Press Conference with Prime
September 23, 2004
Thank you all for coming.
I'm honored to stand with the Prime Minister of a free
and sovereign Iraq. Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister. I applaud
your leadership and your courage. It's my honor to welcome
a friend to the White House.
Iraqi interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi discussed his
country's counter-terrorism plan during a press conference
in the Rose Garden Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004. "The
Iraqi government now commands almost 100,000 trained and
combat-ready Iraqis, including police, national guard and
army. The government have accelerated the development of
Iraqi special forces and established a counter-terrorist
strike force to address the specific problems caused by
the insurgency," said the Prime Minister. White House
photo by Eric Draper. Mr. Prime Minister, you've accomplished
a great deal in less than the three months since the transition
to a free Iraq that is governed by Iraqis. These have been
months of steady progress, despite persistent violence
in some parts of your country. Iraqis and their leaders
are engaged in a great and historic enterprise to establish
a new democracy at the heart of a vital region.
As friends of liberty, the new leaders of Iraq are friends
of America, and all civilized nations. As enemies of tyranny
and terror, the people of Iraq and the American troops
and civilians supporting their dreams of freedom have been
the target of acts of violence. The enemies of freedom
are using suicide bombing, beheadings, and other horrific
acts to try to block progress. We're sickened by the atrocities,
but we'll never be intimidated. And freedom is winning.
Mr. Prime Minister, America will stand with you until
freedom and justice have prevailed. America's security
and Iraq's future depend on it.
The Iraqi people are showing great courage and great determination.
As terrorists have attacked Iraqi security forces, still
more brave Iraqis have come forward to volunteer to serve
their country. As killers have attempted to assassinate
government officials, Iraq's leaders have refused to be
intimidated, and the vast majority of Iraqis remain committed
The path to our safety and to Iraq's future as a democratic
nation lies in the resolute defense of freedom. If we stop
fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be free to
plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free
nations. To retreat now would betray our mission, our word,
and our friends. Mr. Prime Minister, America will keep
The path ahead is difficult because a free Iraq has deadly
enemies. Remnants of the old regime and terrorist groups
want to prevent Iraq's elections and demoralize Iraq's
allies. Because of that, Prime Minister Allawi and I believe
terrorist violence may well escalate as the January elections
draw near. The terrorists know that events in Iraq are
reaching a decisive moment. If elections go forward, democracy
in Iraq will put down permanent roots, and terrorists will
suffer a dramatic defeat. And because Iraq and America
and our coalition are standing firm, the Iraqi people,
and not the terrorists, will determine Iraq's future.
President George W. Bush shakes hands with Iraqi interim
Prime Minister Ayad Allawi after their joint press conference
in the Rose Garden Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004. White House
photo by Paul Morse. There's much at stake. Mr. Prime Minister,
you recently said, the war in Iraq now is not only an Iraqi
war, it is a war for the civilized world to fight terrorists
and terrorism, and there is no route but the route of winning.
Prime Minister Tony Blair recently called the struggle
in Iraq the crucible in which the future of global terrorism
will be determined. I share the view of these strong leaders
that Iraq is a central front in the war on terror, and
our only option is victory.
We're making steady progress in implementing our five-step
plan toward the goal we all want, completing the mission
so that Iraq is stable and self-governing, and American
troops can come home with the honor they have earned.
The first step was achieved on June 28th, not only on
time, but ahead of schedule, when the coalition transferred
full sovereignty to a government of Iraqi citizens.
The second step is to help Iraq's new government establish
stability and security. Iraq must be able to defend itself.
And Iraqi security forces are taking increasing responsibility
for their country's security. Nearly 100,000 fully trained
and equipped Iraqi soldiers, police officers, and other
security personnel are working today. And that total will
rise to 125,000 by the end of this year. The Iraqi government
is on track to build a force of over 200,000 security personnel
by the end of next year. With the help of the American
military, the training of the Iraqi army is almost halfway
complete. And in Najaf and other important areas, Iraqi
military forces have performed with skill and success.
In Najaf, Iraqi and coalition forces effectively surrounded,
isolated and engaged enemy militias. Prime Minister Allawi
and his government reached out to the local population
to persuade citizens the path to a better future would
be found in political participation and economic progress.
The interim government then negotiated from a position
of strength to end the standoff.
