Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Perspective: On this day in Iraq -- September 11th edition

September 11, 2006: Soldiers from the 101st Airborne Division patrol during an intelligence-gathering mission along the Iraq's border with Syria.

September 11, 2002:

Administration hawks see win in Iraq as chance to remake region

As the Bush administration debates going to war against Iraq, its most hawkish members are pushing a sweeping vision for the Middle East that sees the overthrow of Saddam Hussein as merely a first step in the region's transformation.

The argument for reshaping the political landscape in the Mideast has been pushed for years by some Washington think tanks and in hawkish circles. It is now being considered as a possible U.S. policy with the ascent of key hard- liners in the administration -- from Paul Wolfowitz and Douglas Feith in the Pentagon to John Hannah and Lewis Libby on the vice president's staff and John Bolton in the State Department, analysts and officials say.

Iraq, they argue, is just the first piece of the puzzle. After an ouster of Hussein, they say the United States will have more leverage to act against Syria and Iran, will be in a better position to resolve the Israeli- Palestinian conflict and will be able to rely less on Saudi oil.

Such thinking increasingly has served as a justification for an attack against Iraq, and elements of the strategy have emerged in key speeches by administration officials, most prominently Vice President Dick Cheney.

"The goal is not just a new regime in Iraq. The goal is a new Middle East," said Raad Alkadiri, an Iraq analyst with PFC, a Washington-based energy consulting organization. "The goal has been and remains one of the main driving factors of pre-emptive action against Iraq."

Cheney revealed some of the thinking in a speech in August when he made the administration's case for a regime change. He argued Hussein's overthrow would "bring about a number of benefits to the region" and enhance U.S. ability to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

"When the gravest of threats are eliminated, the freedom-loving peoples of the region will have a chance to promote the values that can bring lasting peace," he said.

The arguments are by no means uniform, and critics dismiss some as wishful thinking. Even among neo-conservatives who see an attack on Iraq as a first step toward transforming the Mideast, there are debates over how far-reaching and fast the change could be.

The more modest version sees an attack as sending a message to the rest of the region, making clear the United States is prepared to unilaterally deploy its military power to achieve its goals, objectives and values.

Among its most extreme versions was a view elaborated in a briefing in July by a Rand Corp. researcher to the Defense Policy Board -- an advisory group to the Pentagon led by Richard Perle, a leading hawk.

That briefing urged the United States to deliver an ultimatum to the Saudi government to cut its ties to militant Islam or risk seizure of its oil fields and overseas assets. It called Iraq "the tactical pivot" and Saudi Arabia "the strategic pivot."

Within those poles some clear themes are emerging, and Saudi Arabia receives much of the attention, analysts and officials say.

Patrick Clawson, deputy director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, contends that a pro-U.S. Iraq would lead to a reassessment of the U.S.- Saudi alliance, which dates to World War II but has become strained since the Sept. 11 attacks and the worsening of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

A friendly Iraq -- home to the world's second-largest oil reserves -- would provide an alternative to Saudi Arabia for basing U.S. troops. Its oil reserves would make Saudi Arabia, the world's largest oil exporter, less important in setting prices, he said. In general, others contend, a U.S.- allied Iraq could work to diminish the influence of OPEC, long dominated by Saudi Arabia, over oil supplies and prices.

"We would be much more in a position of strength vis-a-vis the Saudis," Clawson said.

Others espousing the vision see potential changes in Syria and Iran as well.

The fallout from an attack on Iraq could bring to a head the long-standing power struggle in Iran between conservatives in the clerical leadership and reformers grouped around President Mohammad Khatami.

Some see the reformers invigorated by the example of a democratic Iraq, or even a surge in popular discontent leading to far-reaching change. At the very least, they argue, the show of U.S. power would give the administration more leverage in pressuring Iran over its suspected missile and nuclear programs.

The United States could exert that same leverage in forcing an end to Syrian support for Lebanon's Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim guerrilla group allied with Iran that opposes Israel.

A powerful corollary of the strategy is that a pro-U.S. Iraq would make the region safer for Israel and give the administration more sway in bringing about a settlement to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

In its broadest terms, the advocates argue that a democratic Iraq would unleash similar change elsewhere in the Arab world -- an argument resonant among administration officials who have increasingly called for reform in a region where Western-style democracy is virtually nonexistent.

