Q Mr. President, dozens of American troops have been killed this month, and sectarian violence appears to be rising again in Iraq. You, yourself, just said that you're expecting more casualties in the weeks and months ahead. How much longer do you believe you can sustain your current policy in Iraq without significant progress on the ground? And how confident are you about finding those missing soldiers?But what about the results thus far...has this Iraq war been worth the investment?
THE PRESIDENT: I'm confident that the military is doing everything it can to find the missing soldiers. I talked to General Petraeus about this subject and Secretary Gates, and General Petraeus informs him that we're using all the intelligence and all the troops we can to find them. It's a top priority of our people there in Iraq.
Obviously, the loss of life is devastating to families. I fully understand that. But I want to remind you as to why I sent more troops in. It was to help stabilize the capital. You're asking me how much longer; we have yet to even get all our troops in place. General David Petraeus laid out a plan for the Congress, he talked about a strategy all aiming -- all aimed at helping this Iraqi government secure its capital so that they can do the -- some of the political work necessary, the hard work necessary to reconcile.
And as I explained in my opening remarks, all the troops won't be there until mid-June. And one reason you're seeing more fighting is because our troops are going into new areas, along with the Iraqis. And so General Petraeus has said, why don't you give us until September and let me report back, to not only me, but to the United States Congress, about progress.
I would like to see us in a different configuration at some point in time in Iraq. However, it's going to require taking control of the capital. And the best way to do that was to follow the recommendations of General Petraeus.
Q Mr. President, a new Senate report this morning contends that your administration was warned before the war that by invading Iraq you would actually give Iran and al Qaeda a golden opportunity to expand their influence, the kind of influence you were talking about with al Qaeda yesterday, and with Iran this morning. Why did you ignore those warnings, sir?Well, simply because the president believes something doesn't make it true (witness WMD in Iraq). I need proof and the stuff I see doesn't lead me to the same conclusions as the President. The proof is in the pudding, and the president's Iraqi batch doesn't taste very good.
THE PRESIDENT: Ed, going into Iraq we were warned about a lot of things, some of which happened, some of which didn't happen. And, obviously, as I made a decision as consequential as that, I weighed the risks and rewards of any decision. I firmly believe the world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. I know the Iraqis are better off without Saddam Hussein in power. I think America is safer without Saddam Hussein in power.
Now here is where we begin to see the president stretching the truth:
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You say you want nothing short of victory, that leaving Iraq would be catastrophic; you once again mentioned al Qaeda. Does that mean that you are willing to leave American troops there, no matter what the Iraqi government does? I know this is a question we've asked before, but you can begin it with a "yes" or "no."I don't think we were invited into Iraq, so the myth of an invitation when we're the one's who established the government is really a false positive. If Iraq was a sovereign nation, they wouldn't need us in there in the first place. I think there are some in the Iraqi government who have actually indicated they wanted us to leave, no? So, really, the president is being disingenuous here.
THE PRESIDENT: We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It's their government's choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.
The president proves my point right here:
Q -- catastrophic, as you've said over and over again?Now, if you are not with me here going, "holy shit, did he just say that?" Then, you are not paying much head to the subtext of that message. It's not the Iraqis that are in control of their government.
THE PRESIDENT: I would hope that they would recognize that the results would be catastrophic. This is a sovereign nation, Martha. We are there at their request. And hopefully the Iraqi government would be wise enough to recognize that without coalition troops, the U.S. troops, that they would endanger their very existence. And it's why we work very closely with them, to make sure that the realities are such that they wouldn't make that request -- but if they were to make the request, we wouldn't be there.
But wait, there's more propaganda slung from the Presidential Catapult:
Q Mr. President, after the mistakes that have been made in this war, when you do as you did yesterday, where you raised two-year-old intelligence, talking about the threat posed by al Qaeda, it's met with increasing skepticism. The majority in the public, a growing number of Republicans, appear not to trust you any longer to be able to carry out this policy successfully. Can you explain why you believe you're still a credible messenger on the war?I don't actually believe that we are going to be able to extinguish this threat by being in Iraq do you? It hasn't thus far, so simply because the president believes something is not enough for me at this point to believe him.
THE PRESIDENT: I'm credible because I read the intelligence, David, and make it abundantly clear in plain terms that if we let up, we'll be attacked. And I firmly believe that.
