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President Bush Delivers Speech to Military Personnel at Travis Air Force Base

Aired October 17, 2001 - 16:25   ET


JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: These are pictures from Sacramento, California -- actually, Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento. That is Air Force One in the background. And these are some people who are very happy to see President Bush, or at least to catch a tiny glimpse of him off in the distance.

He has just finished a visit to Sacramento, where he made some remarks. There he is. And it looks like he is going to be speaking again. The president is on his way to Asia for an Asia-Pacific Economic Conference.

Let's listen in.

John King is able -- John, are you able to hear me?

JOHN KING, CNN SR. WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I can hear you just fine, Judy. I'm standing a little bit away from that crowd.

WOODRUFF: Do we know what the president is going to tell these people?

KING: This will be largely a pep talk, we are told -- the president speaking here to, obviously, the community on a military base, speaking as the commander in chief, promising the military, as it wages the war overseas in Afghanistan, that it will get everything it needs -- all it gets, the president says -- also saluting the work of the families, military families around the country who are supporting the effort oversees.

This is the last stop in the United States, as you noted, before the president flies to Shanghai -- some debate in Washington about whether the president should leave the country in the middle of a military campaign overseas, in the middle of these anthrax scares here in the United States.

Mr. Bush, a short time ago, in a speech to business leaders, said he believed it was critical that he go, that he can have very important discussions, he said, with the Asia-Pacific leaders in Shanghai -- the Russian president, the Chinese president and others -- about building the coalition to fight terrorism and, in fact, expanding the effort on the nonmilitary fronts, if you will: the countries in Asia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Indonesia, all critical to the effort to crack down on the financial support of terrorist groups.

Mr. Bush wants to push that effort -- also, terrorist groups located in the Philippines and in Indonesia, that Mr. Bush wants those governments to crack down -- some suspicion that if you are a supporter of Osama bin Laden around the world and you're trying to get back into Afghanistan, but won't go right now because of the military campaign under way, that perhaps those al Qaeda members might try to hide out in a place like the Philippines or in Indonesia -- so that important as well.

The remarks will be in the president's role as commander in chief, a pep talk, if you will. Interesting remarks, though, Judy -- the president sat down with Asian editors yesterday in advance of this trip. That was an off-camera session, newspaper editors.

In that session -- let me quote for you -- he says: "You mark my words. People are going to get tired of the war on terrorism. But we're patient. And when they get tired, I want you to know I will keep going on. I will do it because I think it is the right thing to do. That's what I'm supposed to do" -- so already, just in the second week of the military campaign, six weeks after the tragic events of September 11, the president making clear he believes, in the weeks ahead, his leadership will be tested.

And I think we can hear the president now stepping up to speak.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Thank you all.


Thank you all very much. I appreciate such a warm welcome. I'm about to cross the Pacific on my favorite Air Force airplane.


And there's really only one place to leave from, and that's called the gateway to the Pacific.


Thank you for your hospitality. I can't tell you how proud I am to be with the men and women who wear the uniform of the great United States of America.


I want to thank the Air Force and the Army and the Navy troops who are here. I'm also proud to be with the husbands and wives and sons and daughters.


And to the families of those of you whose mom or dad or husband or wife have been deployed, I want you to know that they're on a noble mission. The cause is just and we will win. (APPLAUSE)

I want to thank Lone Star LaForge (ph) for the introduction...


... my fellow Texan...


... and maybe a few other Texans here as well.


I want to thank General Becker (ph) and Colonel Rubor (ph) as well for your hospitality. Thank you, Colonel. And thank you, General, very much.

I want to thank the Air Force Band of the golden west. Thank you all for your entertainment.


I want to thank the state and local officials who have come today. I'm honored that you took time out of your day.

The planes to the left and right of where we stand here represent the unmatched air power of the United States.


But that's not our real strength. Our real strength are the people who fly in them and who maintain them, the people who make the military go. The real strength...


The real strength that this proud nation are the men and women who wear the uniform. That's the real strength of this country.


You're among the first to be deployed in America's new war against terror and against evil. And I want you to know: America's proud, proud of your deeds, proud of your talents, proud of your service to our country.