Serious problems remain in several cities. Prime Minister
Allawi believes this combination of decisive action and
outreach to peaceful citizens is the most effective way
to defeat terrorists and insurgents, and secure the peace
of Iraq. And America stands with him.
The third step in our plan is to continue improving Iraq's
infrastructure. On television sets around the world, we
see acts of violence -- yet, in most of Iraq, children
are about to go back to school, parents are going back
to work and new businesses are being opened. Over 100 companies
are now listed on the Iraqi stock exchange. And an average
of five new companies are joining each week. Electricity
has been restored above pre-war levels. Telephone service
has increased dramatically. More than 2,000 schools have
been renovated and millions of new textbooks have been
President George W. Bush and Iraqi interim Prime Minister
Ayad Allawi hold a press conference in the Rose Garden
Thursday, Sept. 23, 2004. During his address, President
Bush listed some of the successes in Iraq, "Over 100
companies are now listed on the Iraqi stock exchange. And
an average of five new companies are joining each week.
Electricity has been restored above pre-war levels. Telephone
service has increased dramatically. More than 2,000 schools
have been renovated and millions of new textbooks have
been distributed." White House photo by Eric Draper.
There is much more work to be done. We've already spent
more than a billion dollars on urgent reconstruction projects
in areas threatened by the insurgency. In the next several
months, over $9 billion will be spent on contracts that
will help Iraqis rebuild schools, refurbish hospitals and
health clinics, repair bridges, upgrade the electricity
grid, and modernize the communications system. Prime Minister
Allawi and I both agree that the pace of reconstruction
should be accelerated. We're working toward that goal.
The fourth step in our plan is to enlist additional international
support for Iraq's transition to democracy. The multinational
force of some 30 nations continues to help secure a free
Iraq. We honor the servicemen and women of Great Britain,
Bulgaria, Denmark, El Salvador, Estonia, Hungary, Italy,
Latvia, the Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Spain, Thailand,
and Ukraine have died, besides Iraqis and Americans, for
the cause of freedom and security of the world. Our coalition
is grateful that the United Nations has reestablished it's
mission in Baghdad. We're grateful to the G-8 countries
and the European Union for pledging support to the new
Iraqi government. We're grateful to the NATO Alliance for
helping to train Iraqi forces. We're grateful to many of
Iraq's creditors, which have agreed to a further reduction
of Iraq's debt. Because all nations have an interest in
the success of a free Iraq, I urge all nations to join
in this vital cause.
The fifth and most important step in our plan is to help
Iraq conduct free national elections no later than next
January. An Iraqi electoral commission is now up and running
and has already hired personnel and is making key decisions
about election procedures. Just this week, the commission
began a public education campaign to inform Iraqis about
the process and encourage them to become voters. United
Nations electoral advisors are on the ground in Iraq, though
more are needed. Prime Minister Allawi and I have urged
the U.N. to send sufficient personnel to help ensure the
success of Iraqi elections.
At every stage in this process of establishing self-government,
the Iraqi people and their leaders have met the schedules
they set, and have overcome their challenges with confidence.
And under this good man's leadership, they will continue
to do so.
The war for Iraq's freedom is a fight against some of
the most ruthless and brutal men on Earth. In such a struggle,
there will be good days, and there will be difficult days.
But every day our resolve must remain firm.
Prime Minister, today I want to leave you and the nation
you serve with a clear message: You have not faltered in
a time of challenge, and neither will America. Thank you
for your leadership. You honor us with your visit.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: Thank you.
Mr. President, thank you for those kind words. It is an
honor to be here today in your nation's capital. It is
a great honor to share this platform with you, a leader
who worked tirelessly for the liberation of my country.
These last few days have been difficult for us Iraqis,
for you Americans, and for all our allies. Let me start
by saying that my thoughts and prayers are with the families
of those fighting today in Iraq, and in particularly, with
the families of those who have lost loved ones at the hands
of the terrorists or the insurgents.
Like this nation, which is -- which in the face of such
brutality is standing strong against terrorism, so we Iraqis
will not be cowed by the terrorists. Your government and
my government understand what is at stake today in Iraq.
Today we face a concentrated campaign by terrorists and
by the enemies of all the values which we hold dear, a
campaign to shake our resolve, and to prevent Iraq and
Iraqis from attaining the freedom and democracy which we
have dreamed of for more than the last 30 years.
