty with our own eyes.  We have seen freedom firmly established in former
 enemies like Japan and Germany.  We have seen freedom arrive, on waves of
 unstoppable progress, to nations in Latin America, and Asia, and Africa, and
 Eastern Europe.  Now freedom is stirring in the Middle East, and no one should
 bet against it.  (Applause.)
     In the years immediately after World War II ended, our nation faced more
 adversity and danger with the rise of imperial communism.  In 1947, communist
 forces were pressing a civil war in Greece, and threatening Turkey.  More than
 two years after the Nazi surrender, there was still starvation in Germany,
 reconstruction seemed to be faltering, and the Marshall Plan had not yet
 begun. In 1948, Berlin was blockaded on the orders of Josef Stalin.  In 1949,
 the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon, and communists in China won their
     All of this took place in the first four years of the Cold War.  If that
 generation of Americans had lost its nerve, there would have been no "long
 twilight struggle," only a long twilight.  But the United States and our
 allies kept faith with captive peoples, and stayed true to the vision of a
 democratic Europe.  And that perseverance gave all the world a lesson in the
 power of liberty.  (Applause.)
     We are now about three years into the war against terrorism.  We have
 overcome great challenges, we face many today, and there are more ahead.  This
 is no time for impatience and self-defeating pessimism.  These times demand
 the kind of courage and confidence that Americans have shown before.  Our
 enemy can only succeed if we lose our will and faith in our own values.  And
 ladies and gentlemen, our will is strong.  We know our duty.  By keeping our
 word, and holding firm to our values, this generation will show the world the
 power of liberty once again.  (Applause.)
     For four years, you have trained and studied and worked for this moment.
 And now it has come.  You are the ones who will defeat the enemies of freedom.
 Your country is depending on your courage and your dedication to duty.  The
 eyes of the world are upon you.  You leave this place at a historic time, and
 you enter this struggle ahead with the full confidence of your Commander-in-
 Chief. I thank each of you for accepting the hardships and high honor of
 service in the United States military.  And I congratulate every member of the
 Rickenbacker Class of 2004.  (Applause.)
     May God bless you.  (Applause.)
     END                12:04 P.M. MDT

SOURCE White House Press Office