Q Mr. President, there was some more sectarian violence today in Iraq. There have been hundreds, maybe thousands, killed since the bombing of the mosque. Do you fear an all-out civil war? And will the events of Iraq of the last few days affect prospects for a U.S. draw-down?Incidentially, we see once again that the president draws conclusions from speculative evidence and faulty correlations. We most certainly don't have unity here in the US of A, but do we have chaos? Why would he suggest that these are the only two options present for the Iraqi people? Are members of the W, Rove and Co simultaneiously dualistic and nihilistic? Either way, it does not bode well for the Iraqis or us.
And to the Prime Minister, do you still want to withdraw Italian troops by the end of the year?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The United States strongly condemns the bombing of holy sites. We believe people should be allowed to worship freely. Obviously, there are some who are trying to sow the seeds of sectarian violence. They destroy in order to create chaos. And now the people of Iraq and their leaders must make a choice. The choice is chaos or unity. The choice is a free society, or a society dictated by the -- by evil people who will kill innocents.
This weekend I spoke to seven of the Iraqi leaders. They understood the seriousness of the moment. They have made their choice, which is to work toward a unity government. The Iraqi people made their choice. Since last December, 11 million people, in defiance of the terrorists and the killers, went to the polls and said, we want to be free.
Oh, and by the way, the make that one less for the coalition in Iraq:
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: (As translated.) We have announced a plan to progressively withdraw our troops, which should be completed -- we have to be completed by the end of this year. And this plan has been agreed upon also together with our allies, and with the Iraqi government. Because this what is going to be possible -- (in English) -- why this will be possible.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes.
PRIME MINISTER BERLUSCONI: (As translated.) Why is this going to be possible? Because we have all together with our allies trained Iraqi troops and Iraqi soldiers and the law enforcement so that the Iraqi government itself will be able to guarantee the security of its people through their own forces.