I'm told that one of the pilots here, a fellow named Randy (ph), was asked if anyone at Travis had personal connections to any of the victims of the attacks on September the 11th, and here's what he said, "I think we all do. They're all Americans."


"When you strike one American, you strike us all."


The victims of September 11 were innocent and this nation will never forget them. The men and women who murdered them were instruments of evil and they have died in vain. This nation is strong. This nation is united. This nation is resolved. This nation will defeat terror wherever we find it across the globe.


And not only will we find the terrorists, we will enforce the doctrine that says, "If you harbor a terrorist, you're a terrorist."


"If you feed a terrorist, if you fund a terrorist, you're a terrorist and this great, proud nation of free men and women will hold you just as responsible for the actions that take place on American soil."


And that's what happening in Afghanistan.

I gave the people in Afghanistan a choice. I said to the Taliban, "Turn him over, destroy the camps, free people you are unjustly holding." I said, "You've got time to do it."

But they didn't listen, they didn't respond and now they're paying a price.


They are learning that anyone who strikes America will hear from our military, and they're not going to like what the hear.


In choosing their enemy, the evildoers and those who harbor them have chosen their fate.

We don't quarrel with the innocent folks of Afghanistan. They're not our enemy. Nor is any religion the enemy of the United States of America. The evil ones have tried to hijack a religion to justify their murder.

But I want to assure the people of the world that our military fights not against Muslims or fights not against the Islam religion. We fight against evil people. We fight against people who believe that they can harm the United States of America. We fight against people who have no country, no ideology. They are motivated by hate.

And make no mistake about it, this great nation will do what it takes to win. We are determined. We are patient. We are steadfast. We are resolved. We will not tire, and we will not fail.

(APPLAUSE) And we're making progress. We're making progress. The terrorist camps are being destroyed. The enemy's air force and air defenses are being demolished. We're paving the way for friendly troops on the ground to slowly but surely tighten the net to bring them to justice.

I can't tell you how proud as commander in chief I am to know that we've got a great United States military backing our nation.


A commander in chief must know he can count on the skill and resolve of our military. And from Secretary Rumsfeld to General Myers to the good troops of this base, I have all the confidence in the world that our military will fulfill its mission.

And you must have...


And you must have confidence in this, my commitment, that for the mission that lies ahead, our military, the men and women who wear our uniform, will have everything you need to win, every resource, every weapon, every means to assure full victory for the United States and our allies and our friends in the cause of freedom.


There is no question that we're inflicting pain upon the Taliban government. There is also no question that we're a compassionate nation. At the same time we do so, we're dropping airlifts of food and medicine so the innocent citizens of that country can survive the brutal winter.

As I walked up, I saw some of the school children holding dollar bills. We've got school children all across the country out raising a dollar to send to the children of Afghanistan. We've got boys and girls from all religions and all walks of life who have heard the call to love a neighbor just as they'd like to be loved themselves.

The evildoers have struck our nation, but out of evil comes good. We are a good, kind-hearted, decent people, and we're showing the world just that in our compassion and our resolve.


And one thing I fully understand is that when American forces answer the call of duty, they count on their families for support and encouragement. Every deployment brings uncertainty, and I know every deployment brings worry and concern.

Our military is made up of brave men and women, and brave families as well. Recently a 4-year-old son of a cargo specialist said goodbye to his dad here at Travis. And according to his mom, the boy has been telling the neighbors that, "Daddy's saving the world."

(APPLAUSE) The boy is right. The boy is right. The future of the world is at stake. Freedom is at stake. But I want to tell that boy his daddy's got plenty of help. There are a lot of people like his daddy fighting this war. We fight it overseas and we fight it at home as well.

We must be steadfast. We must be resolved. We must not let the terrorists cause our nation to stop traveling, to stop buying, to stop living ordinary lives. We can be alert, and we will be alert.

But we must show them that they cannot terrorize the greatest nation on the face of the Earth.

And we won't. We will not be terrorized. We will not be cowed. We've got a homeland security that's strong. I want to tell the moms and dads here that we're doing everything we can to find them and disrupt them and stop them if they happen to try to strike on American soil.