Look, this has been a long, difficult experience for the American people. I can assure you al Qaeda, who would like to attack us again, have got plenty of patience and persistence. And the question is, will we?And here, again, the president is comparing the American people with Al Qaeda, and I wouldn't even put us in the same ballpark even if the president continues to do so.
Yes, I talked about intelligence yesterday. I wanted to make sure the intelligence I laid out was credible, so we took our time.Two year old intelligence?
Somebody said, well, he's trying to politicize the thing. If I was trying to politicize it, I'd have dropped it out before the 2006 elections. I believe I have an obligation to tell the truth to the American people as to the nature of the enemy. And it's unpleasant for some. I fully recognize that after 9/11, in the calm here at home, relatively speaking, caused some to say, well, maybe we're not at war. I know that's a comfortable position to be in, but that's not the truth.The only reason he brings up and slaps the Nine Eleven Monkey is for political reasons. He proves himself wrong again.
Failure in Iraq will cause generations to suffer, in my judgment. Al Qaeda will be emboldened. They will say, yes, once again, we've driven the great soft America out of a part of the region. It will cause them to be able to recruit more. It will give them safe haven. They are a direct threat to the United States.But fear of failure in Iraq is not a viable strategy for delivering success in Iraq. Moreover, I'm not so certain that Al Qaeda hasn't had a dramatic boon in recruitment based on what we have done in Iraq thus far.
And I'm going to keep talking about it. That's my job as the President, is to tell people the threats we face and what we're doing about it. And what we've done about it is we've strengthened our homeland defenses, we've got new techniques that we use that enable us to better determine their motives and their plans and plots. We're working with nations around the world to deal with these radicals and extremists. But they're dangerous, and I can't put it any more plainly they're dangerous. And I can't put it any more plainly to the American people and to them, we will stay on the offense.But the "plain" message isn't what the American people want to hear. Unfortunately, the W, Rove and Co has repeatedly underestimated the intelligence of the American public. The American people are strong and can handle the truth, not some watered down version spoken "plainly" by a plain president.
And then, he articulates once again, the seriously flawed slogan which demonstrates a complete disregard for the innocent Iraqis that didn't ask to be placed in the "central front on the war on terror." :
It's better to fight them there than here. And this concept about, well, maybe let's just kind of just leave them alone and maybe they'll be all right is naive. These people attacked us before we were in Iraq. They viciously attacked us before we were in Iraq, and they've been attacking ever since. They are a threat to your children, David, and whoever is in that Oval Office better understand it and take measures necessary to protect the American people.So, if you go by the President's argument (the attacked us before, during, and will after we leave), Iraq is really irrelevant to the equation as to why Al Qaeda is attacking us. Really, if you think about this, why don't we move out of Iraq, and then Al Qaeda will follow us to...well, how about wherever OBL is? Wouldn't that constitute "bringing the fight to them" rather than waiting for them to target us?
Q Mr. President, yesterday you discussed Osama bin Laden's plans to turn Iraq into a terrorist sanctuary. What do you think your own reaction would have been five years ago had you been told that towards the end of your term he would still be at large with that kind of capability, from Iraq, no less, and why -- can you tell the American people -- is he still on the run? Why is he so hard to catch?Right, how about instead of contributing to the fire in Iraq, we move out, and let them follow us into some "remote region?" It would accomplish several things - weed the AQ folks from the normal Iraqis, 2) center the efforts on killing AQ operatives, and c) let the Iraqis fend for themselves...and so on...
THE PRESIDENT: I would say that five years ago, like I said, we're going to pursue him, and we are pursuing him. And he's hiding. He is in a remote region of the world. If I knew precisely where he is, we would take the appropriate action to bring him to justice. He is attempting to establish a base of operations in Iraq. He hasn't established a base in operations. My points yesterday were, here was his intentions, but thankfully, of the three people I named, all of them no longer are a part of his operation.
My point is, is that -- I was making the point, Jim, as I'm sure you recognized, that if we leave, they follow us. And my point was, was that Osama bin Laden was establishing an external cell there, or trying to, and he's been unable to do it.
But what of OBL?
Q Mr. President, why is he still at large?Well, if he's isolated, how is he working to kill people? If he directs others from his remote location, it seems like some one knows the pathway to his front door.
