Placeholder Image

Subtitles section Play video

  • The President: Good evening.

  • On Wednesday, 14 Americans were killed as they came

  • together to celebrate the holidays.

  • They were taken from family and friends

  • who loved them deeply.

  • They were white and black; Latino and Asian;

  • immigrants and American-born;

  • moms and dads; daughters and sons.

  • Each of them served their fellow citizens and all of

  • them were part of our American family.

  • Tonight, I want to talk with you about this tragedy,

  • the broader threat of terrorism,

  • and how we can keep our country safe.

  • The FBI is still gathering the facts about what

  • happened in San Bernardino, but here is what we know.

  • The victims were brutally murdered and injured by one

  • of their coworkers and his wife.

  • So far, we have no evidence that the killers were

  • directed by a terrorist organization overseas,

  • or that they were part of a broader conspiracy here at home.

  • But it is clear that the two of them had gone down the

  • dark path of radicalization, embracing a perverted

  • interpretation of Islam that calls for war

  • against America and the West.

  • They had stockpiled assault weapons, ammunition,

  • and pipe bombs.

  • So this was an act of terrorism,

  • designed to kill innocent people.

  • Our nation has been at war with terrorists since al

  • Qaeda killed nearly 3,000 Americans on 9/11.

  • In the process, we've hardened our defenses --

  • from airports to financial centers,

  • to other critical infrastructure.

  • Intelligence and law enforcement agencies have

  • disrupted countless plots here and overseas,

  • and worked around the clock to keep us safe.

  • Our military and counterterrorism

  • professionals have relentlessly pursued

  • terrorist networks overseas -- disrupting safe havens in

  • several different countries, killing Osama bin Laden,

  • and decimating al Qaeda's leadership.

  • Over the last few years, however,

  • the terrorist threat has evolved into a new phase.

  • As we've become better at preventing complex,

  • multifaceted attacks like 9/11,

  • terrorists turned to less complicated acts of violence

  • like the mass shootings that are all too common

  • in our society.

  • It is this type of attack that we saw at Fort Hood in

  • 2009; in Chattanooga earlier this year;

  • and now in San Bernardino.

  • And as groups like ISIL grew stronger amidst the chaos of

  • war in Iraq and then Syria, and as the Internet erases

  • the distance between countries,

  • we see growing efforts by terrorists to poison the

  • minds of people like the Boston Marathon bombers and

  • the San Bernardino killers.

  • For seven years, I've confronted this evolving

  • threat each morning in my intelligence briefing.

  • And since the day I took this office,

  • I've authorized U.S. forces

  • to take out terrorists abroad precisely

  • because I know how real the danger is.

  • As Commander-in-Chief, I have no greater

  • responsibility than the security of the American people.

  • As a father to two young daughters who are the most

  • precious part of my life, I know that we see ourselves

  • with friends and coworkers at a holiday party like the

  • one in San Bernardino.

  • I know we see our kids in the faces of the young

  • people killed in Paris.

  • And I know that after so much war,

  • many Americans are asking whether we are confronted by

  • a cancer that has no immediate cure.

  • Well, here's what I want you to know: The threat from

  • terrorism is real, but we will overcome it.

  • We will destroy ISIL and any other organization

  • that tries to harm us.

  • Our success won't depend on tough talk,

  • or abandoning our values, or giving into fear.

  • That's what groups like ISIL are hoping for.

  • Instead, we will prevail by being strong and smart,

  • resilient and relentless, and by drawing upon every

  • aspect of American power.

  • Here's how.

  • First, our military will continue to hunt down

  • terrorist plotters in any country

  • where it is necessary.

  • In Iraq and Syria, airstrikes are taking out

  • ISIL leaders, heavy weapons, oil tankers, infrastructure.

  • And since the attacks in Paris,

  • our closest allies -- including France, Germany,

  • and the United Kingdom -- have ramped up their

  • contributions to our military campaign,

  • which will help us accelerate our effort

  • to destroy ISIL.

  • Second, we will continue to provide training and

  • equipment to tens of thousands of Iraqi and

  • Syrian forces fighting ISIL on the ground so that we

  • take away their safe havens.

  • In both countries, we're deploying Special Operations

  • Forces who can accelerate that offensive.

  • We've stepped up this effort since the attacks in Paris,

  • and we'll continue to invest more in approaches that are

  • working on the ground.

  • Third, we're working with friends and allies to stop

  • ISIL's operations -- to disrupt plots,

  • cut off their financing, and prevent them from recruiting

  • more fighters.

  • Since the attacks in Paris, we've surged

  • intelligence-sharing with our European allies.

  • We're working with Turkey to seal its border with Syria.

  • And we are cooperating with Muslim-majority countries --

  • and with our Muslim communities here at home --

  • to counter the vicious ideology that ISIL

  • promotes online.

  • Fourth, with American leadership,

  • the international community has begun to establish a

  • process -- and timeline -- to pursue ceasefires and a

  • political resolution to the Syrian war.

  • Doing so will allow the Syrian people and every

  • country, including our allies,

  • but also countries like Russia,

  • to focus on the common goal of destroying ISIL -- a

  • group that threatens us all.

  • This is our strategy to destroy ISIL.

