Remarks at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina
Thank you all very much. Please be seated. Thank you for that warm welcome. I'm glad to be back here at the Citadel.
I have come to talk about the future security of our country, in a place where I took up this subject 2 years ago as candidate for President. In September 1999 I said here at the Citadel that America was entering a period of consequences that would be defined by the threat of terror and that we faced a challenge of military transformation. That threat has now revealed itself, and that challenge is now the military and moral necessity of our time. So today I will set forth the commitments essential to victory in our war against terror.
I want to thank Major General John Grinalds for his hospitality. I want to thank the Citadel Board of Visitors, the staff, and the faculty. I understand the Governor is here. And I know my friends the Lieutenant Governor, the speaker, and the attorney general are here, and it was great to have seen them at the airport. I thank my friend Adjutant General Stan Spears for being here.
I'm grateful that Senator Hollings and members of the South Carolina congressional delegation flew down on Air Force One. I only wish that the senior Senator was on the airplane so I could have wished him a happy 99th birthday.
But most of all—most of all—I want to say how much I appreciate being in the presence of some of America's finest, the South Carolina Corps of Cadets of Citadel.
Four days ago, I joined the men and women of the U.S.S. Enterprise to mark the 60th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. December 7th, 1941, was a decisive day that changed our Nation forever. In a single moment, America's "splendid isolation" was ended. And the 4 years that followed transformed the American way of war. The age of battleships gave way to the offensive capability of aircraft carriers. The tank, once used only to protect infantry, now served to cut through enemy lines. At Guadalcanal and Normandy and Iwo Jima, amphibious warfare proved its worth. And by war's end, no one would ever again doubt the value of strategic air power.
Even more importantly, an American President and his successors shaped a world beyond a war. They rebuilt Europe with the Marshall plan, formed a great alliance for freedom in NATO, and expressed the hope of collective security in the United Nations. America took the lead, becoming freedom's defender and assuming responsibilities that only we could bear.
September the 11th, 2001—3 months and a long time ago—set another dividing line in our lives and in the life of our Nation. An illusion of immunity was shattered. A faraway evil became a present danger. And a great cause became clear: We will fight terror and those who sponsor it, to save our children from a future of fear.
To win this war, we have to think differently. The enemy who appeared on September the 11th seeks to evade our strength and constantly searches for our weaknesses. So America is required once again to change the way our military thinks and fights. And starting on October 7th, the enemy in Afghanistan got the first glimpses of a new American military that cannot and will not be evaded.
When I committed U.S. forces to this battle, I had every confidence that they would be up to the task, and they have proven me right. The Taliban and the terrorists set out to dominate a country and intimidate the world. Today, from their caves, it's all looking a little different. And no cave is deep enough to escape the patient justice of the United States of America.
We are also beginning to see the possibilities of a world beyond the war on terror. We have a chance, if we take it, to write a hopeful chapter in human history. All at once, a new threat to civilization is erasing old lines of rivalry and resentment between nations. Russia and America are building a new cooperative relationship. India and the United States are increasingly aligned across a range of issues, even as we work closely with Pakistan. Germany and Japan are assuming new military roles appropriate to their status as great democracies. The vast majority of countries are now on the same side of a moral and ideological divide. We're making common cause with every nation that chooses lawful change over chaotic violence, every nation that values peace and safety and innocent life.
Staring across this divide are bands of murderers supported by outlaw regimes. They are a movement defined by their hatreds. They hate progress and freedom and choice and culture and music and laughter and women and Christians and Jews and all Muslims who reject their distorted doctrines. They love only one thing: They love power, and when they have it, they use it without mercy.
The great threat to civilization is not that the terrorists will inspire millions; only the terrorists themselves would want to live in their brutal and joyless world. The great threat to civilization is that a few evil men will multiply their murders and gain the means to kill on a scale equal to their hatred. We know they have this mad intent, and we're determined to stop them. Our lives, our way of life, and our every hope for the world depend on a single commitment: The authors of mass murder must be defeated and never allowed to gain or use the weapons of mass destruction.
America and our friends will meet this threat with every method at our disposal. We will discover and destroy sleeper cells. We will track terrorist movements, trace their communications, disrupt their funding, and take their network apart piece by piece.
Above all, we're acting to end the state sponsorship of terror. Rogue states are clearly the most likely sources of chemical and biological and nuclear weapons for terrorists. Every nation now knows that we cannot accept—and we will not accept— states that harbor, finance, train, or equip the agents of terror. Those nations that violate this principle will be regarded as hostile regimes. They have been warned. They are being watched, and they will be held to account.
