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Bringing security to the Iraqi people and strengthen its new democracy


Guest The White House
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Guest The White House

PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all. Good evening. I want to thank Prime Minister Tony Blair for coming to Washington to discuss his recent visit to Iraq. The Prime Minister met with key leaders of the new Iraqi government that represents the will of the Iraqi people and reflects their nation's diversity. As Prime Minister Blair will tell you, Iraqi Prime Minister Maliki outlined an aggressive agenda to bring security to the Iraqi people, to improve electricity and other essential services, and to pursue a strategy for national reconciliation.

 

The agenda that Prime Minister Maliki has outlined demonstrates that Iraq's new government understands its duty to deliver real improvements in the daily lives of the Iraqi people. The formation of a new government represents a new beginning for Iraq and a new beginning for the relationship between Iraq and our coalition. The United States and Great Britain will work together to help this new democracy succeed. We'll take advantage of this moment of opportunity and work with Iraq's new government to strengthen its young democracy and achieve victory over our common enemies.

 

As we celebrate this historic moment, it's important to recall how we got there, and take stock on how far we've come over the last three years. The violence and bloodshed in Iraq has been difficult for the civilized world to comprehend. The United States and Great Britain have lost some of our finest men and women in combat. The car bombings and suicide attacks and other terrorist acts have also inflicted great suffering on the Iraqi people. And Iraqis have increasingly become the principal victims of terror and sectarian reprisal.

 

Yet, in the face of this ongoing violence, each time the Iraqi people voiced their opinion, they chose freedom. In three different elections, millions of Iraqis turned out to the polls and cast their ballots. Because of their courage, the Iraqis now have a government of their choosing, elected under the most modern and democratic constitution in the Arab world. The birth of a free and democratic Iraq was made possible by the removal of a cruel dictator.

 

The decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power was controversial. We did not find the weapons of mass destruction that we all believed were there -- and that's raised questions about whether the sacrifice in Iraq has been worth it. Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing. Saddam Hussein was a menace to his people; he was a state sponsor of terror; he invaded his neighbors. Investigations proved he was systematically gaming the oil-for-food program in an effort to undermine sanctions, with the intent of restarting his weapons programs once the sanctions collapsed and the world looked away.

 

If Saddam Hussein were in power today, his regime would be richer, more dangerous and a bigger threat to the region and the civilized world. The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was right.

 

But not everything since liberation has turned out as the way we had expected or hoped. We've learned from our mistakes, adjusted our methods, and have built on our successes. From changing the way we train the Iraqi security forces to rethinking the way we do reconstruction, our commanders and our diplomats in Iraq are constantly adapting to the realities on the ground. We've adapted our tactics, yet the heart of our strategy remains the same: to support the emergence of a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself.

 

All our efforts over the past three years have been aimed towards this goal. This past weekend, the world watched as Iraqis stood up a free and democratic government in the heart of the Middle East. With our help, Iraq will be a powerful force for good in a troubled region, and a steadfast ally in the war on terror.

 

With the emergence of this government, something fundamental changed in Iraq last weekend. While we can expect more violence in the days and weeks ahead, the terrorists are now fighting a free and constitutional government. They're at war with the people of Iraq, and the Iraqi people are determined to defeat this enemy, and so are Iraq's new leaders, and so are the United States and Great Britain.

 

It is vital that Iraq's new government seize this opportunity to heal old wounds and set aside sectarian differences and move forward as one nation. As Prime Minister Maliki has made his priorities clear, we have learned they're the right priorities. He's said he will focus on improving the security situation in Baghdad and other parts of the country. He has declared he will use maximum force to defeat the terrorists. He's vowed to eliminate illegal militias and armed gangs. He wants to accelerate the training of the Iraqi security forces so they can take responsibility from coalition forces for security throughout Iraq. He wants to improve health care and housing and jobs, so the benefits of a free society will reach every Iraqi citizen.

 

Our coalition will seize this moment, as well. I look forward for continued in-depth discussions with Tony Blair, so we can develop the best approach in helping the new Iraqi government achieve its objectives. The new government of Iraq will have the full support of our two countries and our coalition, and we will work to engage other nations around the world to ensure that constitutional democracy in Iraq succeeds and the terrorists are defeated.

