Thursday, February 15, 2007

President Bush Addressing American Enterprise Institute: Re Iraq

As scholars and thinkers, you are contributing to a nationwide debate about the direction of the war on terror. A vigorous debate is healthy for our country, it really is, and I welcome the debate. It's one of the true hallmarks of a free society, where people can get up and express their beliefs in open forum. Yet five years into this war, there is one principle of which every member of every party should be able to agree on -- in other words, after all the debate, there is one thing we all ought to be able to agree on, and that is: We've got to fight the terrorists overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home again.

We're acting on that principle. Since the attacks of September the 11th, we have been on the offense. I believe the best way to do our duty in securing the homeland is to stay on the offense. And we're not alone. That's what our fellow citizens have got to understand. We're not in this fight against extremists and murders alone.

Recently in the Philippines, that country's special forces conducted raids in which they killed two top leaders of an al Qaeda-affiliated terrorist organization -- a group that we believe was responsible for kidnapping four American citizens and killing two of them. In Tunisia, authorities recently broke up a terrorist cell that was planning to attack the American and British Embassies. In Spain, police captured several fugitives wanted for aiding the escape of terrorists responsible for the Madrid train bombings. And in the past year, nations including Denmark, Italy, France, Indonesia, Jordan, Malaysia, Turkey, Canada, and Britain have broken up terrorist cells. The enemy is active, and so are those of us who love freedom. It's in the interests of the United States to encourage other nations not to relent and not to give in, but to keep the pressure on those who try to have their way by murdering the innocent. And that's exactly what we'll continue to do.

This war against the terrorists, this war to protect ourselves, takes place on many fronts. One such front is Iraq. We're on the offense in Iraq, as we should be, against extremists and killers. I recently announced a new strategy for Iraq -- it's a plan that demands more from the Iraqi government. Not only do we demand more from the Iraqi government, but so do the Iraqi people demand more from the Iraqi government. They want to live in peace. It's important for our fellow citizens to understand a mother in downtown Baghdad wants her child to be able to walk the streets peacefully, just like mothers here in America want their children to be able to go to a playground and play peacefully.

I made Baghdad the top security priority. In other words, it's important, in order to achieve our objective, that the capital city of this grand country be secure. And I sent reinforcements to our troops so they can accomplish that mission. I spent a lot of time with members of my administration thinking about the way forward in Iraq. And we listened to a lot of opinions and a lot of different ideas. In the end, I chose this course of action because it provides the best chance for success.

And the reason why I mention success is, it's important for us to succeed. It's important for us to help this young democracy fight off the extremists so moderation can prevail. It's important for us to stand with this young democracy as they live -- as they try to build a society under the most modern constitution written in the Middle East, a constitution approved by millions of their citizens.

One of the interesting things that I have found here in Washington is there is strong disagreement about what to do to succeed, but there is strong agreement that we should not fail. People understand the consequences of failure. If we were to leave this young democracy before the job is done, there would be chaos, and out of chaos would become vacuums, and into those power vacuums would flow extremists who would be emboldened; extremists who want to find safe haven.

As we think about this important front in the war against extremists and terrorists, it's important for our fellow citizens to recognize this truth: If we were to leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy would follow us home.

Our new commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus, is now on the ground in Baghdad. I visited him by secure video yesterday. He reports that coalition troops are arriving on schedule. He says the Iraqi government is following through on its commitment to deploy three additional army brigades in the capital. Prime Minister Maliki has said part of our strategy is to put more Iraqis in the fight in the capital city to achieve our objective, and he's doing that. So far, coordination between Iraqi and coalition forces has been good -- they are beginning joint operations to secure the city by chasing down the terrorists, and insurgents, and the criminals, and the roaming death squads. They're doing what the Iraqi people want in Baghdad -- they want a peaceful life.

President George W. Bush addresses the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., Thursday, Feb. 15, 2007. "Our goal in Afghanistan is to help the people of that country to defeat the terrorists and establish a stable, moderate, and democratic state that respects the rights of its citizens, governs its territory effectively, and is a reliable ally in this war against extremists and terrorists," said President Bush. White House photo by David Bohrer The initial signs of progress are encouraging. Yet it's important for us to recognize that this is the beginning of what will be a difficult operation in the Iraqi capital. Our troops are risking their lives. As they carry out the new strategy, they need our patience, and they need our support. (Applause.) When General Petraeus' nomination was considered three weeks ago in the United States Senate, the senators voted unanimously to confirm him to his new position, and I appreciate that affirmation, that strong statement for this good General.

Now, the House is debating a resolution that disapproves of our new strategy. This may become the first time in the history of the United States Congress that it has voted to send a new commander into battle and then voted to oppose his plan that is necessary to succeed in that battle.

Members of Congress have every right to express their opinion -- and I fully expect them to do so. The resolution they are debating is non-binding. Soon the Congress is going to vote on a piece of legislation that is binding -- a bill to provide emergency funding for our troops. Our men and women in uniform are counting on their elected leaders to provide them with the support they need to accomplish their mission. We have a responsibility, Republicans and Democrats have a responsibility to give our troops the resources they need to do their job and the flexibility they need to prevail. (Applause.)


I thank you for giving me a chance to come and talk about a strategy for success, a strategy that is part of our efforts to make sure that a generation of Americans, beyond our generation, will look back and say they did their duty to protect the homeland and, as a result, we can live in peace.

No comments: