[Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: George W. Bush (2001, Book II)]
[September 20, 2001]
[Pages 1140-1144]
[From the U.S. Government Publishing Office www.gpo.gov]

[[Page 1140]]

Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the United States 
Response to the Terrorist Attacks of September 11
September 20, 2001

    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 American people.
    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 9 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 $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.
    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. Once again, we are joined together in a great 
cause--so honored the British Prime Minister has 
crossed an ocean to show his unity with America. Thank you for coming, 
    On September 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 

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They are some of the murderers indicted for bombing American Embassies 
in Tanzania and Kenya and responsible for bombing 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 children.
    This group and its leader, a person named Usama 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 
    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 Taliban: 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. 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'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. 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.
    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

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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.
    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 2 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. 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. 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. 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.
    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

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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.
    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 
    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 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 
    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.
    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 journey 
    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.
    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 strike. 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. 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.

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    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, 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'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 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. It is my reminder of lives that ended and a task 
that does not end. I will not forget this wound to our country and 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 
    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'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.

Note: The President spoke at 9 p.m. in the House Chamber of the Capitol. 
In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Tony Blair of the United