Bush Defends Iraq War for Short-Term Protection, Long-Term Peace
By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Apr. 6, 2006 Protection of America in the near term and trying to lay a foundation for peace in the long term make the war in Iraq worthwhile, President Bush told a Charlotte, N.C., audience today.
Speaking at Central Piedmont Community College in a town-meeting format, the president said he believes future generations will be grateful for the world that will result from victory in the global war on terror.
"I believe that one day an American president will be talking about the world in which he is making decisions, or she is making decisions, and they'll look back and say, 'Thank goodness a generation of Americans understood the universality of liberty and the fact that freedom can change troubled parts of the world into peaceful parts of the world,'" Bush said.
"Is it worth it in Iraq? You bet it is," he continued. "It's worth it to protect ourselves in the short run, but it's necessary and worth it to lay the foundation of peace for generations to come."
Bush acknowledged that sectarian violence is a problem in Iraq, but noted that Saddam Hussein fostered divisions among Shiia, Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq when he was in power.
"Now remember, this is a society adjusting to being free after a tyranny," the president said. "And Saddam Hussein's tactics to keep the country in check was to pit one group of people against another and say, 'I'm the only stabilizing force for you.' He was brutal on Shiia, he destroyed with chemical weapons many Kurds, and he was tough on Sunnis too. But he created ... this sense of rivalry.
"And so you can understand why there's revenge after years of this kind of tension he created," Bush continued. "Our job, and the job of rational Iraqi leaders is to prevent these sectarian reprisal attacks from going on. And it's tough work, but I want you to know, we understand the problem."
More importantly, he added, coalition forces commander Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr. understands the problem.
"We're adjusting our tactics to be able to help these Iraqis secure their country so that democracy can flourish," Bush said. "They want democracy. That's what they've said. The (Iraqi) troops, time and time again, have shown that they're better trained than before. And we've got more work to do on that, I readily concede."
Bush said events in Iraq caused a shift in the areas being emphasized in standing up Iraqi security forces. "When we first got there," he explained, we said, 'Why don't we train us an army that will be able to protect from an outside threat?' It turned out there wasn't much of an outside threat compared to the inside threat."
The president said the training mission has adapted to the enemy's ground tactics and that the coalition is embedding with the Iraqi army, which has reached more than 200,000 trained troops.
"And we're constantly monitoring the quality of effort," Bush said. "And as the quality of the forces improves, they take over more territory. The idea is to have the Iraqi face in front, helping the folks get the confidence in their government."
The enemy in Iraq has done its best to incite a civil war. "They blew up one of the holiest sites in Samara, trying to get the Sunnis to get after the Shiia, and vice versa," he said. He noted that government and religious leaders throughout Iraq urged their followers to refrain from being caught up sectarian violence, and that Iraqi security forces put themselves between competing elements and stood their ground to keep the violence from escalating.
The enemies of freedom in Iraq are people bound together by an ideology, the president said. "These are not folks scattered around that are kind of angry and lash out at an opportune moment," he said. "These are people that believe something, and their beliefs are totalitarian in nature.
"They believe you should not be able to worship freely," he continued. "They believe that young girls should not go to school. They've got a perverted sense of justice. They believe in the use of violence to achieve their objectives. Their stated objectives, their stated goals are to spread their totalitarian view throughout the Middle East. That's what they want to do."
An open and democratic society based on liberty is the way to defeat such an enemy, Bush said, but that doesn't mean the Iraq of the future will be like the U. S.
"This doesn't have to be an American-style democracy," he said. "It won't be. Democracy has got to reflect the tradition and the history of the countries in which it takes hold.
"I am saying, though, trust your people -- give them a chance to participate in society," the president said. "I believe a society is a whole society in which women are free and are given equal rights. I believe there's a whole society in which young girls are given a chance to go to school and become educated. I believe it's a whole society when government actually responds to people, not dictates to people.
"That's what I believe," Bush told the audience. "And I believe that it's the best way in the long run to defeat an ideology that feels the opposite way. And we've seen it happen in our history before. It's happened in some of your lifetimes."