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President Bush Defends Decision to Send Additional Troops to Iraq

In an extensive NewsHour interview, President Bush discusses the recent execution of Saddam Hussein, his reasons behind sending more troops to Iraq, faltering public support for the war and how he defines "success" for the military operation.

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  • JIM LEHRER:

    Mr. President, welcome.

  • PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH:

    Thank you, sir.

  • MR. LEHRER:

    How do you feel about the way the Iraqi government handled the hangings of Saddam Hussein, and now more recently, two of his top aides?

  • PRESIDENT BUSH:

    You know, I was pleased with the trials they got; I was disappointed and felt like they fumbled the – particularly the Saddam Hussein – execution. It reinforced doubts in people's minds that the Maliki government and the unity government of Iraq is a serious government, and – which makes it harder for me to make the case to the American people that this is a government that does want to unify the country and move forward. The Saddam execution, however, was an important moment in some ways because it closed a terrible chapter and gives the unity government a chance to move forward. In other words, there's people that were around Iraq saying, well, I think he may come back. And that obviously is not going to happen. But I expressed my disappointment to Prime Minister Maliki when I talked to him the other day.

  • MR. LEHRER:

    Message not a good one about the government?

  • PRESIDENT BUSH:

    Well, the message is that it's a confusing message. It basically says to people, look, you conducted a trial and gave Saddam justice that he didn't give to others. But then, when it came to execute him, it looked like it was kind of a revenge killing. And it sent a mixed signal to the American people and the people around the world. And it just goes to show that this is a government that has still got some maturation to do.

  • MR. LEHRER:

    Today, the United Nations issued a report that said 34,000 Iraqi civilians have died in sectarian violence in the last year. What's the message of that, Mr. President?

  • PRESIDENT BUSH:

    Message is we better help this government stop the sectarian violence. I hear all kinds of different numbers, but the fact is that too many have died as the result of Shias killing Sunnis, Sunnis killing Shias and that I have made the decision that it is best to try to help this government stop this sectarian violence. Because otherwise, the violence – in my judgment, and I think in the judgment of others – if we don't help them stop it, it's going to get a lot worse, believe it or not. In other words, that if the United States does not step up to help the Iraqis secure Baghdad in particular, in other words, if we don't crack this now, that there is – the violence will spiral out of control. And if that were to happen, it will embolden Iran; it will provide safe haven for Sunni killers; I mean, it would just really create a very dangerous situation for the American people in the longer run.

  • MR. LEHRER:

    Just today, another 35 people were killed in bombings; 80 over the weekend.

  • PRESIDENT BUSH:

    Yeah, there is a difference between – look, death is terrible – but remember, some of these bombings are done by al-Qaida and their affiliates, all trying to create doubt and concern and create these death squads or encourage these death squads to roam neighborhoods. And it's going to be hard to make Baghdad zero – to make it bomb-proof. We do believe it's possible to help the Iraqis, working side by side with the Iraqis to secure some of these neighborhoods, which this government must do. It must provide for the security of its people.

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