his staff sure are spending a lot of time talking about his political troubles back here in the good old US of A. The title as well as the above quote was taken from the following text. Have a look:
There's also an important debate underway back in Washington about the way forward in Iraq. I particularly want to discuss the position that Democrat Congressman John Murtha announced this past week. Let me start off by saying that Congressman Murtha is a fine man, a good man, who served our country with honor and distinction as a Marine in Vietnam and as a United States Congressman. He is a strong supporter of the United States military. And I know the decision to call for an immediate withdrawal of our troops by Congressman Murtha was done in a careful and thoughtful way.
I disagree with his position. An immediate withdrawal of our troops from Iraq will only strengthen the terrorists' hand in Iraq, and in the broader war on terror. That's the goal of the enemy. They want to break our will in Iraq, so that we leave and they can turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban, a safe haven for terror, a place where they can plot and plan attacks against America and freedom-loving countries around the world.
Our military strategy is aimed at targeting the terrorists and training the Iraqis. Iraq authorities have made clear they want us to help them. They want us to help them defeat the terrorists, and they want us to train their own security forces, which is what we're doing.
I also recognize that the Iraqi people look forward to the day when Iraqi forces can secure their country and defend their freedom. It's only natural that the Iraqi people look forward to the day when they're fully prepared to defeat this enemy. I look forward to the day when the Iraqis are fully prepared to do that.
And we're making good progress. More and more Iraqis are taking the fight to the enemy, and day-by-day, they're assuming more responsibility for their own security. And as the Iraqi security forces gain strength and experience, we can lessen our troop presence in the country without losing our capability to effectively defeat the terrorists. A reduced presence of coalition forces will clearly demonstrate to the Iraqi people that we have no ambitions to occupy their country. As I've often said, we'll stay as long as necessary, but not one day more.
Yet, leaving prematurely will have terrible consequences, for our own security and for the Iraqi people. And that's not going to happen so long as I'm the President.
This is a debate worthy of our country; it's an important debate. It does not have to be a partisan issue. Fine Democrats like Senator Joe Lieberman share the view that we must prevail in Iraq. Bipartisan majorities in the House and the Senate rejected calls for immediate withdrawal. My decisions in Iraq will continue to be guided by the sober judgment of the military commanders on the ground in Iraq. Those elected leaders in Washington who do not support our policies in Iraq have every right to voice their dissent. They also have a responsibility to provide a credible alternative. The stakes are too high, and the national interest too important, for anything otherwise.
...Q It used to be that it was said that politics stopped at the water's edge. On this trip, clearly, the debate over Iraq has followed you. Were you at all disappointed by that? And why do you think it is that the Iraq debate in the last week has been so intense?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not surprised that people are talking about Iraq. Iraq is a vital issue for the United States of America. And it's -- we're at war, and people, of course, have got strong opinions about war. On the trip here, by the way, I was most pleased that many of the leaders at the APEC conference understood the stakes in Iraq, that a democracy in the heart of the Middle East will make the entire world more peaceful.
It's -- this is a worthy debate, and I'm going to repeat something I've said before. People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq. I heard somebody say, well, maybe so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position. I totally reject that thought. This is not an issue of who's patriot and who's not patriotic. It's an issue of an honest, open debate about the way forward in Iraq.
I am confident we will succeed in Iraq. I'm confident that the Iraqi forces will be trained; I am confident the political process will slowly, but surely, marginalize those that are trying to stop the march of democracy. And I also know that we have got to make sure that Iraq does not become a safe haven for terrorists. It's very important for -- during this debate to listen to the words of Zawahiri, who's the number-two man of al Qaeda, where he has made it very clear that his intention, and the intention of his henchman, Zarqawi, is to drive us out of Iraq before we have completed the mission.
And there's a reason why he wants us out of Iraq; because he wants Iraq to be a safe haven. He wants to be able to find a place where he and his forces can plot and plan against the United States of America. They were -- the al Qaeda, the enemy was able to do just that in Afghanistan. They plotted and planned a monstrous attack on the United States of America. And that attack of September the 11th is a lesson we should never forget.
Secondly, a democracy in Iraq is going to send a clear example of what is possible to other reformers in the region. There are people in Iran that are interested in freedom. And when Iraq succeeds, the people in Iran will see what is possible; that it's possible to have a government that actually listens to the people and responds to the needs of the people. A free Iraq will send a clear example to the Palestinians of what is possible in the Middle East. I believe there will be a Palestinian state that is democratic in nature and at peace with its neighbor, Israel. Lebanon is an example of a society which is shedding itself of a -- of its neighbor, Syria, and it's strengthening its democracy.
You know, it's interesting here in the Far East that we have this discussion about Iraq, and it's an appropriate place to think about the stakes in Iraq, because, after all, Japan was our sworn enemy. And after World War II, the Japanese adopted a Japanese-style democracy, which yielded a peaceful partner, an ally. It's amazing to think that in 60 years Japan has gone from enemy to ally in keeping the peace. The spread of democracies here in the Far East have made this part of the world a peaceful region.
And so the stakes are enormously high in Iraq, and I can understand why there's a debate. And I suspect there's going to be a debate for a long time coming in Iraq, as there should be. This is a serious matter of national concern.
Let's see -- Suzanne.
Q If I could follow up on your comments on Congressman Murtha. You said that he was a fine man and that he probably made this in a thoughtful manner. Congressman Murtha has also used the fact that neither you, nor the Vice President has served in combat as part of his criticism of Iraq policy, as well as the administration's campaign to defend it. Do you believe that that is relevant to the debate? And is there any concern that the attacks on either side are becoming overly personal?
THE PRESIDENT: I don't think the Vice President's service is relevant in this debate. And I would hope all of us in this debate talk about the policy and have an honest, open debate about whether or not it makes sense to immediately withdraw our troops. My position is very clear: It does not make sense. It will make America less secure. Iraq is a battlefront in the war on terror, and it's vital that we succeed in this particular battle in the war on terror.
And our strategy is proceeding. There's a political strategy, and as I said the other day, I said a couple of times, the progress in Iraq is amazing when you think -- the political progress. I mean, they've gone from tyranny to the election of a transitional national government, to the ratification of a constitution. And they're about to have elections again. And all this took place in two-and-a-half years. When you compare it to our own history, our road was quite bumpy getting to a constitution. And so the progress is strong.
The other progress that's being made is the training of the Iraqi forces. And more and more of the forces are more capable of taking the fight to the enemy. And as that happens, and as our commanders on the ground inform me that Iraq's security can be maintained by Iraqi troops, we will adjust accordingly.
Let's see -- Mike.
Is it me, or was the whole strawman vote taken earlier this week conducted just so W could claim that there was "bi-partisan support" and not be called on the bluff?