Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Bush: "The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad"

The New York Times
Bush: "The Safety Of America Depends On The Outcome Of The Battle In The Streets Of Baghdad"...

President Bush used the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on Monday to assert that the United States was engaged in "a struggle for civilization" and sought to invoke a sense of national purpose in making his case anew for seeing through the war in Iraq.

"The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad," Mr. Bush said.

In a prime-time speech from the Oval Office, delivered after a day of solemn ceremonies, Mr. Bush sought to place the war in Iraq in the context of an epic battle between tyranny and freedom, saying the campaign against global terrorism was “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century and the calling of our generation.”

“If we do not defeat these enemies now,” Mr. Bush said, “we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons.”

The address capped a week of speeches in which Mr. Bush tried to lay out his best case for the war in Iraq by defining it as a crucial front in the war on terror, while portraying the broader struggle as a natural successor to World War II and the Cold War in defining the place of the United States in the world.

Even by the standards of his latest round of speeches, Mr. Bush’s language was particularly forceful, even ominous, with warnings of a radical Islamic network that was “determined to bring death and suffering to our homes.”

Mr. Bush spent roughly one-fifth of his 17-minute address making the case that the nation’s safety hinged on success in Iraq, even as he implicitly acknowledged there was no link between Saddam Hussein and the Sept. 11 strikes.

“I’m often asked why we’re in Iraq when Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks,” Mr. Bush said, going on to say that Mr. Hussein was a threat nonetheless, that he needed to be confronted and that the world was safer with him in captivity.

And Mr. Bush reprised some of his tougher talk against Osama bin Laden, delivering a message to him and other terrorists, “America will find you, and we will bring you to justice.”

Mr. Bush gave his address at the end of a tour through the three major attack sites — Lower Manhattan; Shanksville, Pa.; and the Pentagon — in which he attended ceremonies and spoke with the bereaved but made no public comments.

He gave the speech from behind his desk at a fast clip, but with a furrowed brow and circles below his eyes. He delivered it five years to the minute of when he addressed the nation from the same seat on the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, and proclaimed that those who harbored terrorists would be dealt with as if they were terrorists themselves.

Drawing parallels between the challenges of his presidency and those of Presidents Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman, Mr. Bush said, “Our nation has endured trials, and we face a difficult road ahead.” And he called for unity, saying, “We must put aside our differences and work together to meet the test that history has given us.”

All of the networks carried the address live; ABC ran it during a break in its miniseries about the attacks that portrayed the Clinton and Bush administrations as having failed at times to move aggressively enough against Al Qaeda before the attacks.

Mr. Bush’s address brought to a close a day when leaders of both parties put aside, at least for the moment, the acrimony that has characterized the national security debate since the brief period of national unity after the attacks. But as soon as the speech was over, the partisanship flared again. Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, said the president “should be ashamed of using a national day of mourning” to justify his Iraq policy. And Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, leader of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, called the address disappointing, saying, “You do not commemorate the tragedy of 9/11 by politicizing it.”

Hours earlier, Congressional leaders joined on the Capitol steps to sing “God Bless America,” an effort to recreate their spontaneous moment of post-attack comity. And the Senate Democratic leader, Harry Reid — whose press office is ordinarily a clearinghouse for hard-charging attacks on the president and Republican leadership — released a statement that read in part, “The light that shone on Sept. 11 cannot die, it cannot be dimmed, it cannot fail.”

But it was the president’s day that dominated a news media environment that was swimming in the imagery of Sept. 11, with the cable news networks offering blanket coverage of the day’s ceremonies, mixed with remembrances from survivors, first responders, officials and politicians.

Before speaking from the Oval Office, Mr. Bush had spent the day in public silence as he and Laura Bush visited the three sites scarred by the attacks, a solemn trek that began at ground zero Sunday night.

The Bushes began their day at the Fort Pitt firehouse on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, where they observed back-to-back moments of silence — one at the precise moment each of the twin towers was struck. They then moved to Shanksville, Pa., where Mr. and Mrs. Bush laid a wreath in a spitting rain in the field where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed, and wound up at the Pentagon, where the weight of the day showed on their faces.

It was an emotional and somber, if carefully scripted, day for the Bushes, designed by the White House to maximize the president’s exposure but minimize his words before the evening speech.

At the Pentagon, Vice President Dick Cheney and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld presided over a memorial service that was occasionally interrupted by the eerie roar of commercial jets from nearby Ronald Reagan National Airport.

Addressing a crowd of 500 that included relatives of victims, Mr. Cheney said the United States would keep pressing the fight. “We have no intention of ignoring or appeasing history’s latest gang of fanatics trying to murder their way to power,” Mr. Cheney said, quoting the president and reprising a theme that has been taken by critics as a veiled effort to portray Democrats as appeasing the enemy.

Also speaking at the service, Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, said the number of American military personnel killed in Afghanistan and Iraq, at roughly 3,000, was approaching the number of people killed in the attacks.

Teresa Taylor of New Hampshire, who attended in honor of her brother-in-law, Leonard E. Taylor, said she was moved by Mr. Rumsfeld’s recounting of the day of the attacks, given in halting voice. “It brought back a lot of memories,” she said.

But Shannon Mason of Springfield, Va., called the ceremony “too political” for coupling the attacks with the war in Iraq. Ms. Mason, whose mother, Ada Mason, a Pentagon budget analyst, was killed in the attack, added, “I think the war has nothing to do with Sept. 11.”

Even as he called for unity Mr. Bush alluded to Democratic calls for a timetable to withdraw from Iraq, saying, “Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone. They will not leave us alone.”

Mark Leibovich and Helena Andrews contributed reporting.