America on Operations Liberty Shield and Iraqi Freedom
Port of Philadelphia
March 31, 2003
2:50 P.M. EST
Thank you very much for that warm welcome. It is an honor to be here at one
of our nation's busiest ports and one of our country's greatest cities.
Philadelphia and its port shows the hardworking spirit of this country.
It speaks to our economic might. Most importantly, Philadelphia talks about
a proud history. After all, it was in this place that we first declared our
dedication to liberty. We still believe that all men are created equal and
have the right to be free. And that is true for Americans, and that is true
for men and women in Iraq. (Applause.)
We know that liberty must be defended by every generation. Today in the
Middle East, and on other fronts in the war on terror, this generation of
Americans is fighting bravely in the cause of freedom. And that includes
the good people of the United States Coast Guard. (Applause.)
The men and women of our Coast Guard are showing once again that you are "always
ready." You're always ready to serve with courage and excellence.
You are always ready to place your country's safety above your own. You
shield your fellow Americans from the danger of this world, and America
It's my honor to be here with Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of the Department
of Homeland Security. People of Pennsylvania trained him well. (Laughter.)
He's doing a fabulous job and I appreciate his service. (Applause.)
I'm honored to be with the leadership of the United States Coast Guard
-- Admiral Tom Collins; Vice Admiral Jim Hull. Most importantly, I'm glad
to be with the men and women who proudly wear the uniform of the United States
Coast Guard. (Applause.)
I appreciate the members of the United States Congress who have joined us
here: Senator Arlen Specter -- thank you for coming, Senator Spector. (Applause.)
Members of Congress: Robert Brady and Jim Gerlach, Jim Greenwood, Don Sherwood,
and Joel Hoeffel. Thank you all very much for being here. I appreciate you
coming. (Applause.) Members from the statehouse, state government, are here:
Lt. Governor Knoll, Attorney General Fisher with us today. Thank you both
for coming. (Applause.) And the Mayor came, Mayor Street. Thank you, I'm
honored you're here, Mr. Mayor. I appreciate you coming. (Applause.)
I also want to thank employees of the Bureau of Customs and Border Protection
for being here -- (applause) -- as well as my federal employees, federal
workers of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs. I'm honored to have you
here. I want to thank you for your dedication and hard work for our government.
Today, I had the honor of meeting John Susanin. John is a volunteer for
the American Red Cross. He, like thousands of our fellow citizens all across
the country are willing to dedicate time to help in this cause of making
sure our homeland is secure. The Red Cross, American Red Cross plays a vital
role. And I want to thank John for his service to our community.
There's a lot of room for opportunity for our fellow citizens, people who
want to do something for America. You can volunteer. You can volunteer to
help watch neighborhoods. You can volunteer to help neighborhoods become
better prepared. You can volunteer for the Red Cross. You could love a neighbor
just like you'd like to be loved yourself. It's happening all across America.
And, John, thank you for coming. And I also want to thank Manny Greenwald
for being here, as well. Manny is a -- (applause) -- Manny is of the U.S.
Coast Guard Auxiliary. I was briefed today by Admiral Hull who told me there's
auxiliarists all across the country who are helping the Coast Guard achieve
their vital mission. I want to thank all the Mannys across America who are
helping our Coast Guard do its job. Manny's only 92 year's old -- (laughter)
-- and he's still working hard. (Applause.)
This is a time of great consequence for our country. Right now men and women
from every part of America, supported by a strong coalition, are fighting
to disarm a dangerous regime and to liberate an oppressed people.
It has been 11 days since the major ground war began. In this short time,
our troops have preformed brilliantly, with skill and with bravery. They
make us proud. (Applause.) In 11 days, coalition forces have taken control
of most of western and southern Iraq. In 11 days, we've seized key bridges,
opened a northern front, achieved -- nearly achieved complete air superiority,
and are delivering tons of humanitarian aid. By quick and decisive action,
our troops are preventing Saddam Hussein from destroying the Iraqi people's
oil fields. Our forces moved into Iraqi missile launch areas that threatened
neighboring countries. Many dangers lie ahead, but day by day, we are moving
closer to Baghdad. Day by day, we are moving closer to victory. (Applause.)
Our victory will mean the end of a tyrant who rules by fear and torture.
Our victory will remove a sponsor of terror, armed with weapons of terror.
Our victory will uphold the just demands of the United Nations and the civilized
world. And when victory comes, it will be shared by the long-suffering people
of Iraq, who deserve freedom and dignity. (Applause.)
The dictator's regime has ruled by fear and continues to use fear as a tool
of domination to the end. Many Iraqis have been ordered to fight or die by
Saddam's death squads. Others are pressed into service by threats against
their children. Iraqi civilians attempting to flee to liberated areas have
been shot and shelled from behind by Saddam's thugs. Schools and hospitals
have been used to store military equipment. They serve as bases for military
operations. Iraqis who show friendship toward coalition troops are murdered
in cold blood by the regime's enforcers.
