President Announces New Focus in Post-Election Iraq
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2005 U.S. troops in Iraq will step up their efforts in training Iraqis to provide for their own country's security, President Bush announced here tonight in his State of the Union message.
The president hailed Iraq's successful Jan. 30 election, and said the new political situation calls for a new phase in U.S. military strategy.
"At the recommendation of our commanders on the ground, and in consultation with the Iraqi government, we will increasingly focus our efforts on helping prepare more capable Iraqi security forces -- forces with skilled officers, and an effective command structure," Bush said. "As those forces become more self- reliant and take on greater security responsibilities, America and its coalition partners will increasingly be in a supporting role. In the end, Iraqis must be able to defend their own country -- and we will help that proud, new nation secure its liberty."
Bush said Iraq's successful election shows the world the violence in Iraq is not aimed solely at foreign military forces. "The terrorists and insurgents are violently opposed to democracy, and will continue to attack it," he said. "Yet the terrorists' most powerful myth is being destroyed. The whole world is seeing that the car bombers and assassins are not only fighting coalition forces, they are trying to destroy the hopes of Iraqis, expressed in free elections. And the whole world now knows that a small group of extremists will not overturn the will of the Iraqi people."
The Iraqi people want freedom, Bush said, as evidenced by their willingness to vote despite a campaign of intimidation waged by terrorists. "Americans recognize that spirit of liberty, because we share it," he said. "In any nation, casting your vote is an act of civic responsibility. For millions of Iraqis, it was also an act of personal courage, and they have earned the respect of us all."
Much remains to be done in Iraq, Bush said, and decisions about when U.S. forces can return home must rest on their work being complete. A timetable for withdrawing U.S. and coalition forces would only result in terrorists waiting out the schedule, the president said.
"We are in Iraq to achieve a result: a country that is democratic, representative of all its people, at peace with its neighbors, and able to defend itself," he said. "And when that result is achieved, our men and women serving in Iraq will return home with the honor they have earned."
Bush praised the men and women serving in America's armed forces. "Right now, Americans in uniform are serving at posts across the world, often taking great risks on my orders," he said. "We have given them training and equipment, and they have given us an example of idealism and character that makes every American proud. The volunteers of our military are unrelenting in battle, unwavering in loyalty, unmatched in honor and decency, and every day they are making our nation more secure."
The president promised help for wounded servicemembers and vowed that the nation will remember those who have died. "Some of our servicemen and women have survived terrible injuries, and this grateful country will do everything we can to help them recover," he said. "And we have said farewell to some very good men and women, who died for our freedom, and whose memory this nation will honor forever."
In the audience were the parents of Marine Corps Sgt. Byron Norwood of Pflugerville, Texas, who was killed during the assault on Fallujah in November 2004. They received by far the strongest ovation during the president's 53- minute address when Bush quoted from a letter Mrs. Norwood wrote to him after her son's death. In it the sergeant was proud to be a Marine and to be serving on the front line in the war against terror.
"She wrote, 'When Byron was home the last time, I said that I wanted to protect him like I had since he was born,'" Bush said, quoting the letter. "He just hugged me and said, 'You've done your job, Mom. Now it's my turn to protect you.'" The president introduced Janet Norwood and the sergeant's father, Bill, saying the family represents "freedom's defenders and our military families."
Iraq is a vital front in the war on terror, which is why the terrorists have chosen to make a stand there, the president said.
"Our men and women in uniform are fighting terrorists in Iraq, so we do not have to face them here at home," he said. "And the victory of freedom in Iraq will strengthen a new ally in the war on terror, inspire democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran, bring more hope and progress to a troubled region, and thereby lift a terrible threat from the lives of our children and grandchildren."
Though military strategy is adapting to circumstances, the nation's commitment remains "firm and unchanging," Bush said.
"We are standing for the freedom of our Iraqi friends," he added, "and freedom in Iraq will make America safer for generations to come."