The only way to bring U.S. servicemembers home from Afghanistan and Iraq is victory, Bush told Veterans of Foreign Wars members at their convention.
“We must not rest until that war is won,” Bush declared.
Bush saluted the VFW members for their past service in uniform and for their volunteerism today. The organization, he said, donates about 13 million hours of vital services to communities nationwide each year. The men and women of the VFW display “the best of the American spirit,” Bush said.
“America honors your service in and out of uniform,” he added.
U.S. military operations over the years have killed or captured hundreds of terrorists across the globe, Bush said, noting that U.S. special operations forces have been beefed up as part of the mission to defeat overseas-based terrorists. The success of the surge of forces in Iraq has greatly diminished al-Qaida terrorist activities there and helped to tilt the field toward victory for U.S., coalition and Iraqi security forces, he added.
“We’re keeping the pressure on the enemy, and as we’ve done so, we’ve defended this homeland,” Bush told the veterans.
In Afghanistan, U.S., coalition and Afghan forces removed a dangerous regime that plotted the Sept. 11 attacks, and today, Afghanistan has become an ally in the war on terror, Bush said.
But that war cannot be won if terrorism is treated solely as a law-enforcement concern, he added. All components of national power must be harnessed to defeat the terrorists, he said.
In conjunction with U.S. and coalition military operations, U.S. intelligence and law enforcement officials continue to work with allies to stop potential al-Qaida attacks on the homeland, Bush said.
Turning to care for the nation’s wounded warriors, Bush said the U.S. government has committed more than $5.5 billion to modernize and expand Department of Veterans Affairs care facilities nationwide. The United States has a duty to provide for injured warriors returning home from service in the war, the president said, noting hundreds of millions of dollars have been invested to develop new medical treatments for war-related traumatic brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. The federal budget totals almost $94 billion for Veterans Affairs, Bush said, noting it’s nearly double the amount of funding that department had seven years ago.
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on America, Bush said, the United States has improved support for returning war veterans, modernized the military and reorganized the intelligence community to make it more efficient.
“We owe these fine professionals our thanks,” Bush said. “And, we owe them something more: the tools necessary to be able to do their job.”
Bush cited the post-9/11 establishment of the Department of Homeland Security and the creation of a new National Counterterrorism Intelligence Center that help safeguard the nation against terrorist attacks. He also pointed to legislation such as the Patriot Act, which he said makes it easier to detect and detain U.S.-bound terrorists.
“We have used all these tools to stop new attacks,” Bush said, “and I am pleased to report to the American people that these tools will be available for future administrations, to protect the American people for years to come.”
The United States and its allies will triumph over terrorism, because democratic countries offer a positive vision that’s the exact opposite of the terrorists’ hateful, dark ideology, he said. The difference between democracy and the tyranny practiced by terrorists is based on freedom, he added.