Bush Asks Americans Not to Judge Military by Actions of a Few
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, May 8, 2004 President Bush asked Americans today not to judge the U.S. military on the illegal and shocking actions of a few soldiers.
In his weekly radio address to the nation, Bush called the allegations of detainee abuse in Abu Ghraib prison south of Baghdad a stain on U.S. honor and on the country's reputation.
Six soldiers have been charged with criminal behavior so far in the scandal. Bush said that when the investigations are concluded, more may be charged. "We will learn all the facts and determine the full extent of these abuses," the president said. "Those involved will be identified; they will answer for their actions. All prison operations in Iraq will be thoroughly reviewed to make certain that similar disgraceful incidents are never repeated."
Bush stressed that the actions of a few individuals should not reflect on the honor of the more than 200,000 military personnel who have served in Iraq since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. "Our country has sent troops into Iraq to liberate that country, return sovereignty to the Iraqi people and make America and the world more secure, he said. "In this cause, our troops perform a thousand acts of kindness, decency and courage every day. More than 700 Americans have given their lives. The brave and honorable soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines who are serving and sacrificing in Iraq not the few who have let us down show the true character of America. The men and women of our military have my complete confidence as they carry on with their mission."
In spite of the charges, service members continue taking the fight to the enemy in Iraq, Bush said. Marines continue to work with local Iraqis in Fallujah to pacify that city and extend the reach of the central government. "They are using targeted force to strike former Baathists and other militants, surrounding the city to prevent the escape of enemy fighters and taking every precaution to avoid hurting the innocent," he said.
In the holy city of Najaf, the Army's 1st Armored Division is taking on radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's illegal militia. "Elements of this militia have been ejected from the Najaf governor's office, which they had been occupying," Bush said.
The prison scandal has not derailed the return of sovereignty to the Iraqi people on June 30. Plans are moving forward and the coalition is working with the Iraqi Governing Council and the United Nations to craft an interim government. "On June 30, a sovereign Iraqi interim government will assume authority, and Iraqis will take over the functions of their state, from basic services to law enforcement to diplomacy," Bush said. The Coalition Provisional Authority will go out of existence, and an American embassy will assume responsibility for U.S. dealings with Iraqi leaders.
Bush said the U.S. responsibility for a safe and secure Iraq does not disappear with the changeover. Coalition forces will remain in place, ready to aid the Iraqis as they claim freedom. "We have no intention of leaving that nation at the mercy of thugs and murderers," Bush said. "We're determined to help build a free and stable Iraq, a nation at peace with its neighbors and with the world."