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President Address America on 9/11 Anniversary Threats

Aired September 10, 2002 - 14:15   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


KELLI ARENA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I am told the president is speaking right now -- let's go to him.
(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you for coming.

I just -- please be seated.

I has the opportunity of meeting with distinguished members of the Arab American and Muslim American communities.

I want to thank you all so very much for coming to share with me your thoughts.

Like all Americans, they're proud of our country, they're proud of our military, they're proud of our allies for working together to free Afghanistan. They will never forget the joy of the Afghan people who were liberated. They appreciate the fact that we worked in concert to destroy terrorist training camps in Afghanistan so that those terrorists might not hurt other.

They wanted to come with me to show their solidarity with the people of Afghanistan and to show that America has a vibrant and important and dynamic Muslim faith tradition.

I appreciate so very much Ziad (ph), the president of the American Arab Anti-Defamation League (sic), for being here.

Mr. Ambassador, thank you and your wife for having us here.

The ambassador is a fabulous story. He's an American citizen who renounced his citizenship in order to become the ambassador of Afghanistan to serve this nation.

I appreciate that. I appreciate your leadership.

(APPLAUSE)

I want to thank Andrew Natsios, who's with us today. He's doing a fine job of helping people in need around the world.

I want to thank -- where's Zal? There he is.

Zal, thanks for coming.

Zal Khalilzad is a member of the National Security Council and very much involved with our efforts to help Afghanistan.

(AUDIO GAP)

... fellow Americans to understand that Americans of the Muslim faith share the same grief that we all share what happened to our country; that they're just as proud of America as I am proud of America; that they love our country as much as I love our country. They share my profound belief that no American should be judged by appearance, by ethnic background or by religious faith. I believe that strongly, and so do they.

Bigotry is not a part of our soul. It's not going to be a part of our future. Sure, there may be some, but that's not the American way. We must reject bigotry of all kinds in this great land. In order for us to reject the evil done to America, on September the 11th, we must reject bigotry in all its forms.

George Washington says, "America gives to bigotry no sanction, persecution no assistance," and that is true today.

We treasure our friendship with Muslims and Arabs around the world. One year ago, the people of Afghanistan lived under oppression. Their country was a haven for terror. Today they're an emergency democracy -- an emerging democracy in building a better future. And we are proud to continue to stand by them and to stand with them.

Americans are helping the people of Afghanistan in their time of hardship and need.

And we will continue to do so. The United States has committed more than $700 million in aid to Afghanistan for food and seeds and roads and bridges, water and sanitation systems. I was most proud of the fact that American children from all walks of life contributed to America's Fund for Afghan Children. It was such a strong statement of children uniting to help people in need.

All Americans must recognize that the face of terror is not the true face of Islam. Islam is a faith that brings comfort to a billion people around the world. It's a faith that has made brothers and sisters of every race. It's a faith based upon love, not hate.

As we mourn tomorrow, we must remember that our enemy is a radical network of terrorists, not a religion; that governments which support them are enemies, not faithful Muslims who love their families, who yearn for a more peaceful and safe world for their children.

Tomorrow Americans of all faiths will come together in a spirit of unity and remembrance and resolve. I call on every American to uphold the values of America and remember why many have come here.

In our war against terror, we must never lose sight of the values that makes our country so strong: values of respect, tolerance, the value that we believe that everybody ought to worship the Almighty however they so chose. Mr. Ambassador, thank you for letting me come by on the eve of this important day for our country. I'm honored to be here at your embassy. May God bless you, may God bless Afghanistan, may God continue to bless America.

I'll answer a few questions.

QUESTION: With this increased threat level could you say what the level of concern is for Americans living in Pakistan, and what is your advice to them?

BUSH: Well, we take every threat seriously. The threats that we have heard recently remind us of the pattern of threats we heard prior to September the 11th. We have no specific threat to America, but we're taking everything seriously, obviously.

And so therefore we have gone to a different level of concern, different threat level, which means our government will be providing extra security at key facilities and that we'll be increasing surveillance.

We'll do everything we can to protect the American people.

