Iraq Key to Defense of U.S., Bush Tells Governors
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Feb. 26, 2007 If the United States leaves Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will strike in America, President Bush told the National Governors Association at the White House today.
Bush told the governors, who are in Washington for their annual meeting, that his main priority is protecting the homeland.
Bush, a former Texas governor, explained his current strategy in the war on terrorism to the governors. “We've got a two-pronged strategy in dealing with (enemies),” he said. “One is to stay on the offense and bring them to justice, and two, spread the conditions necessary to defeat an ideology of hatred.”
He said the ideological war against extremists will be a long one. “That's the basis on which I'm making decisions to protect the country,” the president said.
Governors are commanders in chief for their states’ National Guard units. Bush praised the contributions of Guard units in the war on terror. He also thanked the governors for visiting their troops deployed to hotspots around the world. “It matters to those troops that you take time, as a commander in chief, to thank them,” Bush said. “And it matters to their families that people are paying attention to them.”
Bush told the governors that Afghanistan and Iraq are the most visible theaters in the struggle against terror. He said he understands that people disagree with his course in Iraq and respects their opinions, but he will continue forward. “The main reason why is because I understand the consequences of failure in Iraq,” he said. “If we leave before that country can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself, there will be chaos. And out of chaos will come vacuums, and out of vacuums will come an emboldened enemy that would like to do us harm.”
To protect America, it is important to “get it right” in Iraq, Bush said. “And so I made a decision that I think is more likely to succeed than any of the alternatives that were presented to me,” he said.
Bush said that funding for the National Guard in his fiscal 2008 budget request is strong, and he hopes it stays that way. “I know you're concerned about the funding for your troops. So am I,” Bush said.
He said people can honestly disagree, and that debate is healthy. “On the other hand, I think it's important for people to understand the consequences of not giving our troops the resources necessary to do the job,” he said. “So I'm looking forward to a healthy debate. I'm also looking forward to defending – strongly defending -- the budgets we send up to Congress, to make sure those troops who are in harm's way have the resources … and our commanders have the flexibility necessary to execute the plan we've laid out.”