THE PRESIDENT: Why is he at large? Because we haven't got him yet, Jim. That's why. And he's hiding, and we're looking, and we will continue to look until we bring him to justice. We've brought a lot of his buddies to justice, but not him. That's why he's still at large. He's not out there traipsing around, he's not leading many parades, however. He's not out feeding the hungry. He's isolated, trying to kill people to achieve his objective.
But here's where the President Implodes:
Q Mr. President, moments ago you said that al Qaeda attacked us before we were in Iraq. Since then Iraq has become much less stable; al Qaeda has used it as a recruiting tool, apparently with some success. So what would you say to those who would argue that what we've done in Iraq has simply enhanced al Qaeda and made the situation worse?Legit question. Mr. President?
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, so, in other words, the option would have been just let Saddam Hussein stay there? Your question is, should we not have left Saddam Hussein in power?Well, that's not really the question, but the W, Rove and Co specialize in this political maneuver - answer a question you wish the reporter asked.
And the answer is, absolutely not. Saddam Hussein was an enemy of the United States. He'd attacked his neighbors. He was paying Palestinian suicide bombers. He would have been -- if he were to defy -- and by the way, cheating on the U.N. oil for sanctions program -- oil-for-food program. No, I don't buy it. I don't buy that this world would be a better place with Saddam Hussein in power, and particularly if -- and I'm sure the Iraqis would agree with that.I still see no proof that it's better that he is gone...nothing but rhetorical hot air...but the President digs in and bellows...
See, that's the kind of attitude -- he says, okay, let's let them live under a tyrant, and I just don't agree.That's not what this reporter said or asked at all. You, Mr. President, are trying to paint the reporter as some one who supports tyranny. That's not the case.
I obviously thought he had weapons, he didn't have weapons; the world thought he had weapons. It was a surprise to me that he didn't have the weapons of mass destruction everybody thought he had, but he had the capacity at some point in time to make weapons. It would have been a really dangerous world if we had the Iranians trying to develop a nuclear weapon, and Saddam Hussein competing for a nuclear weapon. You can imagine what the mentality of the Middle East would have been like.This from a man who suggests that he doesn't talk about hypotheticals. That's a rather large "what-if" Mr. president...
So the heart of your question is, shouldn't you have left Saddam Hussein in power?No, no matter how many times you repeat this assertion, it's not what the reporter asked
And the answer is, no. And now that we've --The man is completely diverting the conversation - very political maneuver, don't you think?
THE PRESIDENT: -- that's really the crux of it. And -- let me finish, please, here. I'm on a roll here. And so now that we have, does it make sense to help this young democracy survive? And the answer is, yes, for a variety of reasons.
One, we want to make sure that this enemy that did attack us doesn't establish a safe haven from which to attack again. Two, the ultimate success in a war against ideologues is to offer a different ideology, one based upon liberty -- by the way, embraced by 12 million people when given the chance. Thirdly, our credibility is at stake in the Middle East. There's a lot of Middle Eastern nations wondering whether the United States of America is willing to push back against radicals and extremists, no matter what their religion base -- religious bases may be.Because your administration is experience diplomatic failure does not justify the invasion of a country. Does it? Additionally, refusal to discuss a strategy to get us out of Iraq is almost as bad, if not worse, an abandonment of our troops in Iraq, don't you think?
And so the stakes are high in Iraq. I believe they're absolutely necessary for the security of this country. The consequences of failure are immense.
Q So there was no choice -- so there was no choice between the course we took and leaving Saddam Hussein in power? Nothing else that might have worked?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we tried other things. As you might remember back then, we tried the diplomatic route: 1441 was a unanimous vote in the Security Council that said disclose, disarm or face serious consequences. So the choice was his to make. And he made -- he made a choice that has subsequently left -- subsequently caused him to lose his life under a system that he wouldn't have given his own citizens. We tried diplomacy. As a matter of fact, not only did I try diplomacy; other Presidents tried diplomacy.
So in the interest of reality-based politics, I'd like to point out that there's more than one way to abandon the troops. You can abandon them from "the left," which is what the Republicans claim imposing readiness requirements on deployment would do. We've all heard that song and dance.
But it is also possible to abandon the troops from "the right."
If not approving unfettered funding is abandoning the troops in the field, then just as surely leaving them there with no mission, no way to win, and no way out is abandoning them, too.