These terrorists understand all too well that success
in Iraq will be an enormous blow for terrorism worldwide,
and an enormous step forward for peace and stability in
the Middle East, and in the wider world.
I thank you, Mr. President, for your determination to
stand firm with us in Iraq, and for the unflinching message
which you are delivering to our enemies.
Mr. President, I stand here today as a Prime Minister
of a country emerging finally from dark ages of tyranny,
aggression, and corruption. Like you, I knew how evil Saddam
Hussein and his regime truly were. Like you, I knew the
damage he had brought on his country. Like you, I knew
of the wars he had started, and the dangers he posed to
my region and the world; or at least I thought I knew.
For I, like millions of other Iraqis, were forced into
exile, realizing that we could only fight Saddam from outside
Even then we were not safe, as I, myself, can testify.
But when I returned to Iraq, following the liberation of
my country, I was truly shocked by just how much damage
Saddam had done to -- in his 30 years of rule. Iraq is
a deeply scarred society in a very troubled region. Today,
we are witnessing all too vividly the true extent of the
damage which Saddam inflicted on our society.
Mr. President, Iraqis thank God, thank America, and thank
our allies that Saddam is gone. We are safer, the region
is safer, the world is safer without him. But the scars
will take time to -- determination to -- time and determination
Again, Mr. President, I thank you for your leadership.
We had an excellent meeting today, building on the talks
we had on Tuesday in New York. We discussed the challenges
ahead of us and how to confront them. We discussed the
plan to take Iraq through these difficulties and to ensure
that democratic elections take place on time next year.
And we discussed the importance of maintaining the strength
of the coalition, and the support of the international
community in helping us to succeed. As we discussed, the
plan focuses on building democracy, defeating the insurgency,
and improving the quality of life for the ordinary Iraqis.
Our political plan is to isolate the terrorists from the
communities in which they operate. We are working hard
to involve as many people as we can in the political process,
to cut the ground from under the terrorists' feet.
Of course, we know that terrorism cannot be defeated with
political tools alone, but we can weaken it. And in local
support helps us to tackle the enemy head on, to identify,
isolate and eradicate this cancer. Our military plan will
enable us to build and maintain security across Iraq. Ordinary
Iraqis are anxious to take over entirely this role and
to shoulder all the security burdens of our country as
quickly as possible.
We do not want the multinational force to stay in Iraq
any more than you want to remain there -- for there. But
for now, we need you. We need the help of our American
and multinational partners while we continue to accelerate
the training of Iraqi security forces.
The Iraqi government now commands almost 100,000 trained
and combat-ready Iraqis, including police, national guard
and army. The government have accelerated the development
of Iraqi special forces and established a counter-terrorist
strike force to address the specific problems caused by
the insurgency. Our intelligence is getting better every
day. You have seen that in the successful resolution of
the Najaf crisis and in the targeted attacks against insurgents
Finally, our economic plan is to improve the everyday
lives of Iraqis as we deliver both political and security
progress. Here, thanks to a large extent to the generous
security and reconstruction funding approved by the United
States Congress, work is underway. Oil pipelines are being
repaired. Basic service has improved; streets and homes
rebuilt; schools, hospitals and clinics reopened. Thousands
of Iraqis have new jobs. Salaries have been increased dramatically
-- in many cases, five or four times over. Iraq's economy,
freed from the stranglehold of a failed Baathist ideology,
has finally started to flourish.
Mr. President, we also discussed the importance of holding
free and fair national and local elections this coming
January, as planned. I know that some have speculated,
even doubted, whether this date can be met, so let me be
absolutely clear that elections will occur in Iraq on time
in January, because Iraqis want election on time. In 15
out of 18 Iraqi provinces, the security situation is good
for elections to be held tomorrow.
Here, Iraqis are getting on with their daily lives, hungry
for the new political and economic freedoms they are enjoying.
Although, this is not what you see in your media, it is
a fact. The Iraqi elections may not be perfect; they may
not be the best elections that Iraq will ever hold; they
will undoubtedly be an excuse for violence from those who
disparage and despise liberty, as we -- the first elections
-- as were the first elections in Sierra Leone, South Africa
and Indonesia. But they will take place, and they will
be free and fair.
Finally, Mr. President, a word about international resolve.