Preventing mass terror will be the responsibilities of Presidents far into the future. And this obligation sets three urgent and enduring priorities for America. The first priority is to speed the transformation of our military.
When the cold war ended, some predicted that the era of direct threats to our Nation was over. Some thought our military would be used overseas—not to win wars but mainly to police and pacify, to control crowds and contain ethnic conflict. They were wrong.
While the threats to America have changed, the need for victory has not. We are fighting shadowy, entrenched enemies, enemies using the tools of terror and guerrilla war. Yet we are finding new tactics and new weapons to attack and defeat them. This revolution in our military is only beginning, and it promises to change the face of battle.
Afghanistan has been a proving ground for this new approach. These past 2 months have shown that an innovative doctrine and high-tech weaponry can shape and then dominate an unconventional conflict. The brave men and women of our military are rewriting the rules of war with new technologies and old values like courage and honor, and they have made this Nation proud.
Our commanders are gaining a real-time picture of the entire battlefield and are able to get targeting information from sensor to shooter almost instantly. Our intelligence professionals and special forces have cooperated in battle-friendly—with battlefriendly Afghan forces, fighters who know the terrain, who know the Taliban, and who understand the local culture. And our special forces have the technology to call in precision airstrikes, along with the flexibility to direct those strikes from horseback, in the first cavalry charge of the 21st century.
This combination—real-time intelligence, local allied forces, special forces, and precision air power—has really never been used before. The conflict in Afghanistan has taught us more about the future of our military than a decade of blue ribbon panels and think-tank symposiums.
The Predator is a good example. This unmanned aerial vehicle is able to circle over enemy forces, gather intelligence, transmit information instantly back to commanders, then fire on targets with extreme accuracy. Before the war, the Predator had skeptics because it did not fit the old ways. Now it is clear the military does not have enough unmanned vehicles. We're entering an era in which unmanned vehicles of all kinds will take on greater importance in space, on land, in the air, and at sea.
Precision-guided munitions also offer great promise. In the Gulf war, these weapons were the exception; while in Afghanistan, they have been the majority of the munitions we have used. We're striking with greater effectiveness, at greater range, with fewer civilian casualties. More and more, our weapons can hit moving targets. When all of our military can continuously locate and track moving targets with surveillance from air and space, warfare will be truly revolutionized.
The need for military transformation was clear before the conflict in Afghanistan and before September the 11th. Here at the Citadel in 1999, I spoke of keeping the peace by redefining war on our terms. The same recommendation was made in the strategic review that Secretary Rumsfeld briefed me on last August, a review that I fully endorse. What's different today is our sense of urgency, the need to build this future force while fighting a present war. It's like overhauling an engine while you're going at 80 miles an hour. Yet we have no other choice.
Our military has a new and essential mission. For states that support terror, it's not enough that the consequences be costly; they must be devastating. The more credible this reality, the more likely that regimes will change their behavior, making it less likely that America and our friends will need to use overwhelming force against them.
To build our future force, the armed services must continue to attract America's best people with good pay and good living conditions. Our military culture must reward new thinking, innovation, and experimentation. Congress must give defense leaders the freedom to innovate, instead of micromanaging the Defense Department. And every service and every constituency of our military must be willing to sacrifice some of their own pet projects. Our war on terror cannot be used to justify obsolete bases, obsolete programs, or obsolete weapon systems. Every dollar of defense spending must meet a single test: It must help us build the decisive power we will need to win the wars of the future.
Our country is united in supporting a great cause and in supporting those who fight for it. We will give our men and women in uniform every resource, every weapon, every tool they need to win the long battle that lies ahead.
America's next priority to prevent mass terror is to protect against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and the means to deliver them. I wish I could report to the American people that this threat does not exist, that our enemy is content with car bombs and box cutters, but I cannot.
One former Al Qaida member has testified in court that he was involved in an effort 10 years ago to obtain nuclear materials. And the leader of Al Qaida calls that effort a religious duty. Abandoned Al Qaida houses in Kabul contained diagrams for crude weapons of mass destruction. And as we all know, terrorists have put anthrax into the U.S. mail and used sarin gas in a Tokyo subway.
And almost every state that actively sponsors terror is known to be seeking weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them at longer and longer ranges. Their hope is to blackmail the United States into abandoning our war on terror and forsaking our friends and allies and security commitments around the world. Our enemies are bound for disappointment. America will never be blackmailed, and we will never forsake our commitment to liberty.
