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Feb 15, 2007

Commentary on Bush's press conference

Complete transcript here. Only selected portions are discussed on this site.

Bush: In other words, these are people that will kill innocent men, women and children to achieve their objective, which is to discourage the Iraqi people, to foment sectarian violence - and to, frankly, discourage us from helping this government do its job.

Yesterday there was a suicide bomber. In other words, there's an active strategy to undermine the Maliki government and its Baghdad security plan. And our generals understand that. They know that they're all aimed at, frankly, causing people here in America to say it's not worth it. ...

But it reminds me of how important it is for us to help them succeed. If you think the violence is bad now, imagine what it would look like if we don't help them secure the city, the capital city of Baghdad.

Al Qaeda does not benefit from a US troop withdrawal, since they'd be hunted down by Iraqi militias and wiped out. They do much better as long as they're able point to attacking US troops and protecting Sunnis in Al Anbar from Shiite death squads.

Further, they are using many classical insurgent strategies to hit our nerve centers: infrastructure that produces wealth and sustains people (oil), making people unwilling to cooperate with the US, and hurting the financial sector overall. Just smart moves on their part that will make the government and US look worse and worse. This can be hard to stop under any circumstances.

And we don't seem to have made any progress yet in changing the status or strength of local militias. They're just laying low.

People want to live in peace. They want to grow up in a peaceful environment. And the decision I made is going to help the Iraqi government do that.

It hasn't yet. And I don't think it will.

I concluded that to step back from the fight in Baghdad would have disastrous consequences for our people in America. That's the conclusion I came to. That's the conclusion members of my staff came to. It's the conclusion that a lot in the military came to.

And the reason why I say disastrous consequences, the Iraqi government could collapse, chaos would spread. There would be vacuum. Into the vacuum would flow more extremists, more radicals, people who have stated intent to hurt our people.

I've already made my argument for this in my case for withdrawal.

What's different about this conflict than some others is that, if we fail there, the enemy will follow us here. I firmly believe that. And that's one of the main reasons why I made the decision I made.

You shouldn't, since almost all of the fighting elements in Iraq are fighting on sectarian lines or are criminal gangs trying to make money. Foreign fighters determined to attack the US are a minority. I also firmly believe that the longer we're in Iraq not providing security, the more Iraqis or other foreigners will want to follow us here.

A successful strategy obviously - a successful security strategy in Baghdad requires more than just military action. I mean, people have to see tangible results in their lives. I mean, they have to see something better.

They not only have to feel secure where they live, but they've got to see positive things taking place.

These things are true, but I do not yet see them working.

The other day, the Iraqi government passed a $41 billion budget; $10 billion of which is for reconstruction and capital investment.

We've already spent far more than this on construction and gotten precious little done. There are still major problems providing gasoline, cooking fuel, running water and electricity.

They're in the process of finalizing a law that will allow for the sharing of oil revenues among Iraq's peoples.

This is a major issue and I hope as much as anyone that this law can be agreed on. If it is, it may really help calm down Sunnis who fear getting cut out of the oil money.

Part of the strategy in Baghdad is to clear, and then to hold, and then to build. We've been pretty good about clearing in the past. We haven't been good about holding; we being the Iraqi and coalition forces.

Yeah. We don't control the vast majority of the country or the capital. That says a lot.

But also part of the strategy is to make sure that we build. So we're giving our commanders flexibility with reconstruction money that they have at their disposal.

I honestly wish Iraqis and the US the best in this effort. It will be hard. It's made extra hard because building is hard and requires time and security; blowing stuff up is relatively easy.

Later this week, the House of Representatives will vote on a resolution that opposes our new plan in Iraq before it has a chance to work. People are prejudging the outcome of this. They have every right to express their opinion, and it is a nonbinding resolution.

Soon, Congress is going to be able to vote on a peace of legislation that is binding, a bill providing emergency funding for our troops.

People are not opposing the plan "