Iraq cannot accomplish this alone. The international forces
of tyranny and oppression are lined up against us. Iraq
is now the main battleground between the forces of hope
and the forces of fear. This is a struggle which will shape
the future of our world.
Already, Iraq has many partners. More than two dozen countries
are represented in Iraq with troops on the ground. We Iraqis
are grateful for each and every one of these courageous
men and women. The United Nations, the European Union,
the G-8 have lent their strong support. NATO, just yesterday,
increased its commitment to Iraq. Many more nations have
committed to Iraq future in the form of economic aid. I
am grateful for the support. I look to my Arab brothers
to join us fully.
I know it is difficult, but the coalition must stand firm.
When governments negotiate with terrorists, everyone in
the free world suffers. When political leaders sound the
sirens of defeatism in the face of terrorism, it only encourages
more violence. Working together, we will defeat the killers,
and we'll do this by refusing to bargain about our most
I understand why, faced with the daily headlines, there
are those doubts. I know, too, that there are -- there
will be many more setbacks and obstacles to overcome. But
these doubters underestimate our country and they risk
fueling the hopes of terrorism.
Mr. President, there are those who want to divide our
world. I appeal to you, who have done so much already,
to help us to ensure they don't succeed.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We'll take a couple of questions now.
Q Mr. President, two more Americans have been beheaded.
More than 300 Iraqis have been killed in the last week.
Fallujah is out of government control. And U.S. and Iraqi
forces have been unable to bring security to diplomatic
and commercial centers of Baghdad. Why haven't U.S. forces
been able to capture or kill al Zarqawi, who's blamed for
much of the violence? And what's your answer to General
John Abizaid's statement that, "I think we will need
more troops than we currently have"?
PRESIDENT BUSH: If that's what he says -- he was in my
office this morning; he didn't say that to me, but if he
were to say that, I'd listen to him, just like I've said
all along, that when our commanders say that they need
support, they'll get support, because we're going to succeed
in this mission.
The first part of the question was, how come we haven't
found Zarqawi. We're looking for him. He hides. He is --
he is -- he's got a effective weapon, and that is terror.
I said yesterday that our military cannot be defeated by
these thugs, that -- but what they do is behead Americans
so they can get on the TV screens. And they're trying to
shake our will and trying to shake the Iraqis' will. That's
what they're trying to do.
And like all Americans, I'm disgusted by that kind of
behavior. But I'm not going to yield. We're not going to
abandon the Iraqi people. It's in our interests that we
win this battle in the war on terror. See, I think that
the Iraq theater is a part of the war on terror. That's
what the Prime Minister said, as well. He believes the
same thing. He understands what's going on there -- after
all, he lives there.
And I believe that if we wilt, or leave, America's security
will be much worse off. I believe that if Iraq -- if we
fail in Iraq, it's the beginning of a long struggle. We
will not have done our duty to our children and our grandchildren.
And so that's why I'm consistently telling the Iraqi citizens
that we will not be intimidated. That's why my message
to Mr. Zarqawi is: You cannot drive us out of Iraq by your
-- by your brutality.
It's tough work, everybody knows that. It's hard work.
But we must not allow the actions of a few -- and I emphasize
that -- I say that because there are 25 million Iraqis,
by far the vast majority of whom want to live in a free
society. And we cannot allow the actions of a few to determine
the fate of these good people, as well as the fate of the
security of the United States.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: May I, Mr. President?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Sure.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: I just have a few words to say
to this question.
We cannot really substitute Iraq for Fallujah. Fallujah
is a small part of Iraq. There are insurgents and terrorists
who are active there for geographical reasons. The people
of Fallujah are adamant that they should -- whenever they
are capable -- to get rid of the insurgents. We have been
talking to them, I have been talking to them, engaged in
dialogue. My deputy met with the Fallujah tribes two days
ago. Things are moving in the right direction and we are
hitting insurgents and terrorists in this part of the world.
To have more troops, we don't need. What we need really
is to train more Iraqis, because this is ultimately for
Iraqis, for Iraqi security forces to take responsibility
for their own security and to defend the rest of the civilized
world. What is happening, sir, in Iraq, is really Iraq
is becoming a front line for a global fight against terrorists.
So that's why Zarqawi is not alone. There are other groups
similar to Zarqawi. There are groups who are insurgents
who have stained their hands with the murders of the Iraqi
people, who are Saddam's loyalists. They are working together.
