WASHINGTON (AP) – Five years after the worst attack on U.S. soil, President Bush said yesterday 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.”
The nation is split over the war in Iraq and Bush’s handling of it, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), accused Bush of playing politics.