"Everyone will flip out, starting with the Saudis," said Meyrav Wurmser, director of the Center for Middle East Policy at the Hudson Institute in Washington. "It will send shock waves throughout the Arab world."

Read the rest at the San Francisco Chronicle

September 11, 2003:

Bush Cites 9/11 On All Manner Of Questions

President Bush paused in his Labor Day remarks about jobs and told his audience of union members, "I want you to think back to that fateful day, September the 11th, and what happened afterwards."

Usually his reminder is more subtle, but Bush is invoking the terrorist hijackings frequently as he ramps up his reelection campaign and tries to defuse the political risk posed by persistent joblessness, setbacks in Iraq and accusations that he exaggerated evidence on the road to war.

In the past six weeks, Bush has cited "9/11" or Sept. 11, 2001, in arguing for his energy policy and in response to questions about campaign fundraising, tax cuts, unemployment, the deficit, airport security, Afghanistan and the length, cost and death toll of the Iraq occupation.

Bush's aides said his persistent references to the attacks reflect his identification with them as a searing personal experience. Some analysts said he sometimes appears to depend on such references in times of trouble or uncertainty.

"Every day, I'm reminded about what 9/11 means to America," Bush said when asked in July about the $170 million budget for his primary campaign, where he has no opponent. "We're still threatened," he said, explaining that he wants to "continue doing my job, and my job will be to work to make America more secure."

Such references are not new for Bush. In April, when he was making the case for invading Iraq, he said he refused to leave the nation's enemies "free to plot another September the 11th."

The attacks sometimes even seem to overshadow the president's sense of previous history. "Prior to September the 11th, there was apparently no connection between a place like Iraq and terror," he said at a congressional retreat earlier this year. Iraq was first placed on the State Department's list of designated terrorist states in 1979 and has been there continuously since 1990.

Sept. 11, 2001, was the unquestioned turning point in Bush's presidency, silencing doubts about the disputed 2000 election, giving purpose and clarity to the administration at a time when its policies seemed muddled, and temporarily narrowing the divisions in a nation whose voters were split 50-50. More broadly, national security became the basis for Bush's soaring popularity, a cornerstone of his political strategy and a debating point for policies as far afield as farm subsidies.

Bush's poll numbers were lagging before the attack and astronomical afterward.

"It was the event that really made George W. Bush president, the wellspring of his legitimacy," said Christopher Arterton, dean of the Graduate School of Political Management at George Washington University. "He reaches back to that because it's the thing that unifies the country, and I think we're going to see more and more of it as we get closer to the political challenges that are looming from the Democratic candidates."

White House communications director Dan Bartlett said Bush "talks frequently about 9/11, but more importantly about our nation's response to 9/11, which required a significant policy change in order to prevent future 9/11's."

"It's something that will always be part of his public discourse," Bartlett said.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

September 11, 2004:

Mixed minds abroad on 9/11

While people around the world mourned the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks, many Arabs warned that the U.S.-led war on terror and Washington's support of Israel has only spread, not reduced, global militancy and instability.

"Sept. 11 was a tragic day in our history because so many innocent people were killed at the hands of militants, who find a fertile ground in our region in view of the biased U.S. policies toward Israel and against Arab causes," said 34-year-old banker Mahmoud Obeid in the Jordanian capital, Amman.

"We don't hate the Americans as people, but we abhor the policies of their government, which blindly supports Israel against our just causes in Palestine and Iraq"...

In Iraq, the U.S. Army's 1st Infantry Division was holding small ceremonies at its 30 bases scattered across a West Virginia-sized slice of northeastern Iraq to coincide with the minute that the first jetliner slammed into the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Sgt. Dionna Eves, 23, of Clearwater, Fla., said the anniversary "reminds you of why you're here" because "we lost a lot of people in that one incident."

But Capt. Rick Hewitt, 31, of La Crosse, Wis., said the attacks don't "really change our mission here one iota. We're trying to rebuild this country. We're trying to help Iraq discover itself."