We assure you that we are going to defeat these evil forces,
in Iraq and throughout the world.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve.
Q Mr. President, John Kerry is accusing you of colossal
failures of judgment in Iraq and having failed to level
with the American people about how tough it is there. How
do you respond to him?
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's hard work in Iraq. Everybody knows
that. We see it on our TV. My message is that -- is that
we will stay the course and stand with these people so
that they become free. It's in our national interest we
do so. I believe this is a central part in the war on terror.
I believe that when we succeed in Iraq, that America will
be more secure. I also know that a free Iraq will send
a clear message to the part of the world that is desperate
It's hard work. The American people know that. But I believe
it's necessary work. And I believe a leader must be consistent
and clear and not change positions when times get tough.
And the times have been hard -- these are hard times. But
I understand that -- what mixed messages do. You can embolden
an enemy by sending a mixed message. You can dispirit the
Iraqi people by sending mixed messages. You send the wrong
message to our troops by sending mixed messages. That's
why I will continue to lead with clarity and in a resolute
way, because I understand the stakes. These are high stakes.
And we'll succeed.
Is anybody here from the Iraqi media? Why don't we --
yes, please, sir. Standing next to a fine man in Deans.
Q (Question not asked in English.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm not so sure I agree with that. (Laughter.)
INTERPRETER: The question to the U.S. President: What
are the plans to accelerate the arrival of the fund donated
by various countries around the world, the countries that
are contributing to the rebuilding of Iraq, in order to
encourage investments in Iraq -- particularly with a very
high unemployment rate?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right. There are at least three aspects
to the reconstruction projects. One is our own money. And
as I mentioned in my remarks, there's $7 billion committed.
We've got more money to spend, and we will spend it when
contracts are let and when there's -- and when there's
enough security in certain neighborhoods to be able to
spend the money wisely.
Secondly, part of making sure that the Iraq balance sheet
is in good shape is to continue to work on debt reductions.
I named former Secretary Jim Baker to go around to the
creditor nations; he received some commitments. And I believe
that the world will make its decision later on this year
as to how much debt reduction there will be in Iraq.
And, thirdly, as you mentioned, other nations have pledged
help to the Iraqi people. And there will be a donors conference
in Japan, kind of an accountability conference for people
to come and explain where they are in meeting their different
Yes, NBC man, there -- your name?
Q Gregory, sir.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Gregory.
Q Mr. President, you say today that the work in Iraq is
tough and will remain tough. And, yet, you travel this
country and a central theme of your campaign is that America
is safer because of the invasion of Iraq. Can you understand
why Americans may not believe you?
PRESIDENT BUSH: No. Anybody who says that we are safer
with Saddam Hussein in power is wrong. We went into Iraq
because Saddam Hussein defied the demands of the free world.
We went into Iraq after diplomacy had failed. And we went
into Iraq because I understand after September the 11th
we must take threats seriously, before they come to hurt
And I think it's a preposterous claim to say that America
would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power. I certainly
know that that's the case for America and I certainly know
it's the case for the Iraqi people. These are people who
were tortured. This good man was abed in a London flat,
and he wakes up with two Saddam henchmen there with axes,
trying to cut him to pieces with an axe. And, fortunately,
he's alive today; fortunately, we call him friend and ally.
But he knows what it means to have lived under a society
in which a thug like Saddam Hussein would send people with
axes to try to kill him in bed in a London flat.
No, this world is better off with Saddam Hussein in prison.
Q Sir, may I just follow, because I don't think you're
really answering the question. I mean, I think you're responding
to Senator Kerry, but there are beheadings regularly, the
insurgent violence continues, and there are no weapons
of mass destruction. My question is, can you understand
that Americans may not believe you when you say that America
is actually safer today?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein
were still in power. This is a man who harbored terrorists
-- Abu Abbas, Abu Nidal, Zarqawi. This is a man who was
a sworn enemy of the United States of America. This is
a man who used weapons of mass destruction. Going from
tyranny to democracy is hard work, but I think the argument
that says that Saddam Hussein -- if Saddam Hussein were
still in power, we'd be better off is wrong.
