Lifted from Whitehouse.gov
9:00 P.M. EDT
September 20th. 2001
United States Capitol
THE PRESIDENT: Mr. Speaker, Mr. President
Pro Tempore, members of Congress, and fellow
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
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. And would you please help me
to welcome his wife, Lisa Beamer, here tonight. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.)
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. (Applause.)
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 $40
billion to rebuild our communities and meet the needs of our military.
Speaker Hastert, Minority Leader Gephardt, Majority Leader Daschle and Senator Lott, I thank you
for your friendship, for your leadership and for your service to our country. (Applause.)
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, 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 80 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. (Applause.) Once again,
we are joined together in a great cause -- so
honored the British Prime Minister has crossed
an ocean to show his unity of purpose with
America. Thank you for coming,
On September the 11th, 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 Qaeda. They are the same murderers indicted for bombing American embassies in
Tanzania and Kenya, and responsible for bombing the USS Cole.
Al Qaeda 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 distinction among military and civilians, including women and children.
This group and its leader -- a person named Osama bin Laden -- are linked to many other
organizations in different countries, including the Egyptian Islamic Jihad and the Islamic Movement
of Uzbekistan. There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 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 Qaeda has great influence in Afghanistan and supports the Taliban regime in
controlling most of that country. In Afghanistan, we see al Qaeda'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. (Applause.) 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 Taliban: Deliver to
United States authorities all the leaders of al Qaeda who hide in your land. (Applause.) Release all
foreign nationals, including American citizens, you have unjustly imprisoned. 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. (Applause.) 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. (Applause.) 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's
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. (Applause.) 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
supports them. (Applause.)
Our war on terror begins with al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every
terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated. (Applause.)
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 20th 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. (Applause.)
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 to the defeat of the global terror network.
This war will not be like the war against Iraq a decade ago, with a decisive liberation of territory
and a 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 combat.
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 ever seen. It may include
dramatic strikes, visible on TV, 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 no 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. (Applause.) 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 protect Americans. 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 Homeland Security.
And tonight I also announce a distinguished American to lead this effort, to strengthen American
security: a military veteran, an effective governor, a true patriot, a trusted friend -- Pennsylvania's
Tom Ridge. (Applause.) He will lead, oversee and coordinate a comprehensive national strategy
to safeguard our country against terrorism, and respond to any attacks that may come.
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. (Applause.)
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've 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. (Applause.)
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 you know what
-- we're not going to allow it. (Applause.)
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
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 Virginia.
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 11th, and they are our strengths today. (Applause.)
And, 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 this emergency. (Applause.)
We will come together to give law enforcement the additional tools it needs to track down terror
here at home. (Applause.) We will come together to strengthen our intelligence capabilities to
know the plans of terrorists before they act, and find them before they strike. (Applause.)
We will come together to take active steps that strengthen America's economy, and put our people
back to work.
Tonight we welcome two leaders who embody the extraordinary spirit of all New
Yorkers: Governor George Pataki, and Mayor Rudolph Giuliani. (Applause.) As a symbol of
America's resolve, my administration will work with Congress, and these two leaders, to show the
world that we will rebuild New York City. (Applause.)
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
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, by our courage. We will not tire, we will not falter,
and we will not fail. (Applause.)
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'll
remember the moment the news came -- where we were and what we were doing. Some will
remember an image of a fire, or a story of rescue. Some will carry memories of a face and a voice
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. (Applause.)
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 freedom and security for 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. (Applause.)
Fellow citizens, we'll 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.
Thank you. (Applause.)
END 9:41 P.M. EDT