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Bush: Leaving Iraq Too Soon Would Endanger America

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2005 – Leaving Iraq before the mission there is finished will make America less, not more, secure and will send a dangerous message that will ring around the world, President Bush said today here at the Woodrow Wilson International Center.

Speaking the day before Iraq's national elections, Bush disputed critics who claim the United States would be safer and Iraq less violent if the United States withdrew its forces there.

"This view presumes that if we were not in Iraq, the terrorists would be leaving us alone," Bush said.

In reality, the president said, terrorists have been targeting America for years - as evidenced by attacks on New York's World Trade Center in 1993, the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, the USS Cole in 2000 and the World Trade Center and Pentagon in 2001.

All these incidents occurred when the United States did not have a single American troop in Iraq, the president noted.

"Cutting and running" in Iraq, as Bush said some critics have suggested the United States do, would send the wrong message to the Iraqis, the terrorists, the Middle East and the world, he said.

It would tell Iraqis risking their lives for democracy that America is more interested in leaving than in helping them succeed, Bush said. It would tell terrorists that they can wait out America, emboldening them and inviting new attacks on the United States. And it would tell U.S. friends and allies that "when the going gets tough, America will retreat," he said.

But just as importantly, Bush said, setting an artificial deadline for leaving Iraq would send the wrong message to U.S. troops serving on the front lines in the war on terror.

"It would tell them that America is abandoning the mission they are risking their lives to achieve, and that the sacrifice of their comrades killed in this struggle has been in vain," he said.

"I make this pledge to the families of the fallen," the president said. "We will carry on the fight, we will complete their mission, and we will win."

The United States will honor its fallen troops' sacrifice by acknowledging what Bush said it has helped achieve: "the birth of a free and sovereign Iraqi nation that will be a friend of the United States and a force for good in a troubled region of the world."

The president vowed that the United States will continue standing by the Iraqi people as they build their new democracy and set an example for the rest of the Middle East. Doing so, he said, will help ensure America's security, not only today, but also for future generations.

"In our fight to keep Americans free, we'll never quit," he said. "We will fight this war without wavering, and we will prevail."

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