Q Sir, I'd like you answer Senator Kerry and other critics
who accuse you of hypocrisy or opportunism when, on the
one hand, you put so much stock in the CIA when it said
Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction, and now
say it is just guessing when it paints a pessimistic picture
of the political transition.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
Q And I like to, if you don't mind, follow on something
the Prime Minister just said. If General Abizaid says he
needs more troops and the Prime Minister says he does not
want more troops, who wins?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me talk to General Abizaid. As I said,
he just came in to see me, and I want to make sure -- I'm
not suggesting any of the reporters here might be taking
something out of context -- that would never happen in
America. But, nevertheless, I do want to sit down and talk
to him about it. Obviously, we can work this out. It's
in the -- if our commanders on the ground feels it's in
the interest of the Iraq citizens to provide more troops,
we'll talk about it. That's -- that's why -- they're friends;
that's what we do about friends.
First part of the question -- oh, yes, yes --
Q They say you've been opportunistic --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, got it. Listen, the other day I was
asked about the NATIONAL INTELLIGENCE ESTIMATE, which is
a National Intelligence Estimate. This is a report that
talks about possibilities about what can happen in Iraq,
not probabilities. I used an unfortunate word, "guess." I
should have used, "estimate." And the CIA came
and said, this is a possibility, this is a possibility,
and this is a possibility. But what's important for the
American people to hear is reality. And the reality is
right here in the form of the Prime Minister. And he is
explaining what is happening on the ground. That's the
best report. And this report was written in July, and now
we are here in September, and as I said, "estimate" would
have been a better word.
Q Mr. President --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on for a minute. Hold on for a minute,
please, please. We've got other people from -- hold on
for a second.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: From the other --
PRESIDENT BUSH: From Iraq. Are you from Iraq?
Q No --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay. No, hold on for a second. We need
people from Iraq first, please. One journalist from Iraq.
You're not from Iraq, Allen. And neither are you, Elisabeth.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: Give Al Arabiya --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Is anybody here from CBS? Roberts, there
you are. Please.
Q -- happy to be here.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Happy to be here, thank you. (Laughter.)
Q Sir, you --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Terry, you're next.
Q You have been accused on the campaign trail in this
election year of painting an overly optimistic portrait
of the situation on the ground in Iraq. Yesterday, in Valley
Forge, you said that there was a "handful" of
people who were willing to kill to try to disrupt the process.
Isn't that really understating the case, particularly when
there are intelligence reports that hundreds, if not thousands,
of foreign fighters are streaming across the border from
Syria to take up the fight of the insurgency? And do you
believe, given the situation on the ground in Fallujah
and other northern cities in the Sunni Triangle, that elections
are possible in four months?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I do, because the Prime Minister told
me they are. He is -- he's interested in moving this country
forward. And you heard his statement, and I believe him.
The first part of the question?
Q The first question was, aren't you being --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, got it, got it. Yes. Yesterday --
Q -- disingenuous --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Right. I said -- look, what we're seeing
on our TV screens are the acts of suicide bombers. They're
the people who -- that are affecting the daily -- the nightly
news. And they know its effect. I said that the enemy cannot
defeat us militarily. What they can do is take acts of
violence that try to discourage us, and try to discourage
the Prime Minister and the people of Iraq.
Look, I'm fully aware we're fighting former Baathists
and Zarqawi network people. But, by far, the vast majority
of people, John, and of 25 million people, want to live
in freedom. My point is, is that a few people, relative
to the whole, are trying to stop the march of freedom.
It is tough work. Everybody in America knows that. And
the fundamental question is, are we going to allow the
tough work to cause us to retreat, to waver? And my answer
to the American people, and the Iraqi people, and to the
enemy, is that we will complete our mission. We will do
our duty. We will adjust strategies on the ground, depending
upon the tactics of the enemy, but we're not going to allow
the suiciders to drive us out of Iraq.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: May I, may I --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, please.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: Let me explain something, which
is very important. I have noticed -- and the media have
been neglected and omitted several times -- in the Western
media -- Iraq is made out of 18 provinces, 18, 1-8. Out
of these 18 provinces, 14 to 15 are completely safe, there
are no problems. And I can count them for you, starting
from Basra moving into Iraq Kurdistan. There are three
areas, three provinces where there are pockets of insurgents,
pockets of terrorists who are acting there and are moving
from there to inflict damage elsewhere in the country.
