Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People
United States Capitol
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. President Pro Tempore, members of
Congress, and fellow Americans:
In the normal course of events, Presidents come to this
chamber to report on the state of the Union. Tonight, no such
report is needed. It has already been delivered by the American
We have seen it in the courage of passengers, who rushed
terrorists to save others on the ground -- passengers like an
exceptional man named Todd Beamer. Please help me to
welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight.
We have seen the state of our Union in the endurance of
rescuers, working past exhaustion. We have seen the unfurling of
flags, the lighting of candles, the giving of blood, the saying of
prayers -- in English, Hebrew, and Arabic. We have seen the
decency of a loving and giving people, who have made the grief
of strangers their own.
My fellow citizens, for the last nine days, the entire world has
seen for itself the state of our Union -- and it is strong.
Tonight we are a country awakened to danger and called to
defend freedom. Our grief has turned to anger, and anger to
resolution. Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring
justice to our enemies, justice will be done.
I thank the Congress for its leadership at such an important time.
All of America was touched on the evening of the tragedy to see
Republicans and Democrats, joined together on the steps of this
Capitol, singing "God Bless America." And you did more than
sing, you acted, by delivering forty billion dollars to rebuild our
communities and meet the needs of our military.
Speaker Hastert and Minority Leader Gephardt -- Majority Leader
Daschle and Senator Lott -- I thank you for your friendship and
your leadership and your service to our country.
And on behalf of the American people, I thank the world for its
outpouring of support. America will never forget the sounds of
our National Anthem playing at Buckingham Palace, and on the
streets of Paris, and at Berlin's Brandenburg Gate. We will not
forget South Korean children gathering to pray outside our
embassy in Seoul, or the prayers of sympathy offered at a
mosque in Cairo. We will not forget moments of silence and days
of mourning in Australia and Africa and Latin America.
Nor will we forget the citizens of eighty other nations who died
with our own. Dozens of Pakistanis. More than 130 Israelis. More
than 250 citizens of India. Men and women from El Salvador, Iran,
Mexico, and Japan. And hundreds of British citizens. America
has no truer friend than Great Britain. Once again, we are joined
together in a great cause. The British Prime Minister has crossed
an ocean to show his unity of purpose with America, and tonight
we welcome Tony Blair.
On September the eleventh, enemies of freedom committed an
act of war against our country. Americans have known wars -- but
for the past 136 years, they have been wars on foreign soil,
except for one Sunday in 1941. Americans have known the
casualties of war -- but not at the center of a great city on a
peaceful morning. Americans have known surprise attacks -- but
never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought
upon us in a single day -- and night fell on a different world, a
world where freedom itself is under attack.
Americans have many questions tonight. Americans are asking:
Who attacked our country?
The evidence we have gathered all points to a collection of
loosely affiliated terrorist organizations known as al-Qaida. They
are the same murderers indicted for bombing American
embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for the
bombing of the U.S.S. Cole.
Al-Qaida is to terror what the mafia is to crime. But its goal is not
making money; its goal is remaking the world -- and imposing its
radical beliefs on people everywhere.
The terrorists practice a fringe form of Islamic extremism that has
been rejected by Muslim scholars and the vast majority of Muslim
clerics -- a fringe movement that perverts the peaceful teachings
of Islam. The terrorists? directive commands them to kill
Christians and Jews, to kill all Americans, and make no
distinctions among military and civilians, including women and
This group and its leader -- a person named Usama bin Ladin --
are linked to many other organizations in different countries,
including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement of
There are thousands of these terrorists in more than sixty
countries. They are recruited from their own nations and
neighborhoods, and brought to camps in places like Afghanistan
where they are trained in the tactics of terror. They are sent back
to their homes or sent to hide in countries around the world to
plot evil and destruction.
The leadership of al-Qaida has great influence in Afghanistan,
and supports the Taliban regime in controlling most of that
country. In Afghanistan, we see al-Qaida's vision for the world.
Afghanistan's people have been brutalized -- many are starving
and many have fled. Women are not allowed to attend school.
You can be jailed for owning a television. Religion can be
practiced only as their leaders dictate. A man can be jailed in
Afghanistan if his beard is not long enough.
