- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 5, 2006

President Bush yesterday warned that “underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake,” and he vowed to continue his doctrine of pre-emption to secure the nation from the threat of tyrants and terrorists.

Days before the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks, the president said the approach of trying to appease Islamic extremists will fail. And ignoring the growing threat from the Middle East threatens U.S. security.

“This time, we’re not waiting for our enemies to gather in strength,” Mr. Bush said during a speech before the Military Officers Association of America and diplomatic representatives from around the world. “The experience of September 11th made clear, in the long run, the only way to secure our nation is to change the course of the Middle East.”

Breaking from tradition by mentioning September 11 mastermind Osama bin Laden by name repeatedly — 17 times during a 45-minute speech — the president used bin Laden’s own words to define Iraq as the central front in the war against terror.

“I now address the whole Islamic nation. Listen and understand. The most serious issue today for the whole world is this Third World War that is raging in Iraq,” said the president, quoting bin Laden.

Mr. Bush cited a dozen quotes from bin Laden, al Qaeda’s second in command Ayman al-Zawahri and other terrorists to lay out the strategy of men he said are “evil, but not insane … not madmen.”

For example, Mr. Bush cited a captured al Qaeda document that describes plans to take over Iraq’s western Anbar province, with plans to sweep across the Middle East.

“They hope to establish a violent political utopia across the Middle East, which they call a ‘caliphate,’ where all would be ruled according to their hateful ideology,” he said.

With the midterm congressional elections just two months away, Mr. Bush tried to show a stark contrast on Iraq between Republicans and Democrats, some of whom call for immediate withdrawal of troops.

“Iraq is not a distraction from their war on America — it is the central battlefield where the outcome of this struggle will be decided,” he said. “That is why we must not, and we will not, give the enemy victory in Iraq by deserting the Iraqi people.”

Democrats, meanwhile, charged yesterday that the Bush administration has failed to pursue bin Laden and released a study they said shows the country is less secure today than before Mr. Bush took office.

“President Bush’s speech today was designed to scare the American people and make them forget about his administration’s monumental failures,” said Democratic National Committee press secretary Stacie Paxton. “Five years after 9/11, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose.”

Despite charges that Mr. Bush is politicizing the September 11 anniversary, the president opened his speech recalling the horror of the attacks in New York and at the Pentagon.

“We’re a nation at war, and America and her allies are fighting this war with relentless determination across the world,” he said.

Broadening the war on terror beyond Iraq, Mr. Bush said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s desire to turn Iran into a nuclear power is a threat to global security, warning that the extremist leader seeks to blackmail the free world and raise a mortal threat to the American people.

He cited a recent speech by Mr. Ahmadinejad in which the Iranian leader called on the U.S. to “bow down before the greatness of the Iranian nation and surrender.”

Mr. Bush charged that Iran, which funds the Lebanese Shi’ite militia Hezbollah, is second only to al Qaeda in being responsible for the most U.S. citizens killed in terror attacks.

“Like al Qaeda and the Sunni extremists, the Iranian regime has clear aims — they want to drive America out of the region, to destroy Israel, and to dominate the broader Middle East,” he said.

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