 

Mr. Prime Minister.

 

PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Thank you, Mr. President, and can I say what a pleasure it is to be with you again at the White House. And thank you for your welcome.

 

As everyone knows, I was in Iraq earlier in this week, in Baghdad. And I was able to discuss with the new leaders of Iraq firsthand their experience and their hopes and expectations for the future. And I came away thinking that the challenge is still immense, but I also came away more certain than ever that we should rise to it. And though it is, at times, daunting, it is also utterly inspiring to see people from all the different parts of the community in Iraq -- the Sunni, the Shia, the Kurds -- sitting down together, all of them democratic leaders, democratically elected by their people; elected for a four-year term; elected and choosing to come together as a government of national unity, and completely determined to run their country in a different way for the future.

 

Anybody who studies the program of the Iraqi government can't fail to see the similarities with the type of program that any of us would want to see for our countries. And what is remarkable about it is that they put the emphasis, of course, on the issues to do with economic recovery and reconstruction and all the problems of infrastructure that they have in their country, but they also very clearly commit themselves to reconciliation between the different parts of the country, to the fight against sectarianism, and to the defeat of terrorism.

 

And I think what is important now is to say that after three years, which have been very, very difficult indeed, and when at times it looked impossible for the democratic process to work, I think after these three years and the democratic process working and producing this government, then it is our duty, but it is also the duty of the whole of the international community, to get behind this government and support it, because the other thing that came across to me very strongly from talking to them was that the reason there is bloodshed and violence in Iraq is that the very forces that we are confronting everywhere, including in our own countries, who want to destroy our way of life, also want to destroy their hope of having the same type of life. In other words, the very forces that are creating this violence and bloodshed and terrorism in Iraq are those that are doing it in order to destroy the hope of that country and its people to achieve democracy, the rule of law and liberty.

 

And I think there is a pattern here for us in the international community. I know the decision to remove Saddam was deeply divisive for the international community, and deeply controversial. And there's no point in rehearsing those arguments over and over again. But whatever people's views about the wisdom of that decision, now that there is a democratic government in Iraq, elected by its people, and now they are confronted with those whose mission it is to destroy the hope of democracy, then our sense of mission should be equal to that and we should be determined to help them defeat this terrorism and violence.

 

And I believe very, very strongly, indeed -- even more so having talked to the leaders there and now coming back and examining our own situation and how we help -- I'm more than ever convinced that what is important for them in Iraq is to know that we will stand firm with them in defeating these forces of reaction.

 

I believe the same, incidentally, is true of the struggle in Afghanistan, where, again, exactly the same forces of terrorism and reaction want to defeat the hopes of people for progress. I would also like to think -- and this is something the President and I were discussing earlier, we will carry on discussing over tonight and tomorrow -- and that is the importance of trying to unite the international community behind an agenda that means, for example, action on global poverty in Africa, and issues like Sudan; it means a good outcome to the world trade round, which is vital for the whole of the civilized world, vital for developing countries, but also vital for countries such as ourselves, for progress in the Middle East, and for ensuring that the global values that people are actually struggling for today in Iraq are global values we take everywhere and fight for everywhere that we can in our world today.

 

So I would like to pay tribute also to the work that our forces do there. I think both our countries can be immensely proud of their heroism and their commitment and their dedication.

 

But one very interesting thing happened to me when I was there and talking to some of our armed forces, and talking, also, to the Iraqi soldiers that were working alongside them, and that is, for all the differences in culture and background and nationality, both of them were working together in a common cause, and that was to help a country that was once a brutalized dictatorship, become a country that enjoys the same rights and the same freedoms that we take for granted here, and in the United Kingdom. And for all the hardship and the challenge of the past few years, I still think that is a cause worth standing up for.

 

Thank you, Mr. President.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Pulling American troops out before Abizaid and Casey say they're ready or pulling them out before the Iraqis feel secure is going make the war worse and ultimately lead to an American defeat.

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