President Bush Urges Americans to Have Patience in Iraq
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JIM LEHRER: The day after his surprise Baghdad visit, President Bush went to the
White House Rose Garden for an hour of questions from the press. Here are
excerpts from that morning news conference.
GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United
States: It’s in our interests that Iraq succeed; more importantly,
it’s in the interest of the Iraqi people.
The challenges that remain are serious, and they will
require more sacrifice and patience. And our efforts are well worth it. By
helping this new government succeed, we’ll be closer to completing our mission.
And the mission is to develop a country that can govern itself, sustain itself,
and defend itself, and a country that is an ally in the war on terror.
We’ll seize this moment of opportunity to help the prime
minister. We’ll defeat our common enemies. We’ll help build a lasting democracy
in the heart of the Middle East, and that’ll
make Americans and Iraqis and the world more secure. I’ll now take your
JOURNALIST: You said yesterday that a standard of no
violence in Iraq
is an impossible standard to meet. But do you believe that there needs to be a
reduction in violence for U.S.
troops to begin to drawdown? And, if so, how much?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Yes, I’d say that if people say, “Well,
there’s got to be no violence in order for this to be a successful
experience,” then it’s not going to happen. All that does is give the
power of, you know, a handful of murderers to determine success.
Obviously, we’d like violence to go down, and that’s what, you
know, the operation in Baghdad is intending to do, starting in the capital, is
to reduce violence.
And the reason why it’s important for violence to be
reduced, obviously, is, one, save lives; but, two, give confidence to the Iraqi
people that their government will be able to sustain itself, and govern itself,
and meet the needs of the people.
Now, this is a tough struggle, and the reason why is because
the rules of warfare, as you — you know, as we used to know them are out the
window. I mean, there’s no rules of warfare. It’s just, if you can kill
innocent life in order to shake somebody’s will or create consternation in
society, you just go ahead and do it.
And so it’s a tough task, no question about it, but I’m
confident that this government will succeed in meeting that task.
Opinions from abroad
JOURNALIST: You expressed serious concern when you learned aboutthe Guantanamosuicides, and you and your aides immediately called allies. I'm wondering, howconcerned are you about the U.S.image abroad? And, also, why shouldn't Guantanamobe closed now?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I'd like to close Guantanamo, but I also recognize that we'reholding some people that are darned dangerous and that we'd better have a planto deal with them in our courts.
And the best way to handle, in my judgment, handle thesetypes of people is through our military courts. And that's why we're waiting onthe Supreme Court to make a decision.
Of course, sometimes we get criticized for sending somepeople out of Guantanamoback to their home country because of the nature of the home country. It's alittle bit of a Catch-22, but we're working through this.
No question, Guantanamo sends, you know, a signal to some ofour friends -- provides an excuse, for example, to say, "The United Statesis not upholding the values that they're trying encourage other countries toadhere to."
JOURNALIST: Mr. President, you made a public point recentlyof soliciting outside advice about the way forward in Iraq andretooling your strategy. I wonder what idea from a critic or somebody outsideyour administration that you concluded should be part of the strategy goingforward?
GEORGE W. BUSH: It's important for people to share theiradvice with this administration. This is an important business, and it's noteasy. It's a complex task to help a society go from tyranny to freedom.
But the American people have got to understand, I believewe're going to succeed. That's why we're there. And my message to the Iraqisis: We're going to help you succeed.
My message to the enemy is: Don't count on us leaving beforewe succeed.
My message to our troops is: We support you 100 percent. Keepdoing what you're doing.
And my message to the critics is, is that we listen verycarefully and adjust when needed to adjust.
JOURNALIST: Mr. President, when you ran for office for thefirst time, you said you would hold the White House to a higher ethicalstandard. Even if Karl Rove did nothing illegal, I wonder whether you can saynow whether you approve of his conduct in the CIA leak episode? And do youbelieve he owes Scott McClellan or anyone else an apology for misleading them?
GEORGE W. BUSH: I appreciate the job that the prosecutordid. I thought he conducted himself well in this investigation. He took a verythorough, long look at allegations and rumors.
And I, obviously, along with others in the White House, tooka sigh of relief when he made the decision he made, and now we're going to moveforward. And I trust Karl Rove, and he's an integral part of my team.
There's an ongoing trial here. And I know the temptation is-- not the temptation -- you'll keep asking questions during the course of thetrial. I'm not going to comment beyond that. Thank you.
Turning the tide
JOURNALIST: I'm wondering, though, if there are ever momentsof doubt about your decisions and strategy in Iraq? Do you ever have a momentwhere you feel this just won't end well, that, no matter how many Zarqawis arekilled, the insurgents are just never going to give up?
GEORGE W. BUSH: Hmm. Well, one of the reasons I went to Iraqwas to be able to sit down with an Iraqi government to determine whether or notthey have the will to succeed.
