Bush Says America Did 'Right Thing' in Iraq
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 5, 2004 "Knowing what I knew then, and knowing what I know today, America did the right thing in Iraq," President Bush told a crowd in Charleston, S.C., today.
Bush spoke at a homeland security event at the container port in Charleston. He said the liberation of Iraq was an act of justice. "The liberation of Iraq removed a source of violence and instability from the Middle East," he said. "And the liberation of Iraq removed an enemy of this country and made America more secure."
The president said Operation Iraqi Freedom has shown the world that America and its allies are serious about removing the threat of weapons of mass destruction.
He hinted at a panel to examine the prewar intelligence. "The facts are becoming clearer. The Iraqi Survey Group is on the ground looking for the truth," he said. "We will compare what the intelligence indicated before the war with what we have learned afterwards."
The president said the Iraq Survey Group has uncovered some of what Saddam Hussein was up to. Bush said the Iraqi dictator had the capability to make weapons. "We know he had the infrastructure to make weapons of mass destruction, because we found the labs and dual-use facilities that could be used to produce chemical and biological weapons," he said.
The survey group also found that the Iraqis were developing the delivery systems. They found ballistic missiles with ranges forbidden by United Nations. "He had the intent to arm them with weapons of mass destruction because he hid all the activities," the president said.
Finally, Bush said, Saddam had a record of using weapons of mass destruction. His troops used chemical weapons against Iran in the 1980-1988 war and against his own people the most notorious instance being the attack on Halabjah that killed thousands of Kurds.
"We had a choice: either take the word of a madman or take action to defend the American people," Bush said. "Faced with that choice, I will defend America every time."
The president also defended the policy of pre-emption in the speech. "We cannot wait to confront the threats of the world, the threats of terror networks and terror states until those threats arrive in our cities," he said. "I made a pledge to this country: I will not stand by and hope for the best while danger is gathering. I will not take risks with the lives and security of the American people. I will protect and defend this country by taking the fight to the enemy."
The president said that thousands of coalition troops are hunting for terrorists around the globe. He said coalition forces have killed or captured nearly two-thirds of the al Qaeda leadership, "and we're chasing the rest of them. There is no hole deep enough to hide from America."
American leadership is helping the world change for the better, Bush said. Other dictators have seen and noted U.S. resolve and will. "Colonel (Muammar) Qadhafi in Libya got the message, and is now voluntarily disclosing and eliminating his WMD programs," Bush said.
The president said terrorists continually underestimate the United States. By their attacks, he said, they attempt to intimidate the United States and test American resolve. "But they don't understand us," he said. "They don't understand the nature of the American people. We will never be intimidated by thugs and assassins."