For Immediate Release
President Updates America on Operations Liberty Shield and Iraqi Freedom
Office of the Press Secretary
March 31, 2003
Remarks by the President at the Port of Philadelphia
2:50 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much for that warm welcome. It is
an honor to be here at one of our nation's busiest ports and one of our
country's greatest cities.
Philadelphia and its port shows the hardworking spirit of this
country. It speaks to our economic might. Most importantly,
Philadelphia talks about a proud history. After all, it was in this
place that we first declared our dedication to liberty. We still
believe that all men are created equal and have the right to be free.
And that is true for Americans, and that is true for men and women in
We know that liberty must be defended by every generation. Today
in the Middle East, and on other fronts in the war on terror, this
generation of Americans is fighting bravely in the cause of freedom.
And that includes the good people of the United States Coast Guard.
The men and women of our Coast Guard are showing once again that
you are "always ready." You're always ready to serve with courage and
excellence. You are always ready to place your country's safety above
your own. You shield your fellow Americans from the danger of this
world, and America is grateful.
It's my honor to be here with Tom Ridge, the first Secretary of the
Department of Homeland Security. People of Pennsylvania trained him
well. (Laughter.) He's doing a fabulous job and I appreciate his
I'm honored to be with the leadership of the United States Coast
Guard -- Admiral Tom Collins; Vice Admiral Jim Hull. Most
importantly, I'm glad to be with the men and women who proudly wear the
uniform of the United States Coast Guard. (Applause.)
I appreciate the members of the United States Congress who have
joined us here: Senator Arlen Specter -- thank you for coming,
Senator Spector. (Applause.) Members of Congress: Robert Brady and
Jim Gerlach, Jim Greenwood, Don Sherwood, and Joel Hoeffel. Thank you
all very much for being here. I appreciate you coming. (Applause.)
Members from the statehouse, state government, are here: Lt. Governor
Knoll, Attorney General Fisher with us today. Thank you both for
coming. (Applause.) And the Mayor came, Mayor Street. Thank you, I'm
honored you're here, Mr. Mayor. I appreciate you coming.
I also want to thank employees of the Bureau of Customs and Border
Protection for being here -- (applause) -- as well as my federal
employees, federal workers of the Bureau of Immigration and Customs.
I'm honored to have you here. I want to thank you for your dedication
and hard work for our government. (Applause.)
Today, I had the honor of meeting John Susanin. John is a
volunteer for the American Red Cross. He, like thousands of our fellow
citizens all across the country are willing to dedicate time to help in
this cause of making sure our homeland is secure. The Red Cross,
American Red Cross plays a vital role. And I want to thank John for
his service to our community.
There's a lot of room for opportunity for our fellow citizens,
people who want to do something for America. You can volunteer. You
can volunteer to help watch neighborhoods. You can volunteer to help
neighborhoods become better prepared. You can volunteer for the Red
Cross. You could love a neighbor just like you'd like to be loved
yourself. It's happening all across America.
And, John, thank you for coming. And I also want to thank Manny
Greenwald for being here, as well. Manny is a -- (applause) --
Manny is of the U.S. Coast Guard Auxiliary. I was briefed today by
Admiral Hull who told me there's auxiliarists all across the country
who are helping the Coast Guard achieve their vital mission. I want to
thank all the Mannys across America who are helping our Coast Guard do
its job. Manny's only 92 year's old -- (laughter) -- and he's
still working hard. (Applause.)
This is a time of great consequence for our country. Right now men
and women from every part of America, supported by a strong coalition,
are fighting to disarm a dangerous regime and to liberate an oppressed
It has been 11 days since the major ground war began. In this
short time, our troops have preformed brilliantly, with skill and with
bravery. They make us proud. (Applause.) In 11 days, coalition
forces have taken control of most of western and southern Iraq. In 11
days, we've seized key bridges, opened a northern front, achieved --
nearly achieved complete air superiority, and are delivering tons of
humanitarian aid. By quick and decisive action, our troops are
preventing Saddam Hussein from destroying the Iraqi people's oil
fields. Our forces moved into Iraqi missile launch areas that
threatened neighboring countries. Many dangers lie ahead, but day by
day, we are moving closer to Baghdad. Day by day, we are moving closer
to victory. (Applause.)
Our victory will mean the end of a tyrant who rules by fear and
torture. Our victory will remove a sponsor of terror, armed with
weapons of terror. Our victory will uphold the just demands of the
United Nations and the civilized world. And when victory comes, it
will be shared by the long-suffering people of Iraq, who deserve
freedom and dignity. (Applause.)
The dictator's regime has ruled by fear and continues to use fear
as a tool of domination to the end. Many Iraqis have been ordered to
fight or die by Saddam's death squads. Others are pressed into service
by threats against their children. Iraqi civilians attempting to flee
to liberated areas have been shot and shelled from behind by Saddam's
thugs. Schools and hospitals have been used to store military
equipment. They serve as bases for military operations. Iraqis who
show friendship toward coalition troops are murdered in cold blood by
the regime's enforcers.
The people of Iraq have lived in this nightmare world for more than
two decades. It is understandable that fear and distrust run deep.