To meet our new threats, I have directed my National Security Adviser and my Homeland Security Director to develop a comprehensive strategy on proliferation. Working with other countries, we will strengthen nonproliferation treaties and toughen export controls. Together, we must keep the world's most dangerous technologies out of the hands of the world's most dangerous people.
A crucial partner in this effort is Russia, a nation we are helping to dismantle strategic weapons, reduce nuclear material, and increase security at nuclear sites. Our two countries will expand efforts to provide peaceful employment for scientists who formerly worked in Soviet weapons facilities. The United States will also work with Russia to build a facility to destroy tons of nerve agent. I'll request an overall increase in funding to support this vital mission.
Even as we fight to prevent proliferation, we must prepare for every possibility. At home, we must be better prepared to detect, protect against, and respond to the potential use of weapons of mass destruction. Abroad, our military forces must have the ability to fight and win against enemies who would use such weapons against us.
Biodefense has become a major initiative of ours. This year we've already requested nearly $3 billion additional dollars for biodefense, more than doubling the level of funding prior to September the 11th.
The attacks on our Nation made it even more clear that we need to build limited and effective defenses against a missile attack. Our enemies seek every chance and every means to do harm to our country, our forces, and our friends, and we will not permit it.
Suppose the Taliban and the terrorists had been able to strike America or important allies with a ballistic missile. Our coalition would have become fragile, the stakes in our war much, much higher. We must protect Americans and our friends against all forms of terror, including the terror that could arrive on a missile.
Last week we conducted another promising test of our missile defense technology. For the good of peace, we're moving forward with an active program to determine what works and what does not work. In order to do so, we must move beyond the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty, a treaty that was written in a different era for a different enemy. America and our allies must not be bound to the past. We must be able to build the defenses we need against the enemies of the 21st century.
Our third and final priority in the fight against mass terror is to strengthen the advantage that good intelligence gives our country. Every day I make decisions influenced by the intelligence briefing of that morning. To reach decisions, a President needs more than data and information; a President needs real and current knowledge and analysis of the plans, intentions, and capabilities of our enemies.
The last several months have shown that there is no substitute for good intelligence officers, people on the ground. These are the people who find the targets, follow our enemies, and help us disrupt their evil plans. The United States must rebuild our network of human intelligence. And we will apply the best new technology to gather intelligence on the new threats. Sophisticated systems like Global Hawk, an unmanned surveillance plane, are transforming our intelligence capabilities. Our technological strengths produce great advantages, and we will build on them.
Our intelligence services and Federal law enforcement agencies must work more closely together and share timely information with our State and local authorities. The more we know, the more terrorist plans we can prevent and disrupt, and the better we'll be able to protect the American people.
And in all they do, our intelligence agencies must attract the best people, the best collectors, the best analysts, the best linguists. We will give them the training they need and the compensation they deserve.
There have been times here in America when our intelligence services were held in suspicion and even contempt. Now, when we face this new war, we know how much we need them. And for their dedication and for their service, America is grateful.
We're also grateful to you, the students of the Citadel. Your uniforms symbolize a tradition of honor and sacrifice, renewed in your own lives. Many of you will enter our military, taking your place in the war against terror. That struggle may continue for many years, and it may bring great costs. But you will have chosen a great calling at a crucial hour for our Nation.
The course we follow is a matter of profound consequence to many nations. If America wavers, the world will lose heart. If America leads, the world will show its courage. America will never waver; America will lead the world to peace. Our cause is necessary; our cause is just. And no matter how long it takes, we will defeat the enemies of freedom.
In all that is to come, I know the graduates of the Citadel will bring credit to America, to the military, and to this great institution. In the words of your school song, you will go where you've always gone: "in the paths our fathers showed us.... Peace and Honor, God and Country, we will fight for thee."
NOTE: The President spoke at 1:54 p.m. in McAlister Field House. In his remarks, he referred to Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds, USMC (Ret.), president, the Citadel; and Gov. Jim H. Hodges, Lt. Gov. Bob Peeler, Attorney General Charlie Condon, Adj. Gen. Stanhope S. Spears, and Speaker of the House of Representatives David H. Wilkins of South Carolina. He also referred to his September 23, 1999, Presidential campaign speech at the Citadel, entitled "A Period of Consequences."
George W. Bush, Remarks at the Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/216678