President Bush says Iraq must disarm, and dealing with the Iraqi threat is an urgent task for the United States and its allies. Mr. Bush is focusing on possible future battles as he leads Americans in observing the Veteran's Day Holiday.
President Bush went before a group of veterans at the White House men with gray hair wearing the uniforms of their youth. He praised their service in past wars, and spoke of the challenges now facing America at the start of a new century.
The president stressed the need to continue the war on terrorism, and counter the threat posed by Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. "This is an urgent task for America and the world. Because the events of September 11 clearly demonstrate that a threat that gathers on the other side of the earth, can bring suffering to the American homeland," Mr. Bush said.
He said the danger from Iraq is clear, and emphasized that Baghdad must give up its weapons of mass destruction. He said the United States and the U.N. Security Council are determined to see that Iraq does not produce or possess chemical, biological or nuclear weapons.
"Iraq pledged to disarm more than a decade ago. It has been a decade of systematic deception, unmet obligations, and unpunished violations. Those games are now over," he said.
The president said that if Saddam Hussein continues to defy international calls to disarm, the United States will lead a coalition to disarm him. He said Iraq's desire to develop and use weapons of mass destruction is obvious and must be confronted before Baghdad strikes out at others.
"The time to confront this threat is before it arrives, not the day after. I have no greater responsibility than protecting the American people. And should military action become necessary for our own security I will commit the full force and might of the American military, and we will prevail," Mr. Bush said.
Mr. Bush said the United States is not fighting the Iraqi people. He said they deserve a better life under a new regime in a nation at peace. The president looked out at the rows of old soldiers gathered at the White House reception, and spoke of their role as liberators in past wars. He said the goal in Iraq is the same.
"We have no territorial ambitions. We do not seek an empire. Our nation is committed to freedom for ourselves and others," the president said.
The president began his Veteran's Day Holiday with a rain-soaked visit to the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. His schedule also includes a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery, where generations of American war dead and veterans are buried.