Success in Iraqdepends upon the Iraqis. If the Iraqis don't have the will to succeed, they'renot going to succeed. We can have all the will we want. You know, I can haveall the confidence in the ability for us to, you know, bring people to justice,but if they choose not to make the hard decisions and to implement a plan,they're not going to make it.
And so, one of the things I went to Iraq to do was to, asbest as I possibly can, expel any doubt in my mind as to whether or not we havea partner that is going to do the hard work.
But I also understand the stakes of this war, OK? Iunderstand how important it is to defeat the enemy. Now, I recognize some inthe country don't feel that same sense of urgency I do.
But al-Qaida's real; their philosophy is a real philosophy;they have ambitions. Their stated goal is to drive us out of Iraq before agovernment can defend itself, and govern itself, and sustain itself, so theycan have safe haven from which to launch further attacks.
And my most important job is to protect the American peoplefrom harm. And I understand the stakes of this war, and I understand thisbattlefront in Iraq.
JOURNALIST: Thank you, Mr. President. Could you characterizethe worry you heard from Iraqi leaders about U.S. troop levels that you firstmentioned on the flight home from Iraq?
And, here in the Rose Garden a week ago, you said Zarqawi'sdeath is an opportunity for Iraq's new government to turn the tide in thisstruggle. After your visit, do you truly believe that the tide is turning inIraq?
GEORGE W. BUSH: No question there are concerns about whetheror not the United States will stand with this government, and I can understandwhy. And so I made it very clear to the Iraqis, and I'm going to make it clearto them again right here, that we'll stay with them and help them succeed.
And, you know, I know there's a lot of discussion abouttroop levels. Those troops levels will be decided upon by General Casey. Hewill make the recommendations in consultation with an Iraqi government.
But whatever decision General Casey makes, the message isgoing to be: We stand with you. In other words, if you're more capable, itrequires less troops, but, nevertheless, we're still with you.
I sense something different happening in Iraq. The progresswill be steady toward a goal that has clearly been defined. And I don't -- inother words, I hope there's not an expectation from people that all of a suddenthere's going to be zero violence. In other words, that's just not going to bethe case.
On the other hand, I do think we'll be able to measureprogress: You can measure progress in capacity of Iraqi units; you can measureprogress in megawatts of electricity delivered; you can measure progress interms of oil sold on the market on behalf of the Iraqi people.
There are ways to determine whether or not this government'splans are succeeding. But I know there's a tangible difference between thegovernment that's now in place and previous governments, and the reason why isbecause this is a government that's formed under elections and a constitution.
And it's a unity government. And so people have a sense of-- you know, they're pulling for their government to succeed. And the reasonwhy is, by far, the vast majority of Iraqis want a normal life.
They want their children to be able to go out in the streetand play. They want there to be a good education system. You know, they want tobe able to have their business -- you know, storefront business flourishwithout fear of bombing. That's what they want, and so they're pulling for thisgovernment to succeed.
And it's a government that they elected. It's not agovernment that we appointed; it's a government that they elected. They have avital stake in the future of this government, and so there is a noticeablechange.
Sending out a message
JOURNALIST: A majority of the people still say that the warwas a mistake. Do you think that the people have turned off on Iraq,or do you think they're still winnable back to consider that it was worth it?
GEORGE W. BUSH: The American people have got to understandthat Iraqis a part of the war on terror. And I know there is an international jihadistmovement that desires to do us harm, and they have territorial ambitions. Thereason I know that is that's what they've told us.
And part of their territorial ambition is to have safe havenin Iraq;that's what they've said; that's what the enemy has clearly said.
And it seems like, to me, that the commander in chief oughtto listen to what the enemy says. And they believe capitalist and democraticsocieties are soft and it's a matter of time before we pull out.
And that's why one message that I will continue to send tothe enemy is: Don't count on us leaving before the mission is complete. Don'tbet on it. Don't bet on American politics forcing my hand, because it's notgoing to happen.
I'm going to make decisions, not based upon politics, butwhat's based upon what's best for the United States of America. Iunderstand, you know, leadership. Leadership requires determination. You've gotto be determined to do something in order to be able to lead, particularly indifficult circumstances.
You've got to have will. You've got to have desire tosucceed, and you've got to have a plan. And that's what I found in Iraq.
It's really important that the Iraqi people have no doubt intheir mind that we will help this government succeed; it's important for themto understand that.
And I know there's going to be different voices, and thereshould be different voice out of America. That's why we're great. That's whatmakes us interesting and great. People can say whatever they want to say asthey try to attract votes.
But my voice, what you hear from me, no matter what thesepolls and all the business look like, is that it's worth it, it is necessary,and we will succeed.
Thank you all very much.