U.S. President George W. Bush addressed the nation Monday night, calling for national unity in the war on terror and defending his decision to go to war in Iraq.
In a prime time speech from the Oval Office to mark the fifth 9/11 anniversary, Bush said the war on terror is "the calling of our generation" and urged Americans to put aside differences.
He said despite its lack of weapons of mass destruction, Saddam's regime was a clear threat that posed "a risk the world could not afford to take."
Bush also warned Osama bin Laden, the alleged mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, that "no matter how long it takes, America will find you, and we will bring you to justice."
While saying his country was involuntarily dragged into this bloody battle and every American hopes it will be over as soon as possible, the president plainly put: "the war is not over -- and it will not be over until either we or the extremists emerge victorious."
Bush said the war on terror was nothing less than "a struggle for civilization" and must be fought to the end.
He noted that the war is more than a military conflict. Rather, "It is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century and the calling of our generation."
Bush acknowledged the fact that former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein was not linked to the 9/11 attacks and didn't possess weapons of mass destruction as his administration portrayed earlier.
Nevertheless, Saddam was "a clear threat" and "a risk the world could not afford to take," he argued.
The president reaffirmed his rejection of an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.
"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," he said. "They won't leave us alone. They will follow us."
The address marked the climax of nearly 24 hours of Bush's personal participation in the memorial activities for this year's 9/11 anniversary.
Beginning Sunday through daytime Monday, the president visited all the three crash sites of the 9/11 attacks -- "Ground Zero" in New York, Shanksville of Pennsylvania, and the Pentagon headquarters. He paid tribute to the nearly 3,000 victims killed in the worst terror attacks throughout U.S. history.
In the 9/11 anniversary of 2002, Bush also toured each attack site, embracing family members of the victims and speaking at the Pentagon and New York's Ellis Island.
Since then, he had kept a lower profile on the anniversary.
As this year's anniversary falls less than two months before the midterm elections, Bush's tours of the attack sites are seen as a political move to remind Americans that his party is stronger in the issue of national security.