Helen raises a very good issue that springs forth from a concern for the people of Iraq, who I might add have been extremely marginalized by our actions there. She asks, essentially, what right do we have to turn Iraq into the "central front on the war on terror?" And, more importantly, who specifically is responsible for doing that?
Have a look at how Tony gets tangled up in what he calls "The Heckle Zone." It strikes me that it only feels like the "heckle zone" because indeed there is some truth laced within these questions. Enjoy:
Q Change of subject, but not venue. The Washington Post is carrying a series of polls saying that the Iraqi people most affected by our so-called war want us out, want us out of Iraq. What is the President's reaction?Excuse me? The government asked us? For what? To invade their country and turn it into the "central front on the war on terror? My goodness.
MR. SNOW: Not really surprised. I mean, nobody wants to have an occupying army. It's understanding that when you have an army on your soil, that you want them out. But on the other hand, the Iraqi government has made it clear, and you've heard statements by Prime Minister Maliki, and now President Talabani, as recently as last week, saying, don't leave until the job is done.
We understand the sentiments of the Iraqi people and we'd love to be out of there as soon as possible, but you have to have the end state --
Q Well, do they count?
MR. SNOW: Of course, they count -- and one of the reasons why their elected officials want us to stay is that they don't want them subjected to tyranny. They want the ability to win the battle of terror on Iraqi soil. So the President does understand it. It's also interesting, Helen --
Q -- on Iraqi soil. We want it on Iraqi soil.
MR. SNOW: Let me just finish the -- I'm sorry, what?
Q I said, the question of winning, we declared Iraq a central front and so forth -- we want it there, instead -- and they want out.
MR. SNOW: Well, no, we didn't declare Iraq the central front, bin Laden did.
Q Yes, we did.
MR. SNOW: Bin Laden declared it the central front in the war on terror. But we're quibbling here. They want us out. Yes, of course. The Europeans wanted us out after World War II. We ended --
Q Why do we stay there?
MR. SNOW: The reason we're staying is that we have made a commitment to providing a government -- a democracy --
Q A commitment to whom?
MR. SNOW: To the people of Iraq and to their government, a government than can sustain itself, defend itself, and govern itself. And we are continuing --
Q We invaded that country.
MR. SNOW: Please, please, we're getting into the heckle zone here. The point is that the government has asked us and you have now had a Shia prime minister and a Kurdish President saying, stay, finish the job.
The other interesting thing is if you look in the region, there are only two countries that want us to leave immediately. And you know what they are? They're Syria and Iran. They're the key supporters of terror. They understand that our departure is good for them, and success for us in the region is bad for them. And we're simply not going to back off our commitment.