Q Paul Bongiorno, Mr. President. As you noted, Australia will begin withdrawing 500 combat troops from southern Iraq. And I heard that you accept this decision, which did, as you say, play out in our election. But how does it fit with your view, expressed quite strongly again yesterday, that to withdraw troops at this time would be to retreat? And you've described our former Prime Minister as a "man of steel." I'm wondering how you'd describe Mr. Rudd.So, we are being successful in Iraq? Really? Have a gander at these pictures and decide for yourself. If this is what success looks like, the bar must be really by George Bush standards. Just goes to show us he was right to suggest that we "not misunderestimate" him.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Fine lad, fine lad. First of all, I didn't exactly say that. And by the way, we are withdrawing troops. It's called "return on success." And our intention is to have pulled down five battalions by July. Troops are coming out -- five brigades, excuse me -- troops are coming out, because we're successful. And so I would view the Australia decision as "return on success," returning home on success.
Does it really matter what the President calls a troop withdrawal? I wait patiently for the troops to return, but I think he should not berate those who advocate withdrawal and then claim that he's the saint for doing it,particularly given the nasty situation he has caused in Iraq and has yet to fix.
That's fundamentally different from saying, well, it's just too hard, pull them all out. That sends a different signal. This is a signal in which we're working collaboratively with the Iraqi government. They know our intentions, and they know we're not going to leave them.
In the very same speech, I talked about developing a long-term strategic relationship with Iraq, as well. And for those who didn't listen to the full speech, I will remind you that it's in our interests that we enter into such an arrangement. But a long-term strategic arrangement does not commit any future President to any troop level, nor does it talk about permanent bases. But it does talk about a joint strategic relationship to make sure that the Iraqi people know, and the Iraqi government knows that we're not going to leave them in the lurch.
And so we are taking troops out, just like the Australians are, because we're being successful. And his question -- Steven Lee's question was, well, are you going to bring any further out? Not, are you going to bring any out; are you going to bring any further troops out -- from that which we committed to do earlier. And the answer is, it depends on what our commanders say, and the folks in Washington say, and it depends upon conditions on the ground. His real question was, have the conditions changed such that you believe your commander is going to make a different recommendation that he might have two days ago? And I can't answer that question. I can only tell you what I'm going to do after we get back from NATO.
Thank you for coming. I've enjoyed it.
Does any one else find it reprehensible that George Bush berates people for advocating withdrawal and then tries to take the high road by pasting some kind of euphamistic phrase over it? Moreover, it's reprehensible that he suggest what is ocuring in Iraq is a success.