George W. Bush photo

Remarks at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee

July 12, 2004

Thank you for the warm welcome. I realize the Y-12 National Security Complex doesn't get a lot of visitors—[laughter]. Thanks for the special arrangements. I'm also glad to have the opportunity to thank each one of you for the vital work you do here. And please pass the word to your fellow employees, many of whom were waving, I want you to know, as we drove in, for which I'm thankful. The Nation counts on your great expertise and your professionalism in producing, protecting, and maintaining material that is critical to our security. America is safer because of your service at Oak Ridge. You need to know our Nation is grateful for that service.

I appreciate our Secretary of Energy, Spence Abraham. He traveled with me today. Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for your service.

I want to thank Jeffrey Wadsworth, who's the Director of Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It's not the first time I have met Jeffrey. I appreciate Jon Kreykes. I want to thank all the people who helped make this visit a successful visit.

I want to thank Senator Lamar Alexander, the other Members of the United States Congress who are traveling with us today—strong supporters, by the way, of Oak Ridge.

I appreciate the mayor being here, David Bradshaw. Mr. Mayor, appreciate you taking time to come. I want to thank my fellow citizens for giving me a chance to come and visit.

I've just had a close look at some of the dangerous equipment secured in this place. Eight months ago, the centrifuge parts and processing equipment for uranium were 5,000 miles away in the nation of Libya. They were part of a secret nuclear weapons program. Today, Libya, America, and the world are better off because these components are safely in your care.

These materials are the sobering evidence of a great danger. Certain regimes, often with ties to terrorist groups, seek the ultimate weapons as a shortcut to influence. These materials voluntarily turned over by the Libyan Government are also encouraging evidence that nations can abandon these ambitions and choose a better way.

Libya is dismantling its weapons of mass destruction and long-range missile programs. This progress came about through quiet diplomacy between America, Britain, and the Libyan Government. This progress was set in motion, however, by policies declared in public to all the world. The United States, Great Britain, and many other nations are determined to expose the threats of terrorism and proliferation and to oppose those threats with all our power. We have sent this message in the strongest diplomatic terms, and we have acted where action was required.

Every potential adversary now knows that terrorism and proliferation carry serious consequences, and that the wise course is to abandon those pursuits. By choosing that course, the Libyan Government is serving the interests of its own people and adding to the security of all nations.

America's determination to actively oppose the threats of our time was formed and fixed on September the 11th, 2001. On that day, we saw the cruelty of the terrorists and we glimpsed the future they intend for us. They intend to strike the United States to the limits of their power. They seek weapons of mass destruction to kill Americans on an even greater scale. And this danger is increased when outlaw regimes build or acquire weapons of mass destruction and maintain ties to terrorist groups.

This is our danger but not our fate. America has the resources and the strength and the resolve to overcome this threat. We are waging a broad and unrelenting war against terror and an active campaign against proliferation. We refuse to live in fear. We are making steady progress.

To protect our people, we're staying on the offensive against threats within our own country. We are using the PATRIOT Act to track terrorist activity and to break up terror cells. Intelligence and law enforcement officials are sharing information as never before. We've transformed the mission of the FBI to focus on preventing terrorism. Every element of our homeland security plan is critical because the terrorists are ruthless and resourceful, and we know they're preparing to attack us again. It's not possible to guarantee perfect security in our vast, free Nation. But I can assure our fellow Americans, many fine professionals in intelligence and national security and homeland security and law enforcement are working around the clock, doing everything they can to protect the country. And we're grateful to them all.

To overcome the dangers of our time, America is also taking a new approach in the world. We're determined to challenge new threats, not ignore them or simply wait for future tragedy. We're helping to build a hopeful future in hopeless places, instead of allowing troubled regions to remain in despair and explode in violence. Our goal is a lasting, democratic peace in which free nations are free from the threat of sudden terror.

Our strategy for peace has three commitments: First, we are defending the peace by taking the fight to the enemy. We will confront them overseas so we do not have to confront them here at home. We are destroying the leadership of terrorist networks in sudden raids, disrupting their planning and financing, and keeping them on the run. Month by month, we are shrinking the space in which they can freely operate by denying them territory and the support of governments.

Second, we're protecting the peace by working with friends and allies and international institutions to isolate and confront terrorists and outlaw regimes. America is leading a broad coalition of nations to disrupt proliferation. We're working with the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and other international organizations to take action in our common security. The global threat of terrorism requires a global response. To be effective, that global response requires leadership, and America will lead.

Third, we are extending the peace by supporting the rise of democracy and the hope and progress that democracy brings, as the alternative to hatred and terror in the broader Middle East. In democratic and successful societies, men and women do not swear allegiance to malcontents and murderers; they turn their hearts and labor to building better lives. And democratic governments do not shelter terrorist camps or attack their peaceful neighbors. When justice and democracy advance, so does the hope of lasting peace.

