Defeating Terrorists in Iraq Critical to U.S. Security, Bush Says
By Steven Donald Smith
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, July 7, 2006 Iraq is the central front in the war against terrorism, so it is imperative that the United States and its allies achieve full victory there, President Bush said in Chicago today.
"It's hard work, because we face an enemy that will kill innocent people in order to achieve an objective, and their objective is to drive us out of Iraq so they can have safe haven from which to launch attacks against modern Muslim nations, so they can spread their ideology of hate," Bush said during a news conference at the Museum of Science and Industry.
The best way to defeat terrorism is to go on offense, he said. "We'll keep the pressure on them; we'll bring them to justice before they hurt our people," he said.
Bush said a successful outcome in Iraq is important to both U.S. interests and the well-being of the Iraqi people.
"Success in Iraq is vital for the security of the United States, and success in Iraq is vital for long-term peace," he said. "The Iraqi people want to live in freedom."
Ensuring freedom at home and abroad comes at a high price, Bush said, and he pointed to the sacrifice made by many U.S. troops as an example of the cost. The president highlighted the sacrifice of Chicago native Marine Cpl Ryan Cummings, who served two tours in Iraq and volunteered for a third before being killed last month in Anbar province.
"I have confidence in the capacity of liberty to transform hostile regions to peaceful regions," Bush said. "And I confidence in our capacity to win the war on terror because people like Ryan Cummings are willing to step up and serve this nation."
The president said he has confidence in Iraq's new democratic government, including the country's prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
"He's a guy who set goals, and we follow through on those goals," Bush said. "He understands what needs to be done in order to succeed, and he represents the will of 12 million who went to the polls. It's a pretty interesting sign that the Iraqi people want to live in freedom."
Bush said the United States must stay in Iraq until the job is done, and said he would not give a timetable for U.S. troop withdrawal. He said military commanders in Iraq, such as Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., commander of Multinational Force Iraq, would have to make that decision.
Artificial timetables for withdrawal will make victory in Iraq more difficult and send the wrong message, Bush added.
"You can't win a war if you have an artificial timetable for withdrawal," he said. "An artificial timetable of withdrawal sends the wrong message to the Iraqis. And getting out before we finish the job would send a terrible message to the troops who sacrificed."
He said a premature withdrawal would also prove the terrorists are right in their assumption that the United States does not live up to its promises.
"Al Qaeda has said, 'It's just a matter of time before America withdraws. They're weak. They're corrupt. They can't stand it, and they'll withdraw.' And all that will do is confirm what the enemy thinks," Bush said.
The president also emphasized that there are numerous good things going on in Iraq that don't make the evening news in the United States.
"Increasing electricity in Baghdad is not the kind of thing that tends to get on the news, or small business formation, ... new schools or new hospitals," he said. "That's something I have to deal with in order to make it clear to the American people that the sacrifice of those families is worth it. We are winning."