Excerpts of President Bush’s remarks yesterday to the United Nations General Assembly:
We meet in a hall devoted to peace, in a city scarred by violence, in a nation awakened to danger, in a world uniting for a long struggle. Every civilized nation here today is resolved to keep the most basic commitment of civilization: We will defend ourselves and our future against terror and lawless violence.
Last week, the Sheik of Al-Azhar University, the world’s oldest Islamic institution of higher learning, declared that terrorism is a disease and that Islam prohibits killing innocent civilians. The terrorists call their cause holy, yet they fund it with drug dealing; they encourage murder and suicide in the name of a great faith that forbids both. They dare to ask God’s blessing as they set out to kill innocent men, women and children.
Every nation has a stake in this cause. As we meet, the terrorists are planning more murder perhaps in my country or perhaps in yours. They kill because they aspire to dominate. They seek to overthrow governments and destabilize entire regions.
Last week, anticipating this meeting of the General Assembly, they denounced the United Nations. They called our secretary-general a criminal and condemned all Arab nations here as traitors to Islam.
Few countries meet their exacting standards of brutality and oppression. Every other country is a potential target. And all the world faces the most horrifying prospect of all: These same terrorists are searching for weapons of mass destruction, the tools to turn their hatred into holocaust. They can be expected to use chemical, biological and nuclear weapons the moment they are capable of doing so. No hint of conscience would prevent it.
This threat cannot be ignored. This threat cannot be appeased. Civilization itself, the civilization we share, is threatened. History will record our response and judge or justify every nation in this hall.
The conspiracies of terror are being answered by an expanding global coalition. Not every nation will be a part of every action against the enemy. But every nation in our coalition has duties.
The leaders of all nations must now carefully consider their responsibilities and their future. Terrorist groups like al Qaeda depend upon the aid or indifference of governments. They need the support of a financial infrastructure and safe havens to train and plan and hide.
For every regime that sponsors terror, there is a price to be paid, and it will be paid. The allies of terror are equally guilty of murder and equally accountable to justice.
The Taliban are now learning this lesson: that regime and the terrorists who support it are now virtually indistinguishable. Together, they promote terror abroad and impose a reign of terror on the Afghan people. Women are executed in Kabul’s soccer stadium. They can be beaten for wearing socks that are too thin. Men are jailed for missing prayer meetings.
I make this promise to all the victims of that regime: The Taliban’s days of harboring terrorists and dealing in heroin and brutalizing women are drawing to a close. And when that regime is gone, the people of Afghanistan will say with the rest of the world: good riddance.
We have a responsibility to deny any sanctuary, safe haven or transit to terrorists. Every known terrorist camp must be shut down, its operators apprehended and evidence of their arrest presented to the United Nations. We have a responsibility to deny weapons to terrorists and to actively prevent private citizens from providing them.
We’re asking for a comprehensive commitment to this fight. We must unite in opposing all terrorists, not just some of them.
We must speak the truth about terror. Let us never tolerate outrageous conspiracy theories concerning the attacks of September the 11th; malicious lies that attempt to shift the blame away from the terrorists themselves, away from the guilty. To inflame ethnic hatred is to advance the cause of terror.
The war against terror must not serve as an excuse to persecute ethnic and religious minorities in any country.
As I’ve told the American people, freedom and fear are at war. We face enemies that hate not our policies, but our existence, the tolerance of openness and creative culture that defines us. But the outcome of this conflict is certain: There is a current in history, and it runs toward freedom.
It is our task the task of this generation to provide the response to aggression and terror. We have no other choice, because there is no other peace.
We did not ask for this mission, yet there is honor in history’s call. We have a chance to write the story of our times, a story of courage defeating cruelty and light overcoming darkness. This calling is worthy of any life and worthy of every nation. So let us go forward, confident, determined and unafraid.