  • It is designed and supported by our military commanders

  • and counterterrorism experts,

  • together with 65 countries that have joined an

  • American-led coalition.

  • And we constantly examine our strategy to determine

  • when additional steps are needed to get the job done.

  • That's why I've ordered the Departments of State and

  • Homeland Security to review the visa *Waiver program

  • under which the female terrorist in San Bernardino

  • originally came to this country.

  • And that's why I will urge high-tech and law

  • enforcement leaders to make it harder for terrorists to

  • use technology to escape from justice.

  • Now, here at home, we have to work together to address

  • the challenge.

  • There are several steps that Congress should

  • take right away.

  • To begin with, Congress should act to make sure no

  • one on a no-fly list is able to buy a gun.

  • What could possibly be the argument for allowing a

  • terrorist suspect to buy a semi-automatic weapon?

  • This is a matter of national security.

  • We also need to make it harder for people to buy

  • powerful assault weapons like the ones that were used

  • in San Bernardino.

  • I know there are some who reject

  • any gun safety measures.

  • But the fact is that our intelligence and law

  • enforcement agencies -- no matter how effective they

  • are -- cannot identify every would-be mass shooter,

  • whether that individual is motivated by ISIL or some

  • other hateful ideology.

  • What we can do -- and must do -- is make it harder

  • for them to kill.

  • Next, we should put in place stronger screening for those

  • who come to America without a visa so that we can take a

  • hard look at whether they've traveled to warzones.

  • And we're working with members of both parties in

  • Congress to do exactly that.

  • Finally, if Congress believes, as I do,

  • that we are at war with ISIL,

  • it should go ahead and vote to authorize the continued

  • use of military force against these terrorists.

  • For over a year, I have ordered our military to take

  • thousands of airstrikes against ISIL targets.

  • I think it's time for Congress to vote to

  • demonstrate that the American people are united,

  • and committed, to this fight.

  • My fellow Americans, these are the steps that we can

  • take together to defeat the terrorist threat.

  • Let me now say a word about what we should not do.

  • We should not be drawn once more into a long and costly

  • ground war in Iraq or Syria.

  • That's what groups like ISIL want.

  • They know they can't defeat us on the battlefield.

  • ISIL fighters were part of the insurgency that we faced

  • in Iraq.

  • But they also know that if we occupy foreign lands,

  • they can maintain insurgencies for years,

  • killing thousands of our troops,

  • draining our resources, and using our presence to draw

  • new recruits.

  • The strategy that we are using now -- airstrikes,

  • Special Forces, and working with local forces who are

  • fighting to regain control of their own country -- that

  • is how we'll achieve a more sustainable victory.

  • And it won't require us sending a new generation of

  • Americans overseas to fight and die for another decade

  • on foreign soil.

  • Here's what else we cannot do.

  • We cannot turn against one another by letting this

  • fight be defined as a war between America and Islam.

  • That, too, is what groups like ISIL want.

  • ISIL does not speak for Islam.

  • They are thugs and killers, part of a cult of death,

  • and they account for a tiny fraction of more than a

  • billion Muslims around the world -- including millions

  • of patriotic Muslim Americans who reject

  • their hateful ideology.

  • Moreover, the vast majority of terrorist victims around

  • the world are Muslim.

  • If we're to succeed in defeating terrorism we must

  • enlist Muslim communities as some of our strongest

  • allies, rather than push them away through suspicion

  • and hate.

  • That does not mean denying the fact that an extremist

  • ideology has spread within some Muslim communities.

  • This is a real problem that Muslims must confront,

  • without excuse.

  • Muslim leaders here and around the globe have to

  • continue working with us to decisively and unequivocally

  • reject the hateful ideology that groups like ISIL and al

  • Qaeda promote; to speak out against not just acts of

  • violence, but also those interpretations of Islam

  • that are incompatible with the values of religious

  • tolerance, mutual respect, and human dignity.

  • But just as it is the responsibility of Muslims

  • around the world to root out misguided ideas that lead to

  • radicalization, it is the responsibility of all

  • Americans -- of every faith -- to reject discrimination.

  • It is our responsibility to reject religious tests on

  • who we admit into this country.

  • It's our responsibility to reject proposals that Muslim

  • Americans should somehow be treated differently.

  • Because when we travel down that road, we lose.

  • That kind of divisiveness, that betrayal of our values

  • plays into the hands of groups like ISIL.

  • Muslim Americans are our friends and our neighbors,

  • our co-workers, our sports heroes -- and, yes,

  • they are our men and women in uniform who are willing

  • to die in defense of our country.

  • We have to remember that.

  • My fellow Americans, I am confident we will succeed in

  • this mission because we are on the right side

  • of history.

  • We were founded upon a belief in human dignity --

  • that no matter who you are, or where you come from,

  • or what you look like, or what religion you practice,

  • you are equal in the eyes of God and equal in the eyes

  • of the law.

  • Even in this political season,

  • even as we properly debate what steps I and future

  • Presidents must take to keep our country safe,

  • let's make sure we never forget

  • what makes us exceptional.

  • Let's not forget that freedom is more powerful

  • than fear; that we have always met challenges --

  • whether war or depression, natural disasters or

  • terrorist attacks -- by coming together around our

  • common ideals as one nation, as one people.

  • So long as we stay true to that tradition,