Calls to Retreat From Iraq 'Wrong Strategy,' President Says
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 19, 2005 President Bush respectfully disagreed with Americans who fault his rationale for maintaining U.S. military forces in Iraq, during a White House news conference today.
Bush said many Americans, like himself, are convinced that the United States must continue fighting terrorists in Iraq until the new Iraqi government and security forces get onto their feet. The president said he too wants U.S. troops to depart Iraq as soon as possible, but not until victory is achieved over the terrorists there. "We must win, for the sake of our security," he said.
On the other hand, "there are some in this country that believe -- strongly believe -- that we ought to get out now," Bush said. "I just don't agree with them. It's the wrong strategy."
The president offered several reasons for staying the course during his news conference.
First, withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq now would dishearten the Iraqis, Bush said. "Iraqis are showing great courage to setting up a democracy," the president said. Democracy provides Iraqis with optimism and hope, as well as serving as a vital component in defeating terrorism, he said.
Second, an early pull out from Iraq would send the wrong message to American troops now deployed there, Bush said. "We've got young men and women over there sacrificing. And all of a sudden, because of politics or some focus group or some poll, they stand up and say: 'We're out of there,'" he said. "I can't think of anything more dispiriting to a kid risking his or her life than to see decisions made based upon politics."
Finally, an American military retreat from Iraq would cheer and embolden the terrorists, Bush said. "It sends the wrong signal to the enemy," he said, noting terrorists in Iraq, which include al Qaeda operatives, would then believe they could repeat their tactics and simply wait out any U.S. military campaign mounted against them.
The president said his decision to deploy the U.S. military to Iraq in March 2003 to remove Saddam Hussein's brutal regime was the right one. And that action, he noted, didn't provoke the terrorists into attacking America, because al Qaeda had already done so two years before.
"They were dangerous before we went into Iraq," Bush pointed out, recalling that al Qaeda terrorists killed more than 3,000 Americans in New York City, the Pentagon and Pennsylvania in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.