President Says Major Battles in Iraq Over, Rebuilding Remains
The president told some 2,000 sailors and airmen aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln some 100 miles off the American coast, ”In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country,”
“In this battle, we have fought for the cause of liberty, and for the peace of the world. Our nation and our coalition are proud of this accomplishment.”
Mr. Bush stressed that the military campaign had achieved a key part of the ongoing war against Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaida and other terrorist organizations.
“The battle of Iraq is one victory in a war on terror that began on September 11th, 2001, and still goes on,” the president said. “The liberation of Iraq is a crucial advance in the campaign against terror. We have removed an ally of al-Qaida, and cut off a source of terrorist funding. And this much is certain: No terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from the Iraqi regime, because that regime is no more.”
Mr. Bush also warned that other nations and organizations should bear witness to the military actions against the Taliban government in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq.
“Any person, organization, or government that supports, protects, or harbors terrorists is complicit in the murder of the innocent, and equally guilty of terrorist crimes,” President Bush told the nation. “Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups, and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction, is a grave danger to the civilized world, and will be confronted.”
In addition to highlighting the achievements of the six-week war, the speech stressed the work still ahead.
“We have difficult work to do in Iraq. We are bringing order to parts of that country that remain dangerous. We are pursuing and finding leaders of the old regime, who will be held to account for their crimes,” the president said. “We have begun the search for hidden chemical and biological weapons, and already know of hundreds of sites that will be investigated.”
He also praised the work and sacrifice of the soldiers who served and the more than 100 who died during the combat in Iraq.
“Every name, every life, is a loss to our military, to our nation, and to loved ones who grieve. There is no homecoming for these families,” the president said. “Those we lost were last seen on duty. Their final act on this earth was to fight a great evil, and bring liberty to others.”
The president arrived by jet on the Abraham Lincoln earlier in the day Thursday. The aircraft carrier is set to arrive Friday in San Diego, Calif. from a 10-month deployment, the longest combat mission for an aircraft carrier since the Vietnam War.
Mr. Bush, a former member of the Texas Air National Guard, reportedly piloted the plane for a third of the trip before the pilot brought the S-3B Viking jet, dubbed Navy One for the occasion, in for a cable-assisted landing on the flight deck.