The U.S. 9/11 Commission has said there's no evidence Saddam Hussein's ousted regime had a role in the attacks or a "collaborative relationship" with al-Qaeda. Still, the Bush administration has painted the Iraq war as part of the war on terror and says bringing democracy to the country will help reduce support for extremism.

The Sept. 11 attacks, subsequent terror deaths, the war in Iraq and the U.S.-led war on terror have shaken sentiment in the Arab world — deepening anti-U.S. sentiment in some quarters, but also raising a debate over how Islamic extremism is connected to terrorism.

Egyptian columnist Fahmy Howeidy said Arabs and Muslims must question their own actions "because these people who committed the Sept. 11 attacks and attacked the United States were Muslims and Arabs. We need to ask what is wrong with these people, why did they do this?"

But he told The Associated Press that "the (main) problem is the Americans don't want to criticize themselves. They don't look at their policies and mistakes, like the U.S. position toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. By defending the terrorism committed by Israel against the Palestinians, they are filling people with anger."

Read the rest at USA Today

Two sons, brothers lost in Iraq, two views of war that took them

The vases of flowers on the dining room table are many days past their prime, the pink roses now hanging their heads. But still they sit. Red, white and blue ribbons that once adorned them are saved in a basket on the floor.

It is hard to let go of anything.

In Natalie Wilkins' brick, ranch-style home, where the bookshelves are filled with family photos instead of books, a wood-encased flag - the one that draped her son's coffin - now sits next to a photo of Lt. Charles L. Wilkins III along with his Bronze Star and Purple Heart and Distinguished Service Awards.

Natalie's son was a 38-year-old transportation planner, law student and Ohio National Guardsman. Unmarried, he was devoted to his family, the kind of man who took his mother to church and sent money to his sisters. He mentored younger students, volunteered for Habitat for Humanity - and he volunteered to go to war in Iraq, even though he had misgivings about the mission.

In notes and cards, the 53-year-old divorcee hears from Chuck's friends, co-workers and classmates about what a fine man he was. She is filled with a mother's pride and only wishes she could tell him so.

But she is also filled with bitterness and pain - layer upon layer of pain.

And this, too, is hard to let go of.

There is the pain of losing one's only son. The pain of opening the newspaper every morning and reading about more losses, and crying all over again.

And then there is another whole universe of pain and anger that the Wilkins family is grappling with: losing a son to a war they didn't support and don't understand, a cause they grow more skeptical about with each day and each casualty and each evaporating explanation - and a commander in chief they feel doesn't truly understand the price American families are paying for his decision, a president who sent this grieving mother a seven-sentence letter after Chuck was killed Friday, August 20, as the death toll of American soldiers neared 1,000.

"I hate this war," Natalie Wilkins says quietly, her eyes red, sad and wet, her voice thin and tremulous. "It's something I won't ever understand. Chuck did what he thought was right. Everyone over there is doing what they think is right - but is it? God bless the troops, but I hate the war. I hate anything that would take a life."

The triangle-folded flag. The medals and photos. The tears that show no sign of letting up.

They are all part of Eddie Wright's home too, hours away in the working-class neighborhood of Delhi Township outside Cincinnati.

It's been about a year since Eddie's younger brother, Spc. James C. Wright, was killed in Iraq at age 27. A year of missing him, creating memorials to him, looking up at his picture and talking to him, and holding fund-raisers to help out his widow, Alina, and the now 8-month-old son, Jameson, whom Jimmy saw only in an ultrasound image his wife sent to him in Iraq.

But while the Wilkins family, of Columbus, finds its grief compounded by the uncertainties of the war in Iraq, the Wright family is comforted by their belief that Jimmy - or "Dawg," as he was known to his friends - died for a noble cause, one he believed in. "He was doing good," Eddie Wright says.

Eddie, a 30-year-old automotive painter and father of two young children, has two Bush/Cheney lawn signs outside his dark brick Tudor-style house. He attended a Bush rally in May, hoping to shake hands with the president, and had T-shirts made a week after his brother's death with a Bush quote that begins, "We will not waver."

His parents - Ed, a school bus mechanic, and Barbara, a saleswoman at Big Lots - live next door. They say they support the president and the war effort "1,000 percent."

