Bush: U.S. Has Disrupted 10 Al Qaeda Plots
By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, October 6, 2005; 5:27 PM
President Bush said today the United States and its allies have disrupted at least 10 serious plots by the al Qaeda network in the past four years, as he sought to rally the nation against international terrorists and warned foreign governments against supporting them.
In what the White House billed as a major speech, Bush told the National Endowment for Democracy in Washington that of the "10 serious al Qaeda terrorist plots" that he said have been disrupted since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, three involved "al Qaeda plots to attack inside the United States."
He added, "We've stopped at least five more al Qaeda efforts to case targets in the United States or infiltrate operatives into our country."
Bush did not elaborate.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan later identified two of the three schemes to carry out attacks in the United States as previously alleged plots involving Jose Padilla, a Puerto Rican convert to Islam who was suspected of planning to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb," and Iyman Faris, a naturalized U.S. citizen and truck driver from Ohio who was allegedly recruited to destroy New York's Brooklyn Bridge, blow up airliners on the ground and derail passenger trains. Both men were arrested after being identified by captured al Qaeda commanders, and neither plot got beyond a reconnaissance stage.
McClellan said other plots Bush referred to are "still classified."
In his speech, Bush outlined what he said was a broad strategy by Muslim terrorists to dominate much of the world.
"The militants believe that controlling one country will rally the Muslim masses, enabling them to overthrow all moderate governments in the region, and establish a radical Islamic empire that spans from Spain to Indonesia," he said. "With greater economic and military and political power, the terrorists would be able to advance their stated agenda: to develop weapons of mass destruction, to destroy Israel, to intimidate Europe, to assault the American people, and to blackmail our government into isolation."
Because of "steady progress" in the war on terrorism, "the enemy is wounded," Bush said. "But the enemy is still capable of global operations. Our commitment is clear: We will not relent until the organized, international terror networks are exposed and broken and their leaders held to account for their acts of murder."
With public support for the U.S. war effort in Iraq flagging and insurgent violence there continuing, Bush used the speech to renew his commitment to "complete victory" in the war on terrorism and to argue that America's enemies can never be placated.
He charged that Islamic radicals have been sheltered by "allies of convenience like Syria and Iran," which he said "share the goal of hurting America and moderate Muslim governments and use terrorist propaganda to blame their own failures on the West and America and on the Jews."
Bush also denounced "corrupted charities" that he said finance terrorist activity, as well as "elements of the Arab news media that incite hatred and anti-Semitism," feed conspiracy theories and accuse the United States of waging war on Islam.
In Congress, the speech came in for some tough criticism from Democrats.
"The president still does not understand that his failed Iraq policy is making America weaker and our enemies stronger," Sen. Russell D. Feingold (D-Wis.) said in a statement. "The administration's strategy in Iraq is providing terrorists around the world with a recruiting pitch, international networking opportunities, unity with Iraqi nationalists and on-the-job training in urban combat."
Bush's open-ended commitment in Iraq "threatens to break the U.S. Army and hurt the economy," Feingold said.
"Such a policy keeps America bogged down in Iraq rather than engaged in what should be a global campaign against terrorism." Feingold has called for setting a target date of Dec. 31, 2006, for completing the U.S. mission in Iraq and bringing American troops home.
Sen. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) complained that Bush did not set out a strategy for drawing down the 140,000 U.S. troops now stationed in Iraq.
Responding to statements by terrorist leaders, notably Osama bin Laden and Jordanian Abu Musab Zarqawi, Bush described them in his speech as cowardly elitists who are not only fighting America, but are also "the enemies of Islam and the enemies of humanity."
In an effort to bolster his case among Muslims that terrorism is against their religion, Bush quoted a verse from the Koran and a recent statement by a Muslim religious leader in the United Arab Emirates.
As he has in previous speeches, the president drew no distinction between the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism, portraying both as part of a global struggle against an enemy that is "as brutal" as any America has ever faced and "is never tired, never sated, never content with yesterday's brutality."
Bush took aim in his speech against the charge that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq "has somehow caused or triggered the rage of radicals." He said U.S. forces were not in Iraq on Sept. 11, 2001, "and al Qaeda attacked us anyway."
"The hatred of the radicals existed before Iraq was an issue, and it will exist after Iraq is no longer an excuse," he said. ". . . Over the years, these extremists have used a litany of excuses for violence: Israeli presence on the West Bank or the U.S. military presence in Saudi Arabia or the defeat of the Taliban or the crusades of a thousand years ago."
Bush said, "In fact, we're not facing a set of grievances that can be soothed and addressed. We're facing a radical ideology with unalterable objectives: to enslave whole nations and intimidate the world. No act of ours invited the rage of the killers, and no concession, bribe or act of appeasement would change or limit their plans for murder."
There is, Bush said, "only one effective response" to America's terrorist enemies: "We will never back down, never give in and never accept anything less than complete victory."
Warning against a "self-defeating pessimism" among some critics of the war in Iraq, Bush said it was a "dangerous illusion" to think the United States could cut its losses and leave Iraq now.
"Wars are not won without sacrifice, and this war will require more sacrifice, more time and more resolve," he said.
Bush likened the fight against radical Islamic terrorism to "the struggle against communism in the last century."
Like communist ideology, for example, "Islamic radicalism is elitist, led by a self-appointed vanguard that presumes to speak for the Muslim masses," he said. Yet, most of the victims of the latest terrorist violence have been "fellow Muslims," he said.
Bush said bin Laden, a Saudi "who grew up in wealth and privilege," assures followers that becoming suicide bombers "is the road to paradise, though he never offers to go along for the ride."
He quoted Zarqawi, the leader of an al Qaeda-allied group in Iraq, as calling Americans "the most cowardly of God's creatures."
Bush retorted, "But let's be clear: It is cowardice that seeks to kill children and the elderly with car bombs and cuts the throat of a bound captive and targets worshipers leaving a mosque. It is courage that liberated more than 50 million people. It is courage that keeps an untiring vigil against the enemies of a rising democracy. And it is courage and the cause of freedom that once again will destroy the enemies of freedom."
As part of U.S. strategy, Bush said, "we're determined to deny radical groups the support and sanctuary of outlaw regimes." He charged that "state sponsors" of terrorism such as Syria and Iran "have a long history of collaboration with terrorists, and they deserve no patience from the victims of terror."
Bush added, "The United States makes no distinction between those who commit acts of terror and those who support and harbor them, because they're equally as guilty of murder. Any government that chooses to be an ally of terror has also chosen to be an enemy of civilization. And the civilized world must hold those regimes to account."
He did not call for any particular action against Syria or Iran by the international community or announce any new U.S. initiative to deny extremists safe haven in either country.