Iraq and the War on TerrorPresident George W. Bush
Excerpts from remarks at Iron Mike Plaza
Fort Bragg, North Carolina
July 4, 2006
... Fort Bragg is the home to some of our country's best and bravest: the men and women of the United States Army Special Operations Command. (Applause.) Army Special Forces define their mission in a motto: "To Liberate the Oppressed." And in the war on terror you've done just that, overthrowing cruel regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and bringing freedom to more than 50 million people. (Applause.)
Green Berets were the first U.S. forces on the ground in both Operation Enduring Freedom and our Operation Iraqi Freedom. And along with others, you remain on the offense against the terrorists today. A few weeks ago, I had a chance to visit Baghdad and visit with some of Fort Bragg's finest soldiers, the special operation forces who helped bring justice to the terrorist Zarqawi. (Applause.)
They were the first coalition forces to arrive on the scene after the bombing of Zarqawi's safe house. They administered compassionate medical care to a man who showed no compassion to his victims. And when this brutal terrorist took his final breath, one of the last things he saw was the face of an American soldier from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Applause.)
We're on the offense. In the weeks since Zarqawi's death, coalition and Iraqi forces have launched more than 190 raids on targets across the country. We've captured more than 700 enemy operatives and killed some 60 more. In these raids, we've uncovered caches of weapons and suicide vests and Iraqi army uniforms to be used as disguises in brutal terrorist attacks. We've seized new intelligence information that is helping us keep the pressure on the terrorists and the insurgents. And at this moment of vulnerability for the enemy, we will continue to strike their network, we will disrupt their operations, and we will bring their leaders to justice. (Applause.)
Last week, Iraqi security forces announced the capture of an al Qaeda terrorist from Tunisia named Abu Qadama. He's one of the men responsible for the bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samara. The Golden Mosque is one of Shia Islam's holiest sites, and the terrorists blew it up in the hope that this vicious act would provoke sectarian reprisals and drag the nation into civil war, and derail the formation of the unity government. Hundreds of Iraqis were killed in the violence that ensued.
But in the end, Iraqis stepped back from the abyss. They want to live in a free and peaceful society. Their mothers are no different from the mothers here in America who want their children to grow up and be able to realize dreams. They came together to form a new government. Iraqi and coalition forces working together have brought justice to a key player in the Samara attack. We're going to continue to strike blows against the terrorists. We'll continue working to support Iraq's new government.
When I spoke here a year ago, Iraqis still had a transitional government that was operating under administrative law issued before the restoration of sovereignty. Today, Iraqis have a permanent government chosen in free elections under a democratic constitution that they wrote and they approved. And the Iraqi people have a courageous leader in Prime Minister Maliki, who has formed the cabinet and laid out a clear agenda for the people of Iraq.
I met the Prime Minister. I met with his team. I was impressed by them. I was impressed by his strength. I was impressed by his character. I was impressed by his determination to succeed. He's laid out an ambitious plan to improve its economy and deliver essential services and to defeat the enemies of a free Iraq. And I told him this, that as he stands up for freedom, the United States of America will stand with him. (Applause.)
There's more work to be done in Iraq. The Iraqi people face deadly enemies who are determined to stop Iraq's new unity government from succeeding. They can't stand the thought of liberty. Our strategy is clear, our goals are easy to understand: We will help Iraq's new leaders, we will help the people of Iraq build a country that can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself as a free nation. Our troops will help the Iraqi people succeed because it's in our national interests. A free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will make America and the world more secure. (Applause.)
I'm going to make you this promise: I'm not going to allow the sacrifice of 2,527 troops who have died in Iraq to be in vain by pulling out before the job is done. (Applause.)
General Casey is working with the Iraqi government on a path forward. But we're not going to set an artificial timetable for withdrawal. Setting an artificial timetable would be a terrible mistake. At a moment when the terrorists have suffered a series of significant blows, setting an artificial timetable would breathe new life into their cause. Setting an artificial timetable would undermine the new Iraqi government and send a signal to Iraq's enemies that if they wait just a little bit longer, America will just give up. Setting an artificial timetable would undermine the morale of our troops by sending the message that the mission for which you've risked your lives is not worth completing. We're not going to set an artificial timetable to withdraw from Iraq. I will make decisions about troop levels in Iraq based on the advice that matters most -- the measured judgment of our military commanders. (Applause.)
I'll make you another pledge: We're going to make sure you have the resources you need to defeat our enemies in Iraq and secure the peace for generations to come. I believe in you, and I believe in all the men and women who are serving in the cause of freedom with such courage and such determination. You're winning this war -- and enemies understand that, too.
We get all kinds of evidence when we raid these safe houses, about their concerns. They bemoan the fact that we're keeping the pressure on them. They see the successes we're having in training. They know we're damaging their cause. This moment when the terrorists are suffering from the weight of successive blows is not the time to call retreat. We will stay, we will fight, and we will prevail. (Applause.)
Prevailing in Iraq is going to require more tough fighting; it's going to require more sacrifice. And when the job in Iraq is done, it will be a major victory in the battle against the terrorists. By achieving victory in Iraq, we will deny the terrorists a safe haven from which to plot and plan new attacks on America and other free nations. By achieving victory in Iraq, we will send a signal to our enemies that America's resolve is firm and that our country will not run in the face of thugs and assassins. (Applause.)
By achieving victory in Iraq, we will help Iraqis build a free nation in the heart of a troubled region, and inspire those who desire liberty -- those democratic reformers from Damascus to Tehran. By achieving victory in Iraq, we will honor the sacrifice of the brave men and women who have risked their lives and given their lives for a just and noble cause.
Victory in Iraq will not, in itself, end the war on terror. We're engaged in a global struggle against the followers of a murderous ideology that despises freedom and crushes all dissent, and has territorial ambitions and pursues totalitarian aims. This enemy attacked us in our homeland on September the 11th, 2001. They're pursuing weapons of mass destruction that would allow them to deliver even more catastrophic destruction to our country and our friends and allies across the world. They're dangerous. And against such enemy there is only one effective response: We will never back down, we will never give in and we will never accept anything less than complete victory. (Applause.)
We will keep the pressure on them. We will stay on the offense. We'll fight the terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq and every battlefront in this struggle. Yet, in the long run, we will defeat the terrorists and their hateful ideology by spreading the hope of freedom across the world. Our strategy to protect America is based on a clear premise: The security of our nation depends on the advance of liberty in other nations.
On September the 11th, 2001, we saw that problems originating in a failed and oppressive state 7,000 miles away could bring murder and destruction to our country. And we learned an important lesson: Decades of excusing and accommodating the lack of freedom in the Middle East did nothing to make it safe. So long as the Middle East remains a place where freedom does not flourish, it will remain a place where terrorists foment resentment and threaten American security.
And so we pursue a forward strategy of freedom in the Middle East. We ought to be confident in the pursuit of that strategy, because liberty is universal. And by standing with those who desire liberty, we will help extend freedom to millions who have not known it, and lay the foundations of peace for generations to come. (Applause.) ...