Text of Bush's Press Conference
A desperate enemy is also a dangerous enemy. And our work may become more difficult before it is finished. No one can predict all the hazards that lie ahead or the cost that they will bring.
Yet, in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action. The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable.
Every friend of America in Iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder, as a new tyranny arose. Every enemy of America in the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence, and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers.
We will succeed in Iraq. We're carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change. Iraq will be a free, independent country, and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it.
Our coalition has the means and the will to prevail. We serve the cause of liberty, and that is always and everywhere a cause worth serving.
BUSH: Now I'll be glad to take your questions. I will start with you.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President.
Mr. President, April is turning into the deadliest month in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, and some people are comparing Iraq to Vietnam and talking about a quagmire. Polls show that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half of Americans now support it.
What does that say to you? And how do you answer the Vietnam comparison?
BUSH: I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy.
Look, this is hard work. It's hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And yet we must stay the course because the end result is in our nation's interest.
A secure and free Iraq is an historic opportunity to change the world and make America more secure. A free Iraq in the midst of the Middle East will have incredible change.
It's hard. Freedom is not easy to achieve. I mean, we had a little trouble in our own country achieving freedom.
And we've been there a year. I know that seems like a long time. It seems like a long time to the loved ones whose troops have been overseas. But when you think about where the country has come from, it's a relatively short period of time.
And we're making progress. There's no question it's been a tough, tough series of weeks for the American people. It's been really tough for the families. I understand that. It's been tough on this administration. But we're doing the right thing.
And as to whether or not I made decisions based upon polls, I don't. I just don't make decisions that way. I fully understand the consequences of what we're doing. We're changing the world, and the world will be better off and America will be more secure as a result of the actions we're taking.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. What's your best prediction on how long U.S. troops will have to be in Iraq? And it sounds like you will have to add some troops. Is that a fair assessment?
BUSH: Well, first of all, that's up to General Abizaid, and he's clearly indicating that he may want more troops. It's coming up through the chain of command. And if that's what he wants, that's what he gets.
Generally, we've had about a 115,000 troops in Iraq. There's 135,000 now as a result of the changeover from one division to the next.
If he wants to keep troops there to help, I'm more than willing to say, yes, General Abizaid.
I talk to General Abizaid quite frequently. I'm constantly asking him does he have what he needs, whether it be in troop strength or in equipment. He and General Sanchez talk all the time. And if he makes the recommendation, he'll get it.
In terms of how long we'll be there, as long as necessary, and not one day more. The Iraqi people need us there to help with security. They need us there to fight off these, you know, violent few, who are doing everything they can to resist the advance of freedom. And I mentioned who they are.
And as I mentioned in my opening remarks, our commanders on the ground have got the authorities necessary to deal with violence, and will -- will in firm fashion.
And that's what by far the vast majority of the Iraqis want. They want security so they can advance toward a free society.
Once we transfer sovereignty, we'll enter into a security agreement with the government to which we pass sovereignty, the entity to which we pass sovereignty. And we'll need to be there for a while.
We'll also need to continue training the Iraqi troops. I was disappointed in the performance of some of the troops. Some of the units performed brilliantly. Some of them didn't. And we need to find out why. If they're lacking in equipment, we'll get them equipment. If there needs to be more intense training, we'll get more intense training.
But eventually, Iraq's security is going to be handled by the Iraqi people themselves.
Oh, let's see here. Terry.
QUESTION: Mr. President, before the war, you and members of your administration made several claims about Iraq: that U.S. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that Iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that Iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but, as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, we know where they are.
How do you explain to Americans how you got that so wrong? And how do you answer your opponents who say that you took this nation to war on the basis of what have turned out to be a series of false premises?
BUSH: Well, let me step back and review my thinking prior to going into Iraq.
First, the lesson of September the 11th is that when this nation sees a threat, a gathering threat, we got to deal with it. We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat we must take seriously.
Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. He was a threat because he coddled terrorists. He was a threat because he funded suiciders. He was a threat to the region. He was a threat to the United States.
That's the assessment that I made from the intelligence, the assessment that Congress made from the intelligence. That's the exact same assessment that the United Nations Security Council made with the intelligence.
I went to the U.N., as you might recall, and said, either you take care of him, or we will. Any time an American president says, if you don't, we will, we better be prepared to. And I was prepared to.
BUSH: I thought it was important for the United Nations Security Council that when it says something, it means something for the sake of security in the world.
See, the war on terror had changed the calculations. We needed to work with people. People needed to come together to work. And therefore, empty words would embolden the actions of those who are willing to kill indiscriminately.
The United Nations passed a Security Council resolution unanimously that said, disarm or face serious consequences. And he refused to disarm.
I thought it was very interesting that Charlie Duelfer, who just came back -- he's the head of the Iraqi Survey Group -- reported some interesting findings from his recent tour there. And one of the things was, he was amazed at how deceptive the Iraqis had been toward UNMOVIC and UNSCOM, deceptive in hiding things.
We knew they were hiding things. A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught, and that was part of our calculation. Charlie confirmed that.
He also confirmed that Saddam had the ability to produce biological and chemical weapons. In other words, he was a danger. And he had long-range missiles that were undeclared to the United Nations. He was a danger. And so we dealt with him.
And what else was part the question? Oh, oil revenues.
Well, the oil revenues, they're bigger than we thought they would be at this point in time. I mean, one year after the liberation of Iraq, the revenues of the oil stream is pretty darn significant.
One of the things I was concerned about, prior to going into Iraq, was that the oil fields would be destroyed, but they weren't. They're now up and running. And that money is -- it will benefit the Iraqi people. It's their oil, and they'll use it to reconstruct the country.
Finally, the attitude of the Iraqis toward the American people -- it's an interesting question. They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam Hussein, and you can understand why. This guy was a torturer, a killer, a maimer. There's mass graves.
I mean, he was a horrible individual that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into a kind of a fear of making decisions toward liberty. That's what we've seen recently. Some citizens are fearful of stepping up.
And they were happy -- they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either. They do want us there to help with security.
And that's why this transfer of sovereignty is an important signal to send, and it's why it's also important for them to hear we will stand with them until they become a free country.
Elisabeth? Excuse me.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE), Mr. President. To move to the 9-11 commission, you yourself have acknowledged that Osama bin Laden was not a central focus of the administration in the months before September 11th. I was not on point, you told the journalist Bob Woodward. I didn't feel that sense of urgency.
Two and a half years later, do you feel any sense of personal responsibility for September 11th?
BUSH: Let me put that quote to Woodward in context, because he had asked me if I was -- something about killing bin Laden. That's what the question was.
And I said, you know, compared to how I felt at the time, after the attack, I didn't have that -- and I also went on to say, my blood wasn't boiling, I think is what the quote said.
I didn't see -- I mean, I didn't have that great sense of outrage that I felt on September the 11th. I was -- on that day, I was angry and sad. Angry that al-Qaida -- I thought at the time al-Qaida, found out shortly thereafter it was al-Qaida -- had unleashed this attack. Sad for those who lost their life.
© 2004 The Associated Press