[Weekly Compilation of Presidential Documents Volume 39, Number 9 (Monday, March 3, 2003)]
[Pages 247-250]
[Online from the Government Printing Office, www.gpo.gov]

Remarks to the American Enterprise Institute Annual Dinner

February 26, 2003

    Thank you all very much. Thanks for the warm welcome. I'm proud to 
be with the scholars and the friends and the supporters of the American 
Enterprise Institute. I want to thank you for overlooking my dress code 
violation. [Laughter] They were about to stop me at the door, but Irving 
Kristol said, ``I know this guy. Let him in.'' [Laughter]
    Chris, thank you for your very kind introduction, and thank you for 
your leadership. I see many distinguished guests here tonight, members 
of my Cabinet, Members of Congress, Justice Scalia, Justice Thomas, and 
so many respected writers and policy experts. I'm always happy to see 
your senior fellow, Dr. Lynne Cheney. Lynne is a wise and thoughtful 
commentator on history and culture and a dear friend to Laura and me. 
I'm also familiar with the good work of her husband. [Laughter] You may 
remember him, the former director of my vice presidential search 
committee. [Laughter] Thank God Dick Cheney said yes.
    Thanks for fitting me into the program tonight. I know I'm not the 
featured speaker. I'm just a warmup act for Allan Meltzer. But I want to 
congratulate Dr. Meltzer for a lifetime of achievement, and for 
tonight's well-deserved honor. Congratulations, Dr. Meltzer.
    At the American Enterprise Institute, some of the finest minds in 
our Nation are at work on some of the greatest challenges to our Nation. 
You do such good work that my administration has borrowed 20 such minds. 
I want to thank them for their service, but I also want to remind people 
that for 60 years, AEI scholars have made vital contributions to our 
country and to our Government, and we are grateful for those 
    We meet here during a crucial period in the history of our Nation 
and of the civilized world. Part of that history was written by others; 
the rest will be written by us. On a September morning, threats that had 
gathered for years, in secret and far away, led to murder in our country 
on a massive scale. As a result, we must look at security in a new way, 
because our country is a battlefield in the first war of the 21st 
    We learned a lesson: The dangers of our time must be confronted 
actively and forcefully, before we see them again in our skies and in 
our cities. And we set a goal: We will not allow the triumph of hatred 
and violence in the affairs of men.
    Our coalition of more than 90 countries is pursuing the networks of 
terror with every tool of law enforcement and with military power. We 
have arrested or otherwise dealt with many key commanders of Al Qaida. 
Across the world, we are hunting down the killers one by one. We are 
winning. And we're showing them the definition of American justice. And 
we are opposing the greatest danger in the war on terror, outlaw regimes 
arming with weapons of mass destruction.
    In Iraq, a dictator is building and hiding weapons that could enable 
him to dominate the Middle East and intimidate the civilized world, and 
we will not allow it. This same tyrant has close ties to terrorist 
organizations and could supply them with the terrible means to strike 
this country, and America will not permit it. The danger posed by Saddam 
Hussein and his weapons cannot be ignored or wished away. The danger 
must be confronted. We hope that the Iraqi regime will meet the demands 
of the United Nations and disarm, fully and peacefully. If it does not, 
we are prepared to disarm Iraq by force. Either way, this danger will be 
    The safety of the American people depends on ending this direct and 

