Bush, Australian PM Reaffirm Commitment to War on Terror
By Sgt. 1st Class Doug Sample, USA
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 19, 2005 President Bush today met with Australia Prime Minister John Howard, a man he called an "old friend" and whose country has become an important U.S. ally in the war on terror.
"Australia and the United States share a commitment to freedom," the president said. "We understand we compete against an ideology of hatred, an ideology that murders the innocent in order to achieve objectives.
"We know we must be steadfast and strong when it comes to bringing to justice those who would kill innocent life, like those who got killed in New York City and Washington, D.C., and Bali, and London, and other places around the world," he continued.
However, Bush said, "to defeat an ideology, you've got to have a better ideology -- and we do, one based upon human rights and human dignity, minority rights and freedom."
Commenting outside the East Room of the White House just before lunch today, Bush thanked the Australian government for helping with democratic movements in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
He said the two leaders had "good talks" about the way forward in Iraq.
"I assured him that our position is one that says as the Iraqis stand up, America stands down," the president said. "In other words, we're going to help Iraqis to defend themselves and at the same time promote a political process that will lead to a constitution, the validation of the constitution, and permanent elections."
They also discussed the situation in Afghanistan and how important it is for that country to show the world what is possible when it comes to democratic institutions and freedom, Bush said.
Howard said he shared the U.S. commitment to fight terrorism throughout the world.
"Australia and the United States have never been closer than they are at present time, but the reason that we are so close is that we are engaged together in quite a struggle against some forces and elements of evil around the world that threaten not only the people of our countries, but also, the people of other nations," he said.
Howard said that terrorists "indiscriminately murder, irrespective of their race, their nationality, their religion, their political party or their political belief."
He noted that the recent suicide bombings in London killed people of different races, ethnicities, attitudes and beliefs.
Responding to a reporter's question on how much longer U.S. and Australian troops will remain in Iraq, the president responded, "I can tell you about the American troops, and that is that they'll be there as long as necessary to complete the mission."
Howard, who acknowledged his country's contribution in Iraq is smaller than the weight placed on the U.S and Great Britain, said he feels "very deeply for the American people, the burden they are carrying."
He added that Australian troops "will stay the distance in Iraq."
"We won't go until the job has been finished. Now, you've heard me say that before. That's been my view for a long time, and it will remain my view," he said.
The president also stood by earlier statements that he would not put a timetable on bringing U.S. troops home. "We're at war," the president said. "And during a war, you do the best you can to win the war. And one way to embolden an enemy is to give them an artificial timetable."
He said Americans "want to know when the troops are coming home."
He responded that it would be "as quickly as possible, but we've got to complete the mission."
Borrowing a phrase he picked up from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld during a Pentagon briefing the day before, the prime minister took the president's response a step further, saying Australia's commitment in Iraq will be "governed by circumstances rather than by the calendar."
Howard said he believes progress is being made in Iraq, but added the rash of suicide bombings and the publicity given to terrorists have become a "detriment to the progress that is being made at a political level."
The president also said the two discussed relationships with China and North Korea. Bush said the U.S. is committed to solving the North Korean nuclear issue in a diplomatic way and that both countries are pleased that the six-party talks have renewed.
"We're sincere about working with China and South Korea and Japan and Russia to bring some common sense to the leader of North Korea," Bush said.