We have followed this strategy—defending the peace, protecting the peace, and extending the peace—for nearly 3 years. We have been focused and patient, firm and consistent. And the results are all now clear to see.

Three years ago, the nation of Afghanistan was the home base of Al Qaida, a country ruled by the Taliban, one of the most backward and brutal regimes of modern history. Schooling was denied girls. Women were whipped in the streets and executed in a sports stadium. Millions lived in fear. With protection from the Taliban, Al Qaida and its associates trained, indoctrinated, and sent forth thousands of killers to set up terror cells in dozens of countries, including our own.

Today, Afghanistan is a world away from the nightmare of the Taliban. That country has a good and just President. Boys and girls are being educated. Many refugees have returned home to rebuild their country, and a Presidential election is scheduled for this fall. The terror camps are closed and the Afghan Government is helping us to hunt the Taliban and terrorists in remote regions. Today, because we acted to liberate Afghanistan, a threat has been removed and the American people are safer.

Three years ago, Pakistan was one of the few countries in the world that recognized the Taliban regime. Al Qaida was active and recruiting in Pakistan and was not seriously opposed. Pakistan served as a transit point for Al Qaida terrorists leaving Afghanistan on missions of murder. Yet the United States was not on good terms with Pakistan's military and civilian leaders, the very people we would need to help shut down Al Qaida operations in that part of the world.

Today, the Governments of the United States and Pakistan are working closely in the fight against terror. President Musharraf is a friend of our country who helped us capture Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the operational planner behind the September the 11th attacks. And Pakistani forces are rounding up terrorists along their nation's western border. Today, because we're working with the Pakistani leaders, Pakistan is an ally in the war on terror and the American people are safer.

Three years ago, terrorists were well-established in Saudi Arabia. Inside that country, fundraisers and other facilitators gave Al Qaida financial and logistical help with little scrutiny or opposition. Today, after the attacks in Riyadh and elsewhere, the Saudi Government knows that Al Qaida is its enemy. Saudi Arabia is working hard to shut down the facilitators and financial supporters of terrorism. The Government has captured or killed many first-tier leaders of the Al Qaida organization in Saudi Arabia, including one last week. Today, because Saudi Arabia has seen the danger and has joined the war on terror, the American people are safer.

Three years ago, the ruler of Iraq was a sworn enemy of America who provided safe haven for terrorists, used weapons of mass destruction, and turned his nation into a prison. Saddam Hussein was not just a dictator; he was a proven mass murderer who refused to account for weapons of mass murder. Every responsible nation recognized this threat and knew it could not go on forever.

America must remember the lessons of September the 11th. We must confront serious dangers before they fully materialize. And so my administration looked at the intelligence on Iraq, and we saw a threat. Members of the United States Congress from both political parties looked at the same intelligence, and they saw a threat. The United Nations Security Council looked at the intelligence, and it saw a threat. The previous administration and the Congress looked at the intelligence and made regime change in Iraq the policy of our country.

In 2002, the United Nations Security Council yet again demanded a full accounting of Saddam Hussein's weapons programs. As he had for over a decade, Sad-dam Hussein refused to comply. In fact, according to former weapons inspector David Kay, Iraq's weapons programs were elaborately shielded by security and deception operations that continued even beyond the end of Operation Iraqi Freedom. So I had a choice to make: Either take the word of a madman, or defend America. Given that choice, I will defend America every time. [Applause] Thanks.

Although we have not found stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction, we were right to go into Iraq. We removed a declared enemy of America who had the capability of producing weapons of mass murder and could have passed that capability to terrorists bent on acquiring them. In the world after September the 11th, that was a risk we could not afford to take.

Today, the dictator who caused decades of death and turmoil, who twice invaded his neighbors, who harbored terrorist leaders, who used chemical weapons on innocent men, women, and children, is finally before the bar of justice. Iraq, which once had the worst government in the Middle East, is now becoming an example of reform to the region. And Iraqi security forces are fighting beside coalition troops to defeat the terrorists and foreign fighters who threaten their nation and the world. Today, because America and our coalition helped to end the violent regime of Sad-dam Hussein and because we're helping to raise a peaceful democracy in its place, the American people are safer.

Three years ago, the nation of Libya, a longtime supporter of terror, was spending millions to acquire chemical and nuclear weapons. Today, thousands of Libya's chemical munitions have been destroyed. And nuclear processing equipment that could ultimately have threatened the lives of hundreds of thousands is stored away right here in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. Today, because the Libyan Government saw the seriousness of the civilized world and correctly judged its own interests, the American people are safer.