The United States respects the people of Afghanistan -- after all,
we are currently its largest source of humanitarian aid -- but we
condemn the Taliban regime. It is not only repressing its own
people, it is threatening people everywhere by sponsoring and
sheltering and supplying terrorists. By aiding and abetting
murder, the Taliban regime is committing murder. And tonight,
the United States of America makes the following demands on the
Deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaida
who hide in your land.
Release all foreign nationals -- including American citizens -- you
have unjustly imprisoned, and protect foreign journalists,
diplomats, and aid workers in your country.
Close immediately and permanently every terrorist training camp
in Afghanistan and hand over every terrorist, and every person in
their support structure, to appropriate authorities.
Give the United States full access to terrorist training camps, so
we can make sure they are no longer operating.
These demands are not open to negotiation or discussion. The
Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the
terrorists, or they will share in their fate.
I also want to speak tonight directly to Muslims throughout the
world: We respect your faith. It is practiced freely by many
millions of Americans, and by millions more in countries that
America counts as friends. Its teachings are good and peaceful,
and those who commit evil in the name of Allah blaspheme the
name of Allah. The terrorists are traitors to their own faith, trying,
in effect, to hijack Islam itself. The enemy of America is not our
many Muslim friends; it is not our many Arab friends. Our enemy
is a radical network of terrorists, and every government that
Our war on terror begins with al-Qaida, but it does not end there.
It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been
found, stopped, and defeated.
Americans are asking: Why do they hate us?
They hate what we see right here in this chamber -- a
democratically elected government. Their leaders are
self-appointed. They hate our freedoms -- our freedom of
religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and
assemble and disagree with each other.
They want to overthrow existing governments in many Muslim
countries, such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Jordan. They want to
drive Israel out of the Middle East. They want to drive Christians
and Jews out of vast regions of Asia and Africa.
These terrorists kill not merely to end lives, but to disrupt and
end a way of life. With every atrocity, they hope that America
grows fearful, retreating from the world and forsaking our friends.
They stand against us, because we stand in their way.
We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen
their kind before. They are the heirs of all the murderous
ideologies of the twentieth century. By sacrificing human life to
serve their radical visions -- by abandoning every value except
the will to power -- they follow in the path of fascism, and Nazism,
and totalitarianism. And they will follow that path all the way, to
where it ends: in history's unmarked grave of discarded lies.
Americans are asking: How will we fight and win this war?
We will direct every resource at our command -- every means of
diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law
enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary
weapon of war -- to the disruption and defeat of the global terror
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with
its decisive liberation of territory and its swift conclusion. It will not
look like the air war above Kosovo two years ago, where no
ground troops were used and not a single American was lost in
Our response involves far more than instant retaliation and
isolated strikes. Americans should not expect one battle, but a
lengthy campaign, unlike any other we have seen. It may include
dramatic strikes, visible on television, and covert operations,
secret even in success. We will starve terrorists of funding, turn
them one against another, drive them from place to place, until
there is no refuge or rest. And we will pursue nations that provide
aid or safe haven to terrorism. Every nation, in every region, now
has a decision to make. Either you are with us, or you are with
the terrorists. From this day forward, any nation that continues to
harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States
as a hostile regime.
Our Nation has been put on notice: We are not immune from
attack. We will take defensive measures against terrorism to
Today, dozens of federal departments and agencies, as well as
state and local governments, have responsibilities affecting
homeland security. These efforts must be coordinated at the
highest level. So tonight I announce the creation of a
Cabinet-level position reporting directly to me -- the Office of
These measures are essential. But the only way to defeat
terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it,
and destroy it where it grows.
Many will be involved in this effort, from FBI agents to intelligence
operatives to the reservists we have called to active duty. All
deserve our thanks, and all have our prayers. And tonight, a few
miles from the damaged Pentagon, I have a message for our
military: Be ready. I have called the armed forces to alert, and
there is a reason. The hour is coming when America will act, and
you will make us proud.
This is not, however, just America's fight. And what is at stake is
not just America's freedom. This is the world's fight. This is
civilization's fight. This is the fight of all who believe in progress
and pluralism, tolerance and freedom.
