Bush: Clear Strategy Will Ensure Victory in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 30, 2005 A clear, comprehensive U.S. strategy is showing solid progress in Iraq and will ultimately defeat terrorists there and ensure a free Iraq that inspires democratic reformers throughout the Middle East, President Bush said today in Annapolis, Md.
Bush shared details of the "U.S. National Strategy for Victory in Iraq" today, emphasizing that the United States won't surrender Iraq to terrorists and won't abandon its mission there until it's finished.
Speaking to the brigade of midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, Bush assured the group he wants the same thing all Americans want: to see U.S. troops win and to see them come home as soon as possible. "And those are my goals as well," Bush said. "I will settle for nothing less than complete victory."
Victory against terrorism is critical around the globe, and "the enemy must be defeated on every battlefield," the president said.
But victory in Iraq is particularly important, he said. "The terrorists have made it clear that Iraq is the central front in their war against humanity," he said, "and so we must recognize Iraq as the central front in the war on terror."
A comprehensive national strategy that's helping assure victory in Iraq that has three major elements: political, economic and security, Bush told the group. An unclassified version of that strategy is posted on the White House Web site.
Politically, the United States is helping Iraqis build inclusive democratic institutions to protect all Iraqis, engage those who can be persuaded to join the new government, and marginalize those who never will, the president said.
Economically, he continued, the United States is helping the Iraqis restore infrastructure, reform their economy and build the economic framework that will give all Iraqis a stake in the free and peaceful Iraq.
On the security front, Iraqi and coalition forces are on the offensive against terrorists and those who harbor or support them, Bush said. They're clearing out areas controlled by terrorists, holding that territory using Iraqi forces, and following up with targeted reconstruction to help Iraqis rebuild their lives, he said.
At the same time, the coalition is helping the Iraqis build capable and effective security forces.
Bush cited solid progress in all three areas as more Iraqi security forces stand up and the country moves toward democracy, with national elections scheduled for Dec. 15.
"In just over two and a half years, the Iraqi people have made incredible progress on the road to lasting freedom," he said. "Iraqis have gone from living under the boot of a brutal tyrant to liberation, free elections and a democratic constitution - and in 15 days they will go to the polls to elect a fully constitutional government that will lead them for the next four years."
To critics who say the only U.S. plan in Iraq is to stay the current course, Bush offered a retort.
"If by 'stay the course' they mean we will not allow the terrorists to break our will, they're right,' he said. "If by 'stay the course' they mean we will not permit al Qaeda to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban - a safe haven for terrorism and a launching pad for attacks on America-they're right as well."
But if critics think "stay the course" means the United States isn't learning from its experience or adjusting tactics to meet the challenges on the ground, "then they're flat wrong," the president said.
"Our strategy in Iraq is clear," he said. "Our tactics are flexible and dynamic. We have changed then as conditions required, and they are bringing us victory against a brutal enemy."
Conditions on the ground, not calls for artificial deadlines, will dictate when that victory is achieved and when U.S troops can return home, Bush told the group.
"Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send the message across the world that America is weak and an unreliable ally," he said. "Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send the signal to our enemies that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon its friends.
"And setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would vindicate the terrorist tactics of beheadings and suicide bombings and mass murder, and invite new attacks on America," he said.