THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. This week, an apparent terrorist attack claimed the lives of brave American sailors off the coast of Yemen, and new violence erupted between Israelis and Palestinians in the Middle East.
Our sailors aboard the U.S.S. Cole were simply doing their duty, but a dangerous duty: standing guard for peace. Yesterday, I spoke to the Captain of the Cole, Commander Kirk Lippold. On behalf of all Americans, I expressed our deepest sympathies and commended him and his crew for the great job they're doing at this very difficult time.
To our sailors' families, let me say we hold you in our prayers. We will never know your loved ones as you did, or remember them as you will, but we join you in grief. For your loss is America's loss, and we bow our heads to God in gratitude for the lives and service of your loved ones.
In their honor, I have ordered that flags be flown at half staff in the United States, our territories, our embassies, military bases and naval vessels until sunset on Monday. As we see the flag this weekend, we should think of the families and the sacrifice they have made for America.
This tragic loss should remind us all that even when America is not at war, the men and women of our military risk their lives every day in places where comforts are few and dangers are many. No one should think for a moment that the strength of our military is less important in times of peace -- because the strength of our military is a major reason we are at peace. History will record our triumphs on the battlefield, but no one can ever write a full account of the wars never fought, the losses never suffered, the tears never shed because the men and women of our military were risking their lives for peace. We should never, ever forget that.
Our military power is not all people see when ships of the United States enter a foreign port. When U.S. sailors head down the brow of the ship, or our troops set foot on foreign soil, our hosts see in the uniform of the United States men and women of every race, creed and color who trace their ancestry to every region on earth, yet are bound together by a common commitment to freedom and a common pride in being Americans.
That image of unity amidst diversity must confound the minds of the hate-filled cowards who killed our sailors. They can take innocent life, they can cause tears and anguish -- but they can never heal or build harmony or bring people together. That is work only free, law-abiding people can do.
And that is why we will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to find those who killed our sailors and hold them accountable. And why we will never let the enemies of freedom and peace stop America from seeking peace, fighting terrorism and promoting freedom. For only by defending our people, our interests and our values will we redeem the lives of our sailors and ruin the schemes of their killers.
That includes, of course, our efforts to promote peace in the Middle East. The conflict between Israelis and Palestinians is one of the greatest tragedies of our time and one of the very hardest problems to solve. Every step forward has been marked with pain.
Each time the forces of reconciliation have reached out, the forces of destruction have lashed out. The violence we've seen there demonstrates beyond a shadow of a doubt that the alternative to peace is unacceptable, and that no one will gain from an endless contest of inflicting and absorbing pain.
Ending the violence and getting people of the Middle East back to dialogue will be hard after what has happened. But no matter how difficult that task may be, no matter how terrible the images of this week's violence, the effort must continue with America's strong support. We must do so because we have a profound national interest in peace in the Middle East and a very special bond to the state of Israel. As in all the world's troubled places, our efforts do not guarantee success. But not to try is to guarantee failure.
So today I ask your prayers for our men and women in uniform, for the families of our fallen sailors and for all those here and everywhere who hope and work for a world at peace.
Thanks for listening.
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