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threat. Acting against the danger will also contribute greatly to the 
long-term safety and stability of our world. The current Iraqi regime 
has shown the power of tyranny to spread discord and violence in the 
Middle East. A liberated Iraq can show the power of freedom to transform 
that vital region, by bringing hope and progress into the lives of 
millions. America's interests in security and America's belief in 
liberty both lead in the same direction, to a free and peaceful Iraq.
    The first to benefit from a free Iraq would be the Iraqi people 
themselves. Today they live in scarcity and fear under a dictator who 
has brought them nothing but war and misery and torture. Their lives and 
their freedom matter little to Saddam Hussein, but Iraqi lives and 
freedom matter greatly to us.
    Bringing stability and unity to a free Iraq will not be easy. Yet 
that is no excuse to leave the Iraqi regime's torture chambers and 
poison labs in operation. Any future the Iraqi people choose for 
themselves will be better than the nightmare world that Saddam Hussein 
has chosen for them.
    If we must use force, the United States and our coalition stand 
ready to help the citizens of a liberated Iraq. We will deliver medicine 
to the sick, and we are now moving into place nearly 3 million emergency 
rations to feed the hungry. We'll make sure that Iraq's 55,000 food 
distribution sites, operating under the oil-for-food program, are 
stocked and open as soon as possible. The United States and Great 
Britain are providing tens of millions of dollars to the U.N. High 
Commission on Refugees and to such groups as the World Food Program and 
UNICEF to provide emergency aid to the Iraqi people.
    We will also lead in carrying out the urgent and dangerous work of 
destroying chemical and biological weapons. We will provide security 
against those who try to spread chaos or settle scores or threaten the 
territorial integrity of Iraq. We will seek to protect Iraq's natural 
resources from sabotage by a dying regime and ensure those resources are 
used for the benefit of the owners, the Iraqi people.
    The United States has no intention of determining the precise form 
of Iraq's new Government. That choice belongs to the Iraqi people. Yet, 
we will ensure that one brutal dictator is not replaced by another. All 
Iraqis must have a voice in the new Government, and all citizens must 
have their rights protected.
    Rebuilding Iraq will require a sustained commitment from many 
nations, including our own. We will remain in Iraq as long as necessary 
and not a day more. America has made and kept this kind of commitment 
before, in the peace that followed a World War. After defeating enemies, 
we did not leave behind occupying armies; we left constitutions and 
parliaments. We established an atmosphere of safety, in which 
responsible, reform-minded local leaders could build lasting 
institutions of freedom. In societies that once bred fascism and 
militarism, liberty found a permanent home.
    There was a time when many said that the cultures of Japan and 
Germany were incapable of sustaining democratic values. Well, they were 
wrong. Some say the same of Iraq today. They are mistaken. The nation of 
Iraq, with its proud heritage, abundant resources, and skilled and 
educated people, is fully capable of moving toward democracy and living 
in freedom.
    The world has a clear interest in the spread of democratic values, 
because stable and free nations do not breed the ideologies of murder. 
They encourage the peaceful pursuit of a better life. And there are 
hopeful signs of a desire for freedom in the Middle East. Arab 
intellectuals have called on Arab governments to address the ``freedom 
gap'' so their peoples can fully share in the progress of our times. 
Leaders in the region speak of a new Arab charter that champions 
internal reform, greater political participation, economic openness, and 
free trade. And from Morocco to Bahrain and beyond, nations are taking 
genuine steps toward political reform. A new regime in Iraq would serve 
as a dramatic and inspiring example of freedom for other nations in the 
    It is presumptuous and insulting to suggest that a whole region of 
the world, or the one-fifth of humanity that is Muslim, is somehow 
untouched by the most basic aspirations of life. Human cultures can be 
vastly different. Yet the human heart desires the same good things 
everywhere on Earth. In our desire

