On this day in 2001, in the wake of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, President George W. Bush addresses the United Nations to ask for the international community’s help in combating terrorism around the world. He also pledged to take the fight against terrorism to any place where terrorists were harbored.
In his speech, Bush called the war on terror a case of “light overcoming darkness” and warned that civilization itself was being threatened by those who used terror to achieve their political aims. In a poignant moment, Bush pointed out that only a few miles from United Nations headquarters in New York City “many thousands still lie in a tomb of rubble,” referring to the site where the World Trade Center towers formerly stood. Bush cited the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan against al-Qaida and the Taliban regime that had sponsored them, begun a month earlier, as proof that the U.S. was fully prepared to attack other nations that harbored or financed terrorist groups. Bush went on to promise that the U.S. would stand by its commitment to peace in the Middle East by “working toward a day when two states, Israel and Palestine, live peacefully together within secure and recognized borders as called for” by the United Nations.
Bush concluded his speech by saying he expected the United Nations member states to live up to their global obligation to help root out terrorist cells. “The cost of inaction is far greater,” he said, and the attacks on September 11 proved that ”the only alternative is a nightmare world where every city is a potential killing field.” This speech was the first time Bush laid out a policy of pre-emptive action against regimes that sponsored terrorists. He followed up on his threat two years later by sending American troops to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, whom he accused of funding terrorist organizations and developing weapons of mass destruction, though no such weapons were ever found.