So, really, if you care to look at Iraq properly, and
go from Basra to Nasiriyah to Kut to Diyala to Najaf to
Karbala to Diwaniya to Samaraa to Kirkuk to Sulaymaniyah
to Dahuk to Arbil, there are no problems. It's safe, it's
good. There are problems in Fallujah. Fallujah is part
province; the province is called Al Anbar. It's vast,
very big; it has many other important towns, such as Ana,
such as Rawa, such as Ramadi. There is nothing there. In
Ana and Rawa, indeed, there is nothing, no problem, except
on a small pocket in Fallujah.
So, really, I call upon the responsible media -- throughout
the world, not only here -- to look at the facts as they
are in Iraq and to propagate these facts to the international
I am not trying to undermine that there are dangers. There
are dangers in Iraq; there are problems, and we are facing
international terrorist onslaught on Iraq. I, personally,
receive every day a threat. In the last four weeks, they
found four conspiracies to kill me. And, likewise, there
are killing people -- they are killing officials, they
are killing innocent people. But the Iraqis are not deterred,
and we are not going to be deterred. I went the next day
and saw our recruitment center for the police, after they
killed, massacred 40-45 people. I found hundreds of people
coming to be volunteer -- to volunteer to the police and
to the army. I spoke to them. They are all upbeat. They
are resolved to beat terrorism and to defeat the insurgents.
These are facts that one really needs to explain to you
and you need to explain it to the people.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Terry.
Q Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, I'd like to ask
about the Iraqi people. Both of you have spoken for them
today, and, yet, over the past several months there have
been polls conducted by the Coalition Provisional Authority,
by the Oxford Institute and other reputable organizations,
that have found very strong majorities do not see the United
States as a liberator, but as an occupier, are unhappy
with American policy and want us out. Don't the real voices
of the Iraqi people, themselves, contradict the rosy scenarios
you're painting here today?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me start by that. You said the poll
was taken when the CPA was there?
Q One poll --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay, let me stop you. First of all, the
Iraqi people now have got Iraqi leadership. Prime Minister
Allawi and his cabinet are making decisions on behalf of
the Iraqi people. Secondly, I saw a poll that said the
right track/wrong track in Iraq was better than here in
America. (Laughter.) It's pretty darn strong. I mean, the
people see a better future.
Talk to the leader. I agree -- I'm not the expert on how
the Iraqi people think, because I live in America, where
it's nice and safe and secure. But I talk to this man.
One reason I'm optimistic about our ability to get the
job done is because I talk to the Iraqi Prime Minister.
I'm also optimistic that people will choose freedom over
tyranny every time. That's what I believe.
But, Mr. Prime Minister, you might answer the question
on the polls. There's a lot of polls; sometimes they show
you up and sometimes they show you down, as you might remember.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: Let me -- let me take a minute
to explain to you something, a factual event. I meet, personally,
every now and then with the fringes of the so-called resistance
to try and talk them into respecting law and order and
withdraw their arms. And I ask them in a very honest, very
open way, I say to them, "What do you want to achieve?
Could you know exactly what you want to achieve? Do you
want to bring Saddam back from the hole in the ground,
living like a rat? Do you want to bring him back to rule
Iraq? Or do you want to bring bin Laden or similar persons
to bin Laden to rule Iraq? If you want to do this, we will
fight you room to room, house to house. If you want to
be part of the political process, you have to be part of
the political process, you are welcome.
If you do not want the multinational force in Iraq --
I was talking to Fallujah people recently, to tribes, ex-army
officers, ex-Saddam loyalists -- if you want the multinational
force out, win the elections, go to the United Nations,
talk to the Security Council, and tell them we don't need
the multinational forces. But I tell you what is going
to happen. If you ask the multinational force to leave
prematurely -- this is me talking to the Fallujah people
-- your country will be in ruins, and we cannot now, on
our feet, stand and fight terrorism and global terrorism.
These are realities. And once you are in Iraq, I will
be my (sic) host. I can put you together with these people
in my home and you can talk to them. And you can find out
yourselves that the Iraqis, tremendously, by and large,
respect the United States, and respect the other partners
in the coalition for helping Iraq, not only in liberation,
but now in helping Iraq to rebuild itself and to rebuild
PRESIDENT BUSH: Let me -- let me say one other thing about
why I'm optimistic we'll succeed. By the way, you can understand
it's tough and still be optimistic. You can understand
how hard it is and believe we'll succeed.