We're strong at home. We're active at home. But make no mistake about it, the best homeland defense is to find them and bring them to justice, and that's exactly what our nation will do.


Now that they've got the plane fueled up, I'm heading over to China. Of course, we'll talk about economics and trade, but the main thing that will be on my mind is to continue to rally the world against terrorists. It's to remind people that it happened to us, sure, but it could happen to them as well. It's to remind them that evil knows no borders, no boundaries. And remind them that we must take a stand; that those of us who have been given the responsibility of high office must not shirk from our duty; that now is the time to claim freedom for future generations.

The people have struck us. They've tested our mettle and tested our character. But they're going to find that this nation understands we've reached a pivotal moment in history where we will plant our flag on the ground -- a flag that stands for freedom -- and say to anybody who wants to harm us or our friends or allies, "You will pay a serious price, because we're a nation that is strong and resolved and united."


You all are here to serve your country, and your country is grateful. You have confidence in America. But make no mistake about it: America has confidence in you.

Thank you all for such a warm greeting. May God bless the men and women who wear our uniform, may God protect this great land, and may God bless America.

Thank you all very much.

(APPLAUSE) WOODRUFF: I don't think John Wayne could do have said it any better: the president sounding determined, resolute, saying the future of world is at stake, and giving a pep talk to these military officers, their families at Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento -- as he said, on his way to China for an Asia-Pacific Economic Summit.

Joining me here in Washington: Sandy Berger, who, of course, was President Clinton's national security adviser.

Sandy, you and I were sitting here listening to the president talk about progress. "We are making progress in Afghanistan."

But are the Taliban and the forces of al Qaeda proving to a tougher enemy than the U.S. had expected, do you think?

SAMUEL BERGER, FORMER NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: I don't that's necessarily true. I think we are obviously inflicting enormous damage on the al Qaeda infrastructure, on the Taliban military forces, on their military hardware and equipment.

I think that what we are trying, I think, to synchronize here is providing the capability for forces on the ground, indigenous forces, to dislodge the Taliban, but to do so also in the context of a replacement regime in Kabul that can provide some stability. And those two parallel efforts have to operate with some synchronization.

WOODRUFF: So you don't see any worrying signs that this is not going any faster than it is?

BERGER: No. I think it is, obviously -- I'm sure that the president would like to get to the stage where we are -- and perhaps we are at that stage -- where we are on the ground, going after bin Laden, driven by real intelligence, and getting him where he is and his getting operatives where they are.

But the first task here clearly the administration has set out for itself is to get rid of this government. And we have to have in place some kind of consensus regime.

WOODRUFF: Help us understand. The administration says: We are not into nation-building. But we know Assistant Secretary of State Richard Haas has been in Rome meeting with the exiled king. There are talks now with the U.N. Clearly, as you suggest, the pieces are being put in place for a successor government in Afghanistan.


Well, I think nation-building is a term that has kind of taken on a meaning of its own. Our objective here is, as the Taliban regime is replaced, is to have something in place that has the support of a broad swathe of Afghan people, that has stability.

There is an enormous humanitarian problem in Afghanistan: five million starving Afghans, one out of four Afghan children who die before the age of five. So I don't know that we are trying to build Switzerland here. We are trying to simply hold together this country so that we can continue to operate and go after this al Qaeda network.

WOODRUFF: And just quickly and finally, Sandy Berger, you are confident that that can be done?

BERGER: I am confident that it can be done if we take this over the long haul. We now have assets that we have never had before. We have a partnership with Pakistan and other nations in the region. They have tremendous resources on the ground. They have a window into this -- into Afghanistan that we have never had before.

But I do think that we are going to have to hold together the international community and continue to use force in a way that is justifiable to the world, as directed towards the perpetrators of this crime and those that support them, and not seen by the world as isolating us rather than isolating those that committed this crime.

WOODRUFF: All right, Sandy Berger, talking to us as we watch President Bush shaking hands with the military there and family members there on ground at Travis Air Force Base near Sacramento -- the president on his way to China.

Sandy Berger, good to see you. We appreciate it.

BERGER: Thank you, Judy.

WOODRUFF: Thanks very much for coming in.




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