- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 3, 2004

COLORADO SPRINGS — President Bush yesterday tried to steel the American people for a decades-long struggle against terrorism, asking for the patience and determination that allowed another generation to win World War II and the Cold War.

“We are now about three years into the war against terrorism,” Mr. Bush said in a commencement address at the Air Force Academy. “This is no time for impatience and self-defeating pessimism. These times demand the kind of courage and confidence that Americans have shown before.”

Mr. Bush noted that in four years after World War II, Europe still had been experiencing starvation and strife, a dire situation worsened by the aggression of emerging communist powers China and the Soviet Union.

Mr. Bush suggested that if the hypercritical political climate of today had existed in 1945, the world would look quite different — and be less free.

“If that generation of Americans had lost its nerve, there would have been no long twilight struggle [for freedom], only a long twilight,” Mr. Bush said.

He spoke to a crowd of nearly 30,000, including 981 graduating Air Force cadets, at Falcon Stadium, four days before his scheduled visit to France to mark the 60th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy.

The president compared the war on terror to World War II, quoting Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower’s message to the troops before the D-Day landings but excluding the word “crusade,” a word Mr. Bush had used once early in the war, offending many in the Muslim world.

“Soldiers, sailors and airmen of the Allied Expeditionary Force,” Mr. Bush quoted the general as saying. “The eyes of the world are upon you. The hopes and prayers of liberty-loving people everywhere march with you.”

Gen. Eisenhower’s message included a passage that the troops were “about to embark on the Great Crusade, toward which we have striven these many months.”

Mr. Bush’s speech marked his most direct rebuttal to the accusations of Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry and his supporters that the president has mismanaged the war in Iraq and has no plan to deal with the continuing difficulties in the transition to sovereignty to Iraqis.

Last month, former Vice President Al Gore accused Mr. Bush of exposing Americans to greater danger of terrorist attacks “because of his arrogance, willfulness and bungling at stirring up a hornet’s nest that poses no threat whatsoever to us.”

Mr. Bush yesterday addressed head-on the comments of his 2000 presidential election opponent.

“Some say that by fighting the terrorists abroad since September the 11th, we only stir up a hornet’s nest,” Mr. Bush said. “But the terrorists who struck that day were stirred up already.

“If America were not fighting terrorists in Iraq, and Afghanistan, and elsewhere, what would these thousands of killers do — suddenly begin leading productive lives of service and charity?” Mr. Bush said. “Would the terrorists who beheaded an American on camera just be quiet, peaceful citizens if America had not liberated Iraq?

“We are dealing here with killers who have made the death of Americans the calling of their lives,” he said. “And America has made a decision about these terrorists: Instead of waiting for them to strike again in our midst, we will take this fight to the enemy.”

On behalf of the Kerry campaign, Sen. Jack Reed, Rhode Island Democrat, held a telephone press conference with reporters yesterday to criticize Mr. Bush’s speech.

Mr. Reed — who, unlike Mr. Kerry, voted against going to war in Iraq — called the speech “long on rhetoric and short on details.” In particular, he said, the speech lacked a plan for Iraq.

“Slogans and rhetoric are comforting to some, but I believe we need a plan,” Mr. Reed said.

He also said that the war in Iraq has been a distraction from the war on terrorism and suggested that it has further enraged radical Muslims.

Mr. Bush said he has a four-point strategy to oppose “the violent minority who want to impose a future of darkness across the Middle East.”

Mr. Bush said his plan is to “dismantle, disrupt and destroy terrorists and their organizations”; deny terrorists places of “sanctuary and support”; continue to work with other nations to stop the spread of chemical, biological and nuclear weapons; and deny terrorists “ideological victories” by supporting the formation of free societies in the Middle East.

“Democracy and reform will make those nations stronger and more stable, and make the world more secure by undermining terrorism at its source,” he said.

Mr. Bush, however, cautioned Americans not to expect a free and stable Iraq to develop quickly.

“Democratic institutions in the Middle East will not grow overnight,” Mr. Bush said. “In America, they grew over generations. Yet the nations of the Middle East will find, as we have found, the only path to true progress is the path of freedom and justice and democracy.”

Mr. Bush’s speech was the second of six speeches he plans to give in the coming weeks outlining his strategy in the war on terror.

Mr. Bush will return to the United States on Monday to play host to the meeting of the Group of Eight developed nations in the resort of Sea Island, Ga., where he will continue defending his Iraq policy to skeptical world leaders.

Mr. Bush said his plan to spread freedom in the Middle East will take decades to realize, but that the history of Europe after World War II proves that it is the only course to take.

“America has always been less secure when freedom is in retreat,” he said. “America is always more secure when freedom is on the march.”

“If that region is abandoned to terrorists and dictators, it will be a constant source of violence and alarm,” Mr. Bush added. “If that region grows in democracy and prosperity and hope, the terrorist movement will lose its sponsors, lose its recruits and lose the festering grievances that keep terrorists in business.”

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