I remember when some were talking about the possibility
of success in Afghanistan in pretty stark terms. I don't
know if you remember that period or not, but there was
a period where some were saying that it wasn't possible
for democracy to come forward in Afghanistan. Today, 10
million citizens have registered to vote, 41 percent of
whom are women. It's a phenomenal statistic, I think. I
think it shows what's possible if you believe -- if you
have certain beliefs from which you won't waver. And I
believe people yearn to be free.
Again, I think if you look at polls -- which, sometimes
I do and sometimes I don't, admittedly, Moran -- that,
by far, the vast majority of Iraqis want to vote. They
want to live in freedom. And the fundamental question is,
do we -- is this: Do we have the will to stay? Do we have
the will to put smart strategy in place? I've laid out
the strategy; we're implementing the strategy. But really,
do we have the will to complete the mission? And my message
to the Iraqi people, and to the enemy, and to our troops
in harm's way, and to our allies is: We'll complete the
Listen, last question -- Wendell. And then we -- I think
it's probably time to head into the air-conditioning --
Q Mr. President --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Excuse me, ma'am.
Q Thank you, sir. Mr. President, in the past couple of
days you have been talking about the consequences of the
mixed messages you say John Kerry sends. I want to ask
you, sir, do you mean immediate consequences, not just
if the Senator is elected? Do you mean that the messages
being sent now have a negative effect on the effort in
Iraq? And does making the war in Iraq a part of a campaign
also have consequences on the situation there, sir?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I think -- look, in a campaign,
it's -- the war of Iraq is going to be part of a campaign.
It's -- this is a major moment in American history. These
are historic times. And I view it as a great opportunity
to help secure our country. As I said before, Iraq is a
central part of the war on terror. And I believe it's important
for us to succeed there because of that.
See, 9/11 changed everything. September the 11th meant
that we had to deal with a person like Saddam Hussein.
Of course, I was hoping it could be done diplomatically.
But diplomacy failed. And so the last resort of a President
is to use force. And we did. And now we're -- we're helping
The Prime Minister said something very interesting a while
ago, and it's important for the American people to understand.
Our strategy is to help the Iraqis help themselves. It's
important that we train Iraqi troops. There are nearly
100,000 troops trained. The Afghan (sic) national army
is a part of the army. By the way -- it's the Afghan [sic]
national army that went into Najaf and did the work there.
There's a regular army being trained. There are border
guards being trained. There are police being trained. That's
a key part of our mission.
But, Wendell, I think the world watches America. We're
an influential nation, and everybody watches what we say.
And I think it's very important for the American President
to mean what he says. That's why I understand that the
enemy could misread what I say. That's why I try to be
as clearly I can. I don't want them to be emboldened by
any confusion or doubt. I don't want them to think that,
well, maybe all they got to do is attack and we'll shirk
our duties. See, they've been emboldened before. They have
caused certain nations to withdraw from coalitions as a
result of their action, such action reinforcing the ability
for suiciders, for example, to effect free societies. I
know that. I've seen firsthand the tactics of these killers.
And so therefore, I think it's very important for all of
us involved in the process not to send mixed signals.
I don't know what the enemy thinks today. But I do know
they're watching America very carefully. I do know they
want to affect other nations by their acts of murder. I
do know they were emboldened by Spain withdrew from Iraq
as a result of attacks on election. And therefore, I have
a duty to our troops -- for starters, most importantly
-- not to send a mixed signal. I want our troops to know
that the sacrifices they are making are worthwhile and
necessary for the security of this country. And I want
-- don't want the Iraqis to fear that, oh, all of a sudden,
there will be a change of heart, that there'll be tough
times politically, or that a poll might say something and,
therefore, cause me to change my opinion. I don't want
them to think that, because they have to make the hard
choices for freedom. They have to go from a society that
has been tortured by a brutal thug to a society in which
they take responsibility for their daily lives.
I don't want the coalition forces to feel like we're wavering.
And so I understand that people watch our words. And that's
an explanation of why I say what I say.
Listen, thank you all very much.
Mr. Prime Minister, appreciate you. Good job.
PRIME MINISTER ALLAWI: Okay. Thank you.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Proud you're here.
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