And Americans need to go about their lives. They just need to know that their government, at the federal and state and local level, will be on an extra level of alert to protect us.

QUESTION: What do you think of French President Chirac's idea to give Hussein a three-week deadline to comply with weapons inspections?

BUSH: I think it's important that -- so you will pay attention to my speech on Thursday, that I reserve judgment about what may or may not be in my speech.

(APPLAUSE)

Even got applause. You finally got a question and applause.

(LAUGHTER)

I do -- I'll have something to say, obviously. And I look forward to speaking in that -- to that international body about how best we can work together to keep the peace, how best to make the world a more peaceful place.

And so, I hope you understand that I'll not reveal my speech ahead of time. I know that many are trying to find out what it is, but -- and that's your job. My job's not to answer you.

(LAUGHTER)

QUESTION: Sir, if you decide on a military solution to Saddam Hussein, have you resigned to go through the UN Security Council, or are you determined to go it alone?

BUSH: Thank you for asking me about what's going to be in my speech tomorrow.

(LAUGHTER)

Let me get to the UN and give what is an important speech for me. I'll make the case of how I think we ought to proceed and how we work together to keep the peace.

BUSH: I'm going to the United Nations to give this speech for a reason, because I believe this is an international problem, and that we must work together to deal with the problem. And I am also very mindful of my job as the American president to do everything we can to protect the American people.

And I'm deeply concerned about a leader who has ignored all -- ignored the United Nations for all these years, refused to conform to resolution after resolution after resolution, who has weapons of mass destruction.

And the battlefield has now shifted to America, so there's a different dynamic than we've ever faced before. And I take these threats seriously. The most thing I take most seriously is my job to protect innocent life here on the homeland. And I will respond to this threat starting Thursday. And I look forward to the chance to do so.

In the meantime, tomorrow is going to be a hard day for a lot of Americans. It's going to be a day of tears, and a day of prayer, a day of national resolve. This also needs to be a day in which we confirm the values which make us unique and great. And that's one of the reasons why I came here today, to be with friends, to ensure all Americans that we will embrace those values.

So thank you all for coming. God bless.

KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: President of United States addressing a number of issues after meeting with officials there at Afghanistan's embassy in Washington, D.C., touching on the state of Afghanistan since the war on terror began, also talking about remembering tomorrow, September 11, and the values of America and how this war on terror is keeping those values strong. Also addressed the threat level raised from elevated to high, and, of course, his speech to the UN that will take place Thursday, specifically folks wanting to know about that strategy against Iraq and a possible war against Iraq.

Our Kelly Wallace, standing by live at the White House, following the president, what he has been up to today and also words from the Afghan Embassy there.

Kelly, what is your take?

KELLY WALLACE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Kyra, two things to point out. number one, the reason the president wanted to go to the embassy of Afghanistan, it's a similar visit that he made a few days after the September 11 attacks, when he visited the Islamic Center in Washington, to get the message out that this war on terror is not a war against Islam, not a war against Muslims, that Arab-Americans, Muslim-Americans, united with other Americans in this war.

It's interesting the president not wanting to talk at all about his speech on Thursday. Senior officials, though, privately, are saying his message will be that Saddam Hussein is an outlaw regime, that he will outline the threat he believes that Saddam Hussein poses to the U.S., the international community, and he will call on the UN to act to enforce resolutions, to get weapons inspectors back inside the country. His message will be the UN must act. The implied suggestion there is if the international community does not act, the U.S. and others could then handle things on their own.

And then finally, Kyra, the president, the first question, talking about this increase in the threat level, we know. Our senior White House correspondent, John King, his sources saying the president was advised about this increased information during a meeting Monday by his CIA director, George Tenet, but the president wanted more information. And then he got that information and at a meeting this morning and then he accepted the recommendation of CIA Director Tenet and his other advisers to go ahead and increase this threat level, the president saying they are seeing a lot of what they saw last year before the September 11 attacks. He said there is no specific threat when it comes that targets in United States, but clearly a big concern for this administration about what could happen here and around in the world. And that is why that threat level is increased -- Kyra.

PHILLIPS: Kelly Wallace, at the White House, thanks so much, Kelly.

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