"I believe we're doing the right thing, at least for the Iraqi people and the global war on terrorism," says Eddie, who surrounds himself with his brother's memory.

He still believes weapons of mass destruction will be found in Iraq. And he dismisses the bipartisan 9/11 Commission's finding that there was no link between the Sept. 11 attacks and Saddam Hussein. "Quite obviously, I don't want to look at it that way," he says. "It seems like these are just jabs at President Bush."

But even if nothing he once believed about the threat of Iraq holds true, he feels deep in his gut that his brother died for a worthwhile cause - helping to take down a dictator, plant the seeds of democracy and bring a better life to the Iraqi people.

Read the rest at the Baltimore Sun

September 11, 2005:

Pentagon rally mixes remembrance, Bush support

It was a demonstration unlike legions of others in the capital. The T-shirts were Pentagon-approved, signs were banned and Cabinet secretaries, usually the target of protest, cheered on the throngs.

Thousands walked Sunday in remembrance of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, in tribute to U.S. troops abroad. By their presence, marchers endorsed the worldwide fight against terrorism that began after airliners slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field four years ago.

U.S. soldiers in Iraq, Afghanistan and other outposts watched on video links as the crowd shouted, "America supports you." References to the politically divisive Iraq war were muted, but support for President Bush's policy was, for many, a subtext of the day.

His voice breaking, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld noted during a wreath-laying at Arlington National Cemetery that the children of some of the 184 victims killed inside the Pentagon and aboard hijacked American Airlines Flight 77 on Sept. 11 were in his audience.

"They will likely want to know why this terrible thing happened," he said. "It's hard for free people to comprehend the mix of extremism and hatred that leads terrorists to murder innocent men, women and children. But perhaps we can tell them this: Throughout human history there have been those who seek power through fear and mass murder but eventually all of them — every one — has fallen."

In a city more accustomed to protests against government policy, the crowds gathered in praise of soldiers. Walkers included families of Sept. 11 victims, workers for federal agencies and employees of the defense contractor Lockheed Martin.

They observed a moment of silence outside the Pentagon and softly sang "God Bless America" before filing past the now-rebuilt wing of the Defense Department headquarters that was breached by the jet. People saw one old brick embedded in the new construction, charred black from the burning jet fuel and etched with the date of the attack.

Marchers then filed to the National Mall for a concert by country singer Clint Black. Rumsfeld shook hands and posed for pictures with Sept. 11 families, soldiers and their well-wishers.

Security was tight. Participation in the walk was limited to those who registered before the weekend.

Marchers were not allowed to carry signs. The crowd included a small group of anti-war protesters, who kept their criticism muted and walked respectfully with the others.

Mark Burlingame, 54, of Lancaster, Pa., whose brother, Charles, was the pilot of the jetliner that hit the Pentagon, said: "I'm here to show support for our military and represent 9/11 families in support of the military's effort to crush the scourge of terrorism in the world."

Mimi Evans, 56, whose son is serving with the Marines in Iraq, flew from Cape Cod to express her displeasure with what she saw as the politicization of Sept. 11 commemoration. "I felt this event was exploitative in that it connected 9/11 and what our military is doing now."

Gordon England, the acting deputy defense secretary, noted the crystal clear day in remarks outside the Pentagon. "But I also remember four years ago was a beautiful day," he said, "and of course it turned into a very dark and fateful day for the world."

Bush observed a moment of silence at 8:46 a.m., timed with the first hijacked plane's impact at the World Trade Center, in a ceremony on the White House South Lawn.

Russell Farkouh, 42, a Fairfax, Va., defense consultant whose family burial plot in Brooklyn, N.Y., looks out on what used to be a World Trade Center vista, said Bush did the right thing going to war in Iraq.

"The only thing those guys recognize and appreciate is force," he said, endorsing the view that Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda terrorists were linked.

Ray Embree, 67, of Springfield, Va., a retired special forces master sergeant, said: "I support the president I support the military and I support going after the enemies of our country."

Read the rest at USA Today

9/11 -- and Counting

On Dec. 9, 1941, two days after the Pearl Harbor attack, Franklin Delano Roosevelt addressed the American people in a fireside chat. In tone and manner, FDR's words were not very different from the rhetoric of George W. Bush three generations later, when Bush called the nation to action nine days after Sept. 11, 2001, and declared, "We will not tire, we will not falter, and we will not fail." Roosevelt told his radio listeners: "The sources of international brutality, wherever they exist, must be absolutely and finally broken down. . . . We don't like it -- we didn't want to get in it -- but we are in it and we are going to fight it with everything we've got. . . . We are going to win the war, and we are going to win the peace that follows."

FDR was as good as his word. Over the next 3 1/2 years, he and then his successor, Harry Truman, transformed a depression-ravaged, isolationist nation -- one with virtually no army -- into the world's dominant power. They assiduously cultivated alliances that shared the fighting and dying, oversaw the defeat of two hegemonic threats (Japan and Germany), and began to rebuild these former enemies into peaceful democratic allies. At the same time the two presidents created many of the institutions that still define the global system, including the United Nations, planning for which began in 1944.

And they did it in less time than has now elapsed in the war on terrorism. Today marks the fourth anniversary of 9/11. It is a depressing milestone, made grimmer by the comparison to World War II. President Bush himself drew this analogy in a speech on Aug. 30, declaring that we face a "determined enemy who follows a ruthless ideology" just as we did 60 years earlier, and "once again we will not rest until victory is America's." What Bush failed to note was that it took FDR and Truman precisely 1,347 days, from Dec. 7, 1941, to the surrender of Japan on Aug. 15, 1945, to win WWII, pacify the enemy and largely secure the peace that followed. By comparison, 1,461 days have now passed since that terrible day in 2001. And even now there is no end in sight to the "global war on terror." What is perhaps more unsettling, there is no detailed strategy for winning this war.

Clearly, this is a very different kind of conflict from WWII. Then, we were fighting an easy-to-identify enemy in plainly delineated theaters of war. The same can't be said of the war on terrorism. Bush himself has said that it would be a long, open-ended conflict. And as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has put it umpteen times, al Qaeda is "not going to be signing some sort of a surrender aboard the battleship Missouri." But the novelty of the current foe only makes a lucid strategy more essential, and our planning failures more disheartening.

Bush can claim one triumph: We have suffered no further attack on U.S. soil since 9/11 (not counting the unsolved anthrax attacks later that fall). Casualties are far fewer, too, than in any other major war in U.S. history since the Revolution. "I do think there's been progress in some areas," says Richard Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and the State Department's head of policy planning in Bush's first term. "In the last four years, for example, I think the world has become a tougher place for terrorists to operate in."

Yet Haass agrees that in other respects "history will be harsh in its judgments" of the Bush administration. The war on terror has become an Orwellian nightmare, an ill-defined conflict with a fractious group of terrorists that seems to be ever-escalating. At this stage in WWII, Hitler was dead. His top lieutenants, as well as their counterparts in Japan, were awaiting trial for war crimes. By contrast, the chief culprit of 9/11, Osama bin Laden, and his deputy, Ayman Zawahiri, have escaped -- their trail is as cold as it's ever been -- to become mythic rallying figures for radical Islamists.

Moreover, an administration that had sought to reassert U.S. power now finds itself projecting weakness. An America that was at the top of its game internationally on Sept. 10, 2001 has squandered its prestige. Iraq is draining the most powerful Army in history, America's moral standing in the world is diminished, and our policies, according to the CIA's own analysis, may have only helped to foment the jihadi movement globally. We possess less leverage over the nuclear-minded states of Iran and North Korea. Lacking a bold initiative on energy, we are more beholden to the Arab world and Russia for desperately needed oil. And as our economy amasses record budget and trade deficits, we rely more than ever on the financial goodwill of China, Japan and Europe to keep us afloat.

Most disturbing of all, the man who once called himself a "war president" has not formulated a well-thought-out plan for winning this war, either in public or privately within his administration. In place of a strategy, Bush mainly repeats his vague pledge to spread democracy "with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world," as he put it in his second inaugural address. "Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror," Rumsfeld wrote in a now-famous memo that was leaked in October 2003. Administration sources tell me that no such "metrics" have yet been found.

A surprising number of strategists believe, in fact, that the United States is losing the war on terrorism as anti-Americanism and the Iraq occupation fuel an endless supply of new jihadis. "We're now spending more time thinking about a war with China, a war that is never going to happen, than we are thinking about a war we are currently losing that presents a clear and present danger," one exasperated senior military official at the Pentagon told me last month. "If this is a global battle for hearts and minds, we haven't even stood up an army yet. We have a general now: Karen Hughes [the new undersecretary of state for public diplomacy]. But it's stuff they should have done four years ago." The White House and Pentagon have even begun arguing over whether what they are engaged in is a "war" at all.

What is the difference between these two approaches to global leadership 60 years apart? In a word: planning. FDR began planning for a postwar world even before Pearl Harbor, laying out the "four freedoms" in January 1941 and hashing out the Atlantic Charter with Winston Churchill months later.

The Bush approach, in contrast, has been scattershot and conceived "piece by piece," in the words of one European diplomat in Washington. There is no evidence that Bush ever held a grand strategy session with his principals in which all the variables were laid on the table: the costs of the global war on terrorism, the strategic goal, and the real costs, in dollars and lives, of an Iraq invasion. In February 2003, the administration released a "National Strategy for Combating Terrorism," but it was mainly a statement of aims, full of boilerplate, and it was drowned out by the Iraq war the following month. As former national security adviser Brent Scowcroft told me recently, the administration still needs to study "the roots of terrorism and not the manifestations of it."

Bush's all-embracing solution to terrorism -- spreading democracy -- seems to be based on an article of faith, not on a thorough look at the sources of terror. As F. Gregory Gause, a political scientist at the University of Vermont, writes in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs, "the data available do not show a strong relationship between democracy and an absence of or reduction in terrorism." Some scholars argue that most terrorism actually occurs within democracies. Still, political progress in the Arab world could defuse frustration that fosters violence. But the administration, in its new campaign led by Hughes, has failed to emphasize what most experts say is the critical element in successful democratic development: economic progress and the creation of a middle class...

Real planning requires real understanding of the enemy, and today we may be even further away from that than on 9/11. In recent months, Bush has contributed to that by lumping Iraqi insurgents together with the "terrorists" as though there were one static group of global bad guys whom we would be fighting in our own streets if we weren't dealing with them in Iraq. But Bush's own generals have contradicted this view. Although the Iraq war has attracted foreign jihadists, U.S. generals say that the Iraqi insurgency is mainly composed of Iraqis, few of whom are members of al Qaeda and very few of whom would be attacking us in the streets of New York and Washington if we weren't in Iraq.

Some military thinkers believe that the international terrorist threat should be viewed as a kind of global insurgency that could last a decade or more. But if so, Pentagon planners say they have not agreed on any single counterinsurgency approach.

What would a true national strategy in the war on terrorism look like? At the very least, critics say, one thing was clear after 9/11: America's economy and security depended, because of oil, on a region that was far more unstable than we'd realized. So one effort at national mobilization should have been an energy policy that would slash our dependence on oil and unreliable Arab producers. Yet Bush's recent energy legislation, four years in the making, barely provided incentives for conservation or hybrid technologies while pouring billions in tax breaks into the search for new oil.

Compare this with FDR's national mobilization of U.S. industry in the early months of WWII, or the Cold War-era mobilization that led to the blossoming of U.S. science education, the space program and the Internet, and the differences are dramatic.

Four years into the war on terrorism, it's awfully late to begin devising a broad-based, detailed strategy for the complete destruction of terrorist groups like al Qaeda. Let's hope it's not too late. But the first step is to acknowledge that we haven't yet done it.

Read the rest at the Washington Post

September 11, 2006:

President Bush Says U.S. Faces 'Difficult Road Ahead' on Sept. 11 Anniversary

Five years after the worst attack on U.S. soil, President Bush said Monday night the war against terrorism is "the calling of our generation" and urged Americans to put aside differences and fight to victory.

"America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over," Bush said in a prime-time address from the Oval Office. "The war is not over — and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious."

Bush also staunchly defended the war in Iraq though he acknowledged that Saddam Hussein was not responsible for the 9/11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 people.

His address came at the end of a day in which he visited New York, Pennsylvania and the Pentagon to honor victims of the attacks that rocked his presidency and thrust the United States into a costly and unfinished war against terror.

"We are now in the early hours of this struggle between tyranny and freedom," the president said.

As for Iraq, he said Saddam's regime, while lacking weapons of mass destruction, was a threat that posed "a risk the world could not afford to take." At least 2,670 U.S. servicemen and women have died in Iraq, which Bush calls the central front in the war on terror.

"Whatever mistakes have been made in Iraq, the worst mistake would be to think that if we pulled out, the terrorists would leave us alone," the president said. "They will not leave us alone. They will follow us"...

Earlier, Bush visited a New York fire station, the wind-swept field in Shanksville, Pa., and the Pentagon to place wreaths and console relatives of attack victims.

"Five years ago, this date — Sept. 11 — was seared into America's memory," the president said. "Nineteen men attacked us with a barbarity unequaled in our history."

Bush said that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the attack, and other terrorists are still in hiding. He said, "Our message to them is clear: No matter how long it takes, America will find you and we will bring you to justice."

Bush said the war on terror was nothing less than "a struggle for civilization" and must be fought to the end. He said defeat would surrender the Middle East to radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons.

"We are fighting to maintain the way of life enjoyed by free nations," the president said. Two months before the November elections, he attempted to spell out in graphic terms the stakes he sees in the unpopular war in Iraq and the broader war on terror.

He said Islamic radicals are trying to build an empire "where women are prisoners in their homes, men are beaten for missing prayer meetings and terrorists have a safe haven to plan and launch attacks on America and other civilized nations."

"The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict," the president said. "It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century and the calling of our generation"...

"The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad," the president said. He quoted bin Laden as calling Iraq "the Third World War."

Read the rest at Fox News

Numbers help show how life changed after 9/11

Cold, dry numbers never can tell the full story, but they help to fill out the portrait of how life has changed since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that killed nearly 3,000 people.

Quantities large and small speak to wars fought, plots foiled, deaths mourned and hassles institutionalized.


272: Deaths of U.S. servicemen and women in and around Afghanistan.

2,659: Deaths of U.S. servicemen and women in Iraq war.

21,000: Members of U.S. military now in Afghanistan.

145,000: Members of U.S. military now in Iraq.

$432 billion: Amount approved by Congress for Iraq and the war on terrorism.

Read the rest at Fox News


September 11, 2006

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a Marine who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Cpl. Johnathan L. Benson, 21, of North Branch, Minn., died Sept. 9 from wounds suffered on June 17 while conducting combat operations in Al Anbar province, Iraq. He was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, 1st Marine Division, I Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Pendleton, Calif.

Media with questions about this Marine can call the 1st Marine Division public affairs office at (760) 725-5044.

From DOD Press Link


September 11, 2006

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. Luis A. Montes, 22, of El Centro, Calif., died on Sept. 7 in Brooke Army Medical Center, San Antonio, Texas, of injuries suffered on Sept. 1 in Abu Ghraib, Iraq, when an improvised explosive device detonated near his vehicle during combat operations. Montes was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 22nd Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division, Fort Hood, Texas.

Media with questions about this soldier can contact the 4th Infantry Division public affairs office at (254) 287-0105.

From DOD Press Link


September 11, 2006

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier, who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Sgt. John A. Carroll, 26, of Ponca City, Okla., died on Sept. 6 in Ar Ramadi, Iraq, of injuries sustained when he came in contact with enemy forces using small arms fire during a dismounted security patrol. Carroll was assigned to the Army 1st Battalion, 6th Infantry Regiment, 1st Armored Division, Baumholder, Germany.

For further information related to this release, contact 1st Armored Division Public Affairs at 011-49-611-705-4862.

From DOD Press Link


September 11, 2006

The Department of Defense announced today the death of a soldier, who was supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Pfc. Anthony P. Seig, 19, of Sunman, Ind., died on Sept. 9, in Baghdad, Iraq, of injuries sustained when he encountered indirect fire from enemy forces while on base. Seig was assigned to the Army's 118th Military Police Company, 519th Military Police Battalion, 16th Military Police Brigade, Fort Bragg, N.C.

For more information related to this release, contact XVIII Airborne Corp Public Affairs at (910) 396-5600.

From DOD Press Link