ADDRESS TO A JOINT SESSION
OF CONGRESS AND THE AMERICAN PEOPLE
---------------------------------------------George W. Bush----------------------------------------
On the morning of September 11, 2001, the most destructive act of terrorism in
modern history was inflicted on the United States. Radical Islamic terrorists
hijacked jetliners and crashed them into the twin towers of the World Trade
Center in New York City and into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. A fourth
hijacked plane crashed into a field in Pennsylvania. About 3,000 people died in
the attacks. A terrorist organization known as al-Qaeda was found to be
responsible. In response to the attacks, President George W. Bush addressed the
nation on the evening of September 20, 2001.
THINK THROUGH HISTORY: Summarizing
What does President Bush ask of other nations, Congress, and American citizens
in response to the attacks?
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
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 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. 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
· Deliver to United States authorities all the leaders of al-Qaeda who hide in
· Release all foreign nationals, including American citizens, you have
· 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 and 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
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-Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not
end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and
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
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
We are not deceived by their pretenses to piety. We have seen their kind
before. They're 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, 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 destruction 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. 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 Cabinetlevel
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. 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 have 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 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 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 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 11, 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 ahead.
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
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 to 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.
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 the 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 will
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. This is my reminder of lives
that ended, and a task that does not end.
I will not forget the 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 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.
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
Bush, George W. Address to a Joint Session of Congress and the American People. 2001. http://www.classzone.com/cz/books/wh_modern05/secured/teacher/resources/pdfs/psource/WHS05_036_1092_PS-teacher.pdf. May 19, 2010.