We ask every nation to join us. We will ask, and we will need, the
help of police forces, intelligence services, and banking systems
around the world. The United States is grateful that many nations
and many international organizations have already responded --
with sympathy and with support. Nations from Latin America, to
Asia, to Africa, to Europe, to the Islamic world. Perhaps the NATO
Charter reflects best the attitude of the world: an attack on one is
an attack on all.
The civilized world is rallying to America's side. They understand
that if this terror goes unpunished, their own cities, their own
citizens may be next. Terror, unanswered, can not only bring
down buildings, it can threaten the stability of legitimate
governments. And we will not allow it.
Americans are asking: What is expected of us?
I ask you to live your lives and hug your children. I know many
citizens have fears tonight, and I ask you to be calm and resolute,
even in the face of a continuing threat.
I ask you to uphold the values of America, and remember why so
many have come here. We are in a fight for our principles, and
our first responsibility is to live by them. No one should be singled
out for unfair treatment or unkind words because of their ethnic
background or religious faith.
I ask you to continue to support the victims of this tragedy with
your contributions. Those who want to give can go to a central
source of information, libertyunites.org, to find the names of
groups providing direct help in New York, Pennsylvania, and
The thousands of FBI agents who are now at work in this
investigation may need your cooperation, and I ask you to give it.
I ask for your patience, with the delays and inconveniences that
may accompany tighter security -- and for your patience in what
will be a long struggle.
I ask your continued participation and confidence in the American
economy. Terrorists attacked a symbol of American prosperity.
They did not touch its source. America is successful because of
the hard work, and creativity, and enterprise of our people.
These were the true strengths of our economy before September
eleventh, and they are our strengths today.
Finally, please continue praying for the victims of terror and their
families, for those in uniform, and for our great country. Prayer
has comforted us in sorrow, and will help strengthen us for the
Tonight I thank my fellow Americans for what you have already
done and for what you will do. And ladies and gentlemen of the
Congress, I thank you, their representatives, for what you have
already done, and for what we will do together.
Tonight, we face new and sudden national challenges. We will
come together to improve air safety, to dramatically expand the
number of air marshals on domestic flights, and take new
measures to prevent hijacking. We will come together to promote
stability and keep our airlines flying with direct assistance during
We will come together to give law enforcement the additional
tools it needs to track down terror here at home. We will come
together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities to know the
plans of terrorists before they act, and find them before they
We will come together to take active steps that strengthen
America's economy, and put our people back to work.
Tonight we welcome here two leaders who embody the
extraordinary spirit of all New Yorkers: Governor George Pataki,
and Mayor Rudy Giuliani. As a symbol of America's resolve, my
Administration will work with the Congress, and these two leaders,
to show the world that we will rebuild New York City.
After all that has just passed -- all the lives taken, and all the
possibilities and hopes that died with them-- it is natural to
wonder if America's future is one of fear. Some speak of an age
of terror. I know there are struggles ahead, and dangers to face.
But this country will define our times, not be defined by them. As
long as the United States of America is determined and strong,
this will not be an age of terror; this will be an age of liberty, here
and across the world.
Great harm has been done to us. We have suffered great loss.
And in our grief and anger we have found our mission and our
moment. Freedom and fear are at war. The advance of human
freedom -- the great achievement of our time, and the great hope
of every time -- now depends on us. Our Nation -- this generation
-- will lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our future.
We will rally the world to this cause, by our efforts and by our
courage. We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail.
It is my hope that in the months and years ahead, life will return
almost to normal. We'll go back to our lives and routines, and that
is good. Even grief recedes with time and grace. But our resolve
must not pass. Each of us will remember what happened that
day, and to whom it happened. We will remember the moment the
news came -- where we were and what we were doing. Some will
remember an image of fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry
memories of a face and a voice gone forever.
And I will carry this. It is the police shield of a man named George
Howard, who died at the World Trade Center trying to save
others. It was given to me by his mom, Arlene, as a proud
memorial to her son. This is my reminder of lives that ended, and
a task that does not end.
I will not forget this wound to our country, or those who inflicted it.
I will not yield -- I will not rest -- I will not relent in waging this
struggle for the freedom and security of the American people.
The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome is
certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been
at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them.
Fellow citizens, we will meet violence with patient justice --
assured of the rightness of our cause, and confident of the
victories to come. In all that lies before us, may God grant us
wisdom, and may He watch over the United States of America.