August 29, 2014
Speaking at Point Mugu Naval Base, near the Reagan Ranch where he is vacationing, President Ronald Reagan addressed the nation on the beheading of James Foley and the threats from the Islamic State (also known as ISIS).
This was also the site of his address to the nation after the Soviet Union shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 with an American congressman aboard.
Text of Reagan Address
My fellow Americans:
We have all been saddened and outraged by the vicious videotape of Islamic State terrorists beheading an American journalist. Our hearts go out to James Foley's family.
However, anger and sympathy are not solutions.
We, the American people, must come together in a righteous determination to defend freedom and civilization from barbarism, savagery, and terrorism.
We must calmly, methodically, and with the same grim determination we brought to winning World War II, implement strategies that eliminate the growing worldwide threat of radical Islamists prepared to kill us as individuals and our values as a civilization.
Some will suggest this exaggerates the threat from the Islamic State. Let me remind them of some hard facts.
There are now an estimated 12,000 terrorists from over 50 countries in the Islamic State-controlled parts of Iraq and Syria. Britain estimates that more than 500 British citizens have joined the Islamic State. Our government estimates that more than 100 Americans are now engaged in enemy activities.
When we remember the death and destruction 19 terrorists achieved on 9/11, we have to take very seriously the threat from more than 12,000 terrorists.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, has warned that the Islamic State "has an apocalyptic, end-of-days strategic vision that will eventually have to be defeated."
He has expanded on the danger, saying their vision of a fundamentalist caliphate could "fundamentally alter the face of the Middle East and create a security environment that would certainly threaten us in many ways."
Furthermore, General Dempsey has warned that the Islamic State cannot be defeated only in Iraq. He asserted: "Can they be defeated without addressing that part of the organization that resides in Syria?
The answer is no."
In fact, the very existence of terrorists from over 50 countries means we must be thinking in terms of a global campaign to eradicate the virus of Islamic extremism and the spirit of terrorism and barbarism that it is fostering. This is fully as grave a threat to our survival as was Nazism or Communism. With appropriate strategies and consistent policies executed energetically, we can defeat and eliminate the Islamic State and its various allied factions.
The Islamic State and its worldwide terrorist allies have become the focus of evil in the modern world.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel warned that we must take the Islamic State seriously when he reported "they are tremendously well-funded. This is beyond anything we have seen." He went on to assert that "they marry ideology and a sophistication of strategic and tactical military prowess."
That is the scale of the opponent we must defeat.
Yet defeating terrorists and blackmailers is nothing new in American history.
In the very first years of the new American Republic, in May 1791, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson sent Thomas Barclay, American consul to Morocco, a letter of instructions for a new treaty with Morocco, stating that it is "lastly our determination to prefer war in all cases to tribute under any form, and to any people whatever."
Jefferson hated war and loved peace. He also understood that there were times when vicious opponents give peace-loving people no choice but to engage in a just war. As president he sent the Navy and the Marine Corps to the shores of Tripoli to reject blackmail, defeat piracy, and establish that even a young America could project power in defense of principle and its citizens.
We were saddened but not surprised by the barbaric video of the killing of James Foley. Back in January we noted that the Islamic State leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, gave a speech in which he warned America: "Soon we'll be in direct confrontation, so watch out for us, for we are with you, watching." Islamic State spokesmen have promised to raise their black flag over the White House.
Because I take very seriously the security of the United States and believe that my highest obligation as president is to protect America, I responded to this direct challenge with a series of quiet steps.
We moved intelligence assets and began monitoring potential Islamic State targets throughout Iraq and Syria.
We began re-establishing ties with both the Sunni tribes in Western Iraq and the Kurdish allies with whom America has worked for decades.
We created an anti-ISIS intelligence network working with Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia.
We informed the weak, chaotic government in Baghdad that defeating the Islamic State is a higher priority than Iraqi political maneuvering, and we reserved the right to arm, train, and coordinate with any effective group prepared to help defeat the Islamic State.
We moved strategic assets including B-1 and B-2 bombers into position to be prepared to respond decisively to any ISIS outrage.
In response to the deliberately vicious killing of James Foley, we began hitting Islamic State targets in both Syria and Iraq. In the last hour over 200 targets have been hit.
The air campaign in coordination with Kurdish and Sunni Arab ground forces will continue until the Islamic State disintegrates and is incapable of holding territory.
The 12,000 terrorists from over 50 countries should understand as of this date that they can surrender or we will hunt them down. Terrorists who videotape beheadings operate outside the rule of law and in the tradition of eliminating piracy they will be dealt with as outlaws.
We will coordinate with Britain, Egypt, Jordan, and every willing partner to develop a strategy and a set of operating principles for the destruction of extremist terrorism.
When Congress returns I will work directly with its leaders in a bipartisan effort to establish rules for protecting America and defeating this growing cancer of barbarism.
With the bipartisan help of Congress and our allies we will pursue our campaign to destroy the Islamic State with the four principles I outlined immediately after the bombing in Beirut: We will have a clear plan to win. We will develop overwhelming forces among the combined civilized world.
We will report to you regularly and work every day to keep the support of the American people for the campaign to destroy terrorism. We will define clearly who the enemy is and they will have no sanctuaries.
In confronting an evil that seeks to kill us and destroy our civilization, our goal must be complete and decisive victory.
The Foley family needs your prayers in this difficult time.
America and the forces of freedom need your prayers in this daunting campaign.
Together, civilization will prevail and barbarism will return to the dustbin of history.
Thank you and good night.