WASHINGTON — One year after ordering military strikes against Iraq, President Bush marked the anniversary Friday by urging resolve in the war against terrorism and saying it is "the duty of every government to fight and destroy this threat to our people."
Bush said terrorists have killed innocent people around the world, most recently last week in Madrid where bombings claimed the lives of more than 200 people.
He said there is "no neutral ground in the fight between civilization and terror."
"There can be no separate peace with the terrorist enemy," Bush said. "Any sign of weakness or retreat simply validates terrorist violence and invites more violence for all nations."
Bush's speech in the East Room of the White House concluded a weeklong effort to boost support for the war on terrorism at a time when cracks are forming in the U.S.-led alliance that toppled Saddam Hussein. Ambassadors and diplomats from 84 countries joined members of the military and others in the audience.
Since the start of hostilities last year 569 U.S. troops have been killed in Iraq, according to Defense Department figures. Iraq is a major issue in the presidential race, and polls show that Americans are sharply divided over Bush's policy.
Bush acknowledged that the U.S.-led war had caused bitter divisions among allies. France and Germany led the opposition to Bush's call for the use of military force and stayed on the sidelines.
"Those differences belong to the past," Bush said.
He said the fall of Saddam Hussein had removed a source of violence, aggression and instability in the Middle East and that no one could argue that Iraq would be better off with him still in power.
With Saddam out of power, Bush said, "We mark a turning point for the Middle East and a crucial advance for human liberty."
Bush said history will note that this is a time of great challenge. "Let it also be said of our times that we understood our great duties and met them in full."
The audience listened in silence to his remarks but applauded at the end.
The speech was a call for unity in the war against terrorism. He said terrorists have struck from around the world, from Spain to Russia to Israel to East Africa to Morocco to the Philippines and the United States.
"No nation or region is exempt from the terrorists' campaign of violence," Bush said.
He said each attack was a test of wills for free nations.
"Each attack is designed to demoralize our people and divide us from one another," Bush said, "and each attack must be answered not only with sorrow but with greater determination, deeper resolve and bolder action against the killers."
"It is the interest of every country and the duty of every government to fight and destroy this threat to our people," the president said.
"There is no neutral ground — no neutral ground — in the fight between civilization and terror, because there is no neutral ground between good and evil, freedom and slavery, and life and death," Bush said.
"The war on terror is not a figure of speech," he said. "It is an inescapable calling of our generation."