Bush's Remarks on Iraq at the Army War College
Monday, May 24, 2004; 8:50 PM
Thank you all. Thank you and good evening. I'm honored to visit the Army War College. Generations of officers have come here to study the strategies and history of warfare. I've come here tonight to report to all Americans, and to the Iraqi people, on the strategy our nation is pursuing in Iraq and the specific steps we're taking to achieve our goals.
The actions of our enemies over the last few weeks have been brutal, calculating and instructive. We've seen a car bombing take the life of a 61-year-old Iraqi named Izzadine Saleem, who was serving as president of the governing council. This crime shows our enemy's intention to prevent Iraqi self-government, even if that means killing a lifelong Iraqi patriot and a faithful Muslim.
Mr. Saleem was assassinated by terrorists seeking the return of tyranny and the death of democracy.
We've also seen images of a young American facing decapitation. This vile display shows a contempt for all the rules of warfare and all the bounds of civilized behavior. It reveals a fanaticism that was not caused by any action of ours and would not be appeased by any concession.
We suspect that the man with the knife was an Al Qaida associate named Zarqawi. He and other terrorists know that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror, and we must understand that as well.
The return of tyranny to Iraq would be an unprecedented terrorist victory and a cause for killers to rejoice. It would also embolden the terrorists, leading to more bombings, more beheadings and more murders of the innocent around the world.
The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology and give momentum to reformers across the region.
This will be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power and a victory for the security of America and the civilized world.
Our work in Iraq has been hard. Our coalition has faced changing conditions of war and that has required perseverance, sacrifice and an ability to adapt.
The swift removal of Saddam Hussein's regime last spring had an unintended affect. Instead of being killed or captured on the battlefield, some of Saddam's elite guards shed their uniforms and melted into the civilian population.
These elements of Saddam's repressive regime and secret police have reorganized, rearmed and adopted sophisticated terrorist tactics. They've linked up with foreign fighters and terrorists. In a few cities, extremists have tried to sow chaos and seize regional power for themselves.
These groups and individuals have conflicting ambitions, but they share a goal. They hope to wear out the patience of Americans, our coalition and Iraqis before the arrival of effective self-government and before Iraqis have the capability to defend their freedom.
Iraq now faces a critical moment. As the Iraqi people move closer to governing themselves, the terrorists are likely to become more active and more brutal.
There are difficult days ahead, and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic. Yet our coalition is strong and our efforts are focused and unrelenting, and no power of the enemy will stop Iraq's progress.
Helping construct a stable democracy after decades of dictatorship is a massive undertaking. Yet we have a great advantage. Whenever people are given a choice in the matter, they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear.
Our enemies in Iraq are good at filling hospitals, but they don't build any. They can incite men to murder and suicide, but they cannot inspire men to live in hope and add to the progress of their country. The terrorists only influence is violence and their only agenda is death.
Our agenda, in contrast, is freedom and independence, security and prosperity for the Iraqi people.
And by removing a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle East, we also make our own country more secure.
Our coalition has a clear goal, understood by all: to see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time in generations.
America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend -- a free, representative government that serves its people and fights on their behalf.
And the sooner this goal is achieved, the sooner our job will be done.
There are five steps in our plan to help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom: We will hand over authority to a sovereign Iraqi government; help establish security; continue rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure; encourage more international support; and move toward a national election that will bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.
The first of these steps will occur next month, when our coalition will transfer full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens who will prepare the way for national elections.
On June 30th, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist and will not be replaced. The occupation will end and Iraqis will govern their own affairs.
America's ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, will present his credentials to the new president of Iraq. Our embassy in Baghdad will have the same purpose as any other American embassy: to assure good relations with a sovereign nation.
© 2004 FDCH E-Media