Transcript of President Bush's Remarks on Iraq

Courtesy FDCH e-Media
Sunday, December 18, 2005; 8:21 PM

SPEAKER: GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES

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BUSH: Good evening. Three days ago, in large numbers, Iraqis went to the polls to choose their own leaders -- a landmark day in the history of liberty. In coming weeks, the ballots will be counted, a new government formed, and a people who suffered in tyranny for so long will become full members of the free world.

This election will not mean the end of violence. But it is the beginning of something new: constitutional democracy at the heart of the Middle East. And this vote -- 6,000 miles away, in a vital region of the world -- means that America has an ally of growing strength in the fight against terror. 

All who had a part in this achievement -- Iraqis, Americans, and Coalition partners -- can be proud. Yet our work is not done. There is more testing and sacrifice before us. I know many Americans have questions about the cost and direction of this war. So tonight I want to talk to you about how far we have come in Iraq, and the path that lies ahead.

From this office, nearly three years ago, I announced the start of military operations in Iraq. Our Coalition confronted a regime that defied United Nations Security Council Resolutions -- violated a cease-fire agreement -- sponsored terrorism -- and possessed, we believed, weapons of mass destruction. After the swift fall of Baghdad, we found mass graves filled by a dictator -- we found some capacity to restart programs to produce weapons of mass destruction -- but we did not find those weapons.

It is true that Saddam Hussein had a history of pursuing and using weapons of mass destruction. It is true that he systematically concealed those programs, and blocked the work of UN weapons inspectors. It is true that many nations believed that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction. But much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong. And as your President, I am responsible for the decision to go into Iraq. 

Yet it was right to remove Saddam Hussein from power. He was given an ultimatum -- and he made his choice for war. And the result of that war was to rid the world of a murderous dictator who menaced his people, invaded his neighbors, and declared America to be his enemy. Saddam Hussein, captured and jailed, is still the same raging tyrant -- only now without a throne. His power to harm a single man, woman, or child is gone forever. And the world is better for it. 

Since the removal of Saddam, this war -- like other wars in our history -- has been difficult. The mission of American troops in urban raids and desert patrols -- fighting Saddam loyalists and foreign terrorists -- has brought danger and suffering and loss. This loss has caused sorrow for our whole Nation -- and it has led some to ask if we are creating more problems than we are solving. 

That is an important question, and the answer depends on your view of the war on terror. If you think the terrorists would become peaceful if only America would stop provoking them, then it might make sense to leave them alone. 

This is not the threat I see. I see a global terrorist movement that exploits Islam in the service of radical political aims -- a vision in which books are burned, and women are oppressed, and all dissent is crushed. Terrorist operatives conduct their campaign of murder with a set of declared and specific goals: to de-moralize free nations, to drive us out of the Middle East, to spread an empire of fear across that region, and to wage a perpetual war against America and our friends. 

These terrorists view the world as a giant battlefield -- and they seek to attack us wherever they can. This has attracted al Qaida to Iraq, where they are attempting to frighten and intimidate America into a policy of retreat.


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