Yet, here in the city where America itself gained freedom, I give this
pledge to the citizens of Iraq: We're coming with a mighty force to
end the reign of your oppressors. We are coming to bring you food and
medicine and a better life. And we are coming, and we will not stop,
we will not relent until your country is free. (Applause.)
In Operation Iraqi Freedom, our Coast Guard is playing a critical
role. We have sent many Coast Guard cutters and over a thousand of our
finest active duty and reserve members to the Persian Gulf and
surrounding waters. Coast Guard personnel are protecting key ports and
Iraqi oil platforms. They're detaining prisoners of war. Members of
the Coast Guard are performing their duties with bravery and
excellence, and America appreciates your fine service.
In this time of war, the Coast Guard's service in America's waters
is more important than ever. We still count on you to rescue fishermen
and others at sea. We still count on you to enforce maritime law and
to fight drug smuggling. Yet now, as the part -- as part of the
Department of Homeland Security, you have taken on a new and vital
mission, a mission as important as any in your 213-year history: the
mission of defending our country against terrorist attack. In the
finest traditions of the Coast Guard, you are rising to the challenge.
This is a vital task and a massive undertaking. More than 90
percent of our combat materials and our trade moves by sea. At this
port alone, thousands of cargo containers arrive every day. Your job
of protecting our nation's port is essential to our economic security
and to our national security.
The appropriations bill I signed into law earlier this year
increased Coast Guard funding to over $6 billion, the highest level
ever. We're directing new resources to pay for better intelligence
capabilities; new technologies to monitor and safeguard our ports; a
more modern fleet of Coast Guard cutters and aircraft; and up to 700
new smaller, faster response boats that will further protect America's
shorelines. By giving the Coast Guard new resources, we are supporting
the men and women who defend us all.
All Americans understand that we face a continuing threat of
terrorism. We know that our enemies are desperate; we know that
they're dangerous. The dying regime in Iraq may try to bring terror to
our shores. Other parts of the global terror network may view this as
a moment to strike, thinking that we're distracted. They're wrong.
We are meeting threats and acting to prevent dangers. The United
States and allied troops are shattering the al Qaeda network. We're
hunting them down, one at a time. We're finding them, we're
interrogating them, and we're bringing them to justice. (Applause.)
We will end the Iraqi regime, an ally of terrorist groups and a
producer of weapons of mass destruction. And here at home, we're
acting. Shortly before we begin the liberation of Iraq, we launched
Operation Liberty Shield, to implement additional measures to defend
the American homeland against terrorist attacks.
This nationwide effort is focused on five specific areas. First,
we are taking even greater security measures at our borders and ports.
We have relocated hundreds of security personnel on our borders. We've
added additional reconnaissance aircraft patrols at our borders. And
the Coast Guard is monitoring ports for suspicious activity. This
nation is determined. Friends and immigrants will always be welcome in
this land. Yet we will use all our power to keep out the terrorists
and the criminals so they can't hurt our citizens. (Applause.)
Second, we are strengthening protections throughout our national
transportation system. We're enforcing temporary flight restrictions
over some of our major cities. We've stepped up surveillance of
hazardous material shipments within our country and taken measures to
keep them away from places where large numbers of people gather. This
nation is determined. We will do all in our power to make sure our
skies and rails and roads are safe from terror.
Third, we've increased surveillance of suspected terrorists.
Certain individual with ties to Iraqi intelligence services have been
ordered out of this country. We're interviewing Iraqi-born individuals
on a voluntary basis for two reasons: to gain information on possible
terrorist plans, and to make sure they've not experienced
discrimination or hate crimes. This nation is determined. Iraqi
Americans will be protected, and enemy agents will be stopped.
Fourth, under Operation Liberty Shield, we are guarding our
nation's most important infrastructure with greater vigilance. Under
the direction of our governors, thousands of National Guardsmen and
state police officers are protecting chemical facilities and nuclear
power sites, key electrical grids and other potential targets. This
country is determined. We will keep up our guard and do all we can to
protect our fellow citizens.
And, finally, we're strengthening the preparedness of our public
health system. The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human
Services have increased field inspections of livestock and crops.
Public health officials have increased medical surveillance in major
cities. This nation is determined. We will stand watch against the
dangers of the new era.
After our nation was attacked on September the 11th, 2001, America
made a decision: We will not wait for our enemies to strike before we
act against them. We're not going to permit terrorists and terror
states to plot and plan and grow in strength while we do nothing.
The actions we're taking in Operation Liberty Shield are making
this nation more secure. And the actions we're taking abroad against a
terror network and against the regime in Iraq are removing a grave
danger to all free nations. In every case, by acting today, we are
saving countless lives in the future.
America has many advantages in this war on terror. We have
resolute citizens. We're vigilant, and know that freedom must be
defended. We have a just cause to guide us. And we have the strength
and character of the men and women who serve our country.
You in the Coast Guard take rightful pride in the uniform you wear
and the mission you have accepted. You, and all who serve in our
military, are ready for any challenge. And by your skill, and by your
courage, we will prevail.
May God bless you, and may God bless America. (Applause.)
END 3:07 P.M. EST