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`In Truth, It Is a Struggle for Civilization'

FIVE YEARS LATER | EXCERPTS FROM BUSH'S SPEECH

September 12, 2006

Five years ago, this date -- September the 11th -- was seared into America's memory. Nineteen men attacked us with a barbarity unequaled in our history. They murdered people of all colors, creeds, and nationalities -- and made war upon the entire free world. Since that day, America and her allies have taken the offensive in a war unlike any we have fought before. Today, we are safer, but we are not yet safe.

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The war against this enemy is more than a military conflict. It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century, and the calling of our generation. Our nation is being tested in a way that we have not been since the start of the Cold War.

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America did not ask for this war, and every American wishes it were over. So do I. But the war is not over -- and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious. If we do not defeat these enemies now, we will leave our children to face a Middle East overrun by terrorist states and radical dictators armed with nuclear weapons.

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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. They will not leave us alone. They will follow us. The safety of America depends on the outcome of the battle in the streets of Baghdad.

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Amid the violence, some question whether the people of the Middle East want their freedom, and whether the forces of moderation can prevail. For 60 years, these doubts guided our policies in the Middle East. And then, on a bright September morning, it became clear that the calm we saw in the Middle East was only a mirage. Years of pursuing stability to promote peace had left us with neither.

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The terrorists fear freedom as much as they do our firepower. They are thrown into panic at the sight of an old man pulling the election lever or girls enrolling in schools.... They know that given a choice, people will choose freedom over their extremist ideology.

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This struggle has been called a clash of civilizations. In truth, it is a struggle for civilization.

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From Kabul to Baghdad to Beirut, there are brave men and women risking their lives each day for the same freedoms that we enjoy. And they have one question for us: Do we have the confidence to do in the Middle East what our fathers and grandfathers accomplished in Europe and Asia? ... The extremists are fighting to prevent such a future. Yet America has confronted evil before, and we have defeated it -- sometimes at the cost of thousands of good men in a single battle.

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