The people of Iraq have lived in this nightmare world for more than two
decades. It is understandable that fear and distrust run deep. Yet, here
in the city where America itself gained freedom, I give this pledge to the
citizens of Iraq: We're coming with a mighty force to end the reign of your
oppressors. We are coming to bring you food and medicine and a better life.
And we are coming, and we will not stop, we will not relent until your country
is free. (Applause.)
In Operation Iraqi Freedom, our Coast Guard is playing a critical role.
We have sent many Coast Guard cutters and over a thousand of our finest active
duty and reserve members to the Persian Gulf and surrounding waters. Coast
Guard personnel are protecting key ports and Iraqi oil platforms. They're
detaining prisoners of war. Members of the Coast Guard are performing their
duties with bravery and excellence, and America appreciates your fine service.
In this time of war, the Coast Guard's service in America's waters is more
important than ever. We still count on you to rescue fishermen and others
at sea. We still count on you to enforce maritime law and to fight drug smuggling.
Yet now, as the part -- as part of the Department of Homeland Security, you
have taken on a new and vital mission, a mission as important as any in your
213-year history: the mission of defending our country against terrorist
attack. In the finest traditions of the Coast Guard, you are rising to the
This is a vital task and a massive undertaking. More than 90 percent of
our combat materials and our trade moves by sea. At this port alone, thousands
of cargo containers arrive every day. Your job of protecting our nation's
port is essential to our economic security and to our national security.
The appropriations bill I signed into law earlier this year increased Coast
Guard funding to over $6 billion, the highest level ever. We're directing
new resources to pay for better intelligence capabilities; new technologies
to monitor and safeguard our ports; a more modern fleet of Coast Guard cutters
and aircraft; and up to 700 new smaller, faster response boats that will
further protect America's shorelines. By giving the Coast Guard new resources,
we are supporting the men and women who defend us all.
All Americans understand that we face a continuing threat of terrorism.
We know that our enemies are desperate; we know that they're dangerous. The
dying regime in Iraq may try to bring terror to our shores. Other parts of
the global terror network may view this as a moment to strike, thinking that
we're distracted. They're wrong.
We are meeting threats and acting to prevent dangers. The United States
and allied troops are shattering the al Qaeda network. We're hunting them
down, one at a time. We're finding them, we're interrogating them, and we're
bringing them to justice. (Applause.)
We will end the Iraqi regime, an ally of terrorist groups and a producer
of weapons of mass destruction. And here at home, we're acting. Shortly before
we begin the liberation of Iraq, we launched Operation Liberty Shield, to
implement additional measures to defend the American homeland against terrorist
This nationwide effort is focused on five specific areas. First, we are
taking even greater security measures at our borders and ports. We have relocated
hundreds of security personnel on our borders. We've added additional reconnaissance
aircraft patrols at our borders. And the Coast Guard is monitoring ports
for suspicious activity. This nation is determined. Friends and immigrants
will always be welcome in this land. Yet we will use all our power to keep
out the terrorists and the criminals so they can't hurt our citizens. (Applause.)
Second, we are strengthening protections throughout our national transportation
system. We're enforcing temporary flight restrictions over some of our major
cities. We've stepped up surveillance of hazardous material shipments within
our country and taken measures to keep them away from places where large
numbers of people gather. This nation is determined. We will do all in our
power to make sure our skies and rails and roads are safe from terror.
Third, we've increased surveillance of suspected terrorists. Certain individual
with ties to Iraqi intelligence services have been ordered out of this country.
We're interviewing Iraqi-born individuals on a voluntary basis for two reasons:
to gain information on possible terrorist plans, and to make sure they've
not experienced discrimination or hate crimes. This nation is determined.
Iraqi Americans will be protected, and enemy agents will be stopped. (Applause.)
Fourth, under Operation Liberty Shield, we are guarding our nation's most
important infrastructure with greater vigilance. Under the direction of our
governors, thousands of National Guardsmen and state police officers are
protecting chemical facilities and nuclear power sites, key electrical grids
and other potential targets. This country is determined. We will keep up
our guard and do all we can to protect our fellow citizens.
And, finally, we're strengthening the preparedness of our public health
system. The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services have
increased field inspections of livestock and crops. Public health officials
have increased medical surveillance in major cities. This nation is determined.
We will stand watch against the dangers of the new era.
After our nation was attacked on September the 11th, 2001, America made
a decision: We will not wait for our enemies to strike before we act against
them. We're not going to permit terrorists and terror states to plot and
plan and grow in strength while we do nothing.
The actions we're taking in Operation Liberty Shield are making this nation
more secure. And the actions we're taking abroad against a terror network
and against the regime in Iraq are removing a grave danger to all free nations.
In every case, by acting today, we are saving countless lives in the future.
America has many advantages in this war on terror. We have resolute citizens.
We're vigilant, and know that freedom must be defended. We have a just cause
to guide us. And we have the strength and character of the men and women
who serve our country.
You in the Coast Guard take rightful pride in the uniform you wear and the
mission you have accepted. You, and all who serve in our military, are ready
for any challenge. And by your skill, and by your courage, we will prevail.
May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)