Three years ago, a private weapons proliferation network was doing business around the world. This network, operated by the Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, was selling nuclear plans and equipment to the highest bidder and found willing buyers in places like Libya, Iran, and North Korea. Today, the A.Q. Khan network is out of business. We have ended one of the most dangerous sources of proliferation in the world, and the American people are safer.

Breaking this proliferation network was possible because of the outstanding work done by the CIA. Dedicated intelligence officers were tireless in obtaining vital information, sometimes at great personal risk. Our intelligence services do an essential job for America. I thank them for their dedication and hard work.

The Senate Intelligence Committee has identified some shortcomings in our intelligence capabilities; the committee's report will help us in the work of reform. Our Nation needs more intelligence agents— what is called human intelligence—to cover the globe. We must have the best cutting-edge technology to listen and look for dangers. We must have better coordination among intelligence services. I need and the Congress needs the best possible intelligence in order to protect the American people. We're determined to make sure we get it.

Three years ago, the world was very different. Terrorists planned attacks with little fear of discovery or reckoning. Outlaw regimes supported terrorists and defied the civilized world without shame and with few consequences. Weapons proliferators sent their deadly shipments and grew wealthy, encountering few obstacles to their trade.

The world changed on September the 11th, and since that day, we have changed the world. We are leading a steady, confident, systematic campaign against the dangers of our time. There are still terrorists who plot against us, but the ranks of their leaders are thinning, and they know what fate awaits them. There are still regimes actively supporting the terrorists, but fewer than there used to be. There are still outlaw regimes pursuing weapons of mass destruction, but the world no longer looks the other way. Today, because America has acted and because America has led, the forces of terror and tyranny have suffered defeat after defeat and America and the world are safer.

All this progress has been achieved with the help of other responsible nations. The case of Libya's nuclear disarmament is a good example. In the fall of 2003, American and British intelligence were tracking a large shipment of nuclear equipment bound for Tripoli aboard a German-registered cargo ship. We alerted German and Italian authorities, who diverted the ship to an Italian port where the cargo was confiscated. We worked together. These events helped encourage Libya to reconsider its nuclear ambitions. That was a dramatic breakthrough, achieved by allies working together. And the cooperation of America's allies in the war on terror is very, very strong.

We're grateful to the more than 60 nations that are supporting the Proliferation Security Initiative to intercept illegal weapons and equipment by sea, land, and air. We're grateful to the more than 30 nations with forces serving in Iraq and the nearly 40 nations with forces in Afghanistan. In the fight against terror, we've asked our allies to do hard things. They've risen to their responsibilities. We're proud to call them friends.

We have duties, and there will be difficulties ahead. We're working with responsible governments and international institutions to convince the leaders of North Korea and Iran that their nuclear weapons ambitions are deeply contrary to their own interests.

We're helping governments fight poverty and disease so they do not become failed states and future havens for terror. We've launched our Broader Middle East Initiative to encourage reform and democracy throughout the region, a project that will shape the history of our times for the better. We're working to build a free and democratic Palestinian state, which lives in peace with Israel and adds to the peace of the region.

We're keeping our commitments to the people of Afghanistan and Iraq, who are building the world's newest democracies. They're counting on us to help. We will not abandon them. Delivering these nations from tyranny has required sacrifice and loss. We will honor that sacrifice by finishing the great work we have begun.

In this challenging period of our history, Americans fully understand the dangers to our country. We remain a nation at risk, directly threatened by an enemy that plots in secret to cause terrible harm and grief. We remain a nation at war, fighting for our security, our freedom, and our way of life. We also see our advantages clearly. Americans have a history of rising to every test; our generation is no exception. We've not forgotten September the 11th, 2001. We will not allow our enemies to forget it either.

We have strong allies, including millions of people in the Middle East who want to live in freedom. And the ideals we stand for have a power of their own. The appeal of justice and liberty, in the end, is greater than the appeal of hatred and tyranny in any form. The war on terror will not end in a draw. It will end in a victory, and you and I will see that victory of human freedom.

I want to thank you all for coming. Thank you for your dedication. May God bless you and your families, and may God continue to bless our great country. Thank you very much.

NOTE: The President spoke at 11:18 a.m. in Building 4500 of the laboratory. In his remarks, he referred to Jon Kreykes, manager, National Security Advanced Technology Programs, Oak Ridge National Laboratory; Mayor David Bradshaw of Oak Ridge, TN; President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan; President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan; and former President Saddam Hussein of Iraq. The Office of the Press Secretary also released a Spanish language transcript of these remarks.

George W. Bush, Remarks at Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Oak Ridge, Tennessee Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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