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to be safe from brutal and bullying oppression, human beings are the 
same. In our desire to care for our children and give them a better 
life, we are the same. For these fundamental reasons, freedom and 
democracy will always and everywhere have greater appeal than the 
slogans of hatred and the tactics of terror.
    Success in Iraq could also begin a new stage for Middle Eastern 
peace and set in motion progress towards a truly democratic Palestinian 
state. The passing of Saddam Hussein's regime will deprive terrorist 
networks of a wealthy patron that pays for terrorist training and offers 
rewards to families of suicide bombers. And other regimes will be given 
a clear warning that support for terror will not be tolerated.
    Without this outside support for terrorism, Palestinians who are 
working for reform and long for democracy will be in a better position 
to choose new leaders, true leaders who strive for peace, true leaders 
who faithfully serve the people. A Palestinian state must be a reformed 
and peaceful state that abandons forever the use of terror.
    For its part, the new Government of Israel, as the terror threat is 
removed and security improves, will be expected to support the creation 
of a viable Palestinian state and to work as quickly as possible toward 
a final status agreement. As progress is made toward peace, settlement 
activity in the occupied territories must end. And the Arab states will 
be expected to meet their responsibilities to oppose terrorism, to 
support the emergence of a peaceful and democratic Palestine, and state 
clearly they will live in peace with Israel.
    The United States and other nations are working on a roadmap for 
peace. We are setting out the necessary conditions for progress toward 
the goal of two states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in 
peace and security. It is the commitment of our Government and my 
personal commitment to implement the roadmap and to reach that goal. Old 
patterns of conflict in the Middle East can be broken, if all concerned 
will let go of bitterness and hatred and violence and get on with the 
serious work of economic development and political reform and 
reconciliation. America will seize every opportunity in pursuit of 
peace. And the end of the present regime in Iraq would create such an 
    In confronting Iraq, the United States is also showing our 
commitment to effective international institutions. We are a permanent 
member of the United Nations Security Council. We helped to create the 
Security Council. We believe in the Security Council so much that we 
want its words to have meaning.
    The global threat of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction 
cannot be confronted by one nation alone. The world needs today and will 
need tomorrow international bodies with the authority and the will to 
stop the spread of terror and chemical and biological and nuclear 
weapons. A threat to all must be answered by all. High-minded 
pronouncements against proliferation mean little unless the strongest 
nations are willing to stand behind them and use force if necessary. 
After all, the United Nations was created, as Winston Churchill said, to 
``make sure that the force of right will, in the ultimate issue, be 
protected by the right of force.''
    Another resolution is now before the Security Council. If the 
Council responds to Iraq's defiance with more excuses and delays, if all 
its authority proves to be empty, the United Nations will be severely 
weakened as a source of stability and order. If the members rise to this 
moment, then the Council will fulfill its founding purpose.
    I've listened carefully as people and leaders around the world have 
made known their desire for peace. All of us want peace. The threat to 
peace does not come from those who seek to enforce the just demands of 
the civilized world. The threat to peace comes from those who flout 
those demands. If we have to act, we will act to restrain the violent 
and defend the cause of peace. And by acting, we will signal to outlaw 
regimes that in this new century, the boundaries of civilized behavior 
will be respected.
    Protecting those boundaries carries a cost. If war is forced upon us 
by Iraq's refusal to disarm, we will meet an enemy who hides his 
military forces behind civilians, who has terrible weapons, who is 
capable of any crime. The dangers are real, as our soldiers

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and sailors, airmen and marines fully understand. Yet, no military has 
ever been better prepared to meet these challenges.
    Members of our Armed Forces also understand why they may be called 
to fight. They know that retreat before a dictator guarantees even 
greater sacrifices in the future. They know that America's cause is 
right and just, liberty for an oppressed people and security for the 
American people. And I know something about these men and women who wear 
our uniform: They will complete every mission they are given with skill 
and honor and courage.
    Much is asked of America in this year 2003. The work ahead is 
demanding. It will be difficult to help freedom take hold in a country 
that has known three decades of dictatorship, secret police, internal 
divisions, and war. It will be difficult to cultivate liberty and peace 
in the Middle East, after so many generations of strife. Yet the 
security of our Nation and the hope of millions depend on us, and 
Americans do not turn away from duties because they are hard. We have 
met great tests in other times, and we will meet the tests of our time.
    We go forward with confidence, because we trust in the power of 
human freedom to change lives and nations. By the resolve and purpose of 
America and of our friends and allies, we will make this an age of 
progress and liberty. Free people will set the course of history, and 
free people will keep the peace of the world.
    Thank you all very much.

Note: The President spoke at 7:22 p.m. in the International Ballroom at 
the Washington Hilton Hotel. In his remarks, he referred to Irving 
Kristol, senior fellow, and Christopher DeMuth, president, American 
Enterprise Institute; Allan H. Meltzer, recipient of the first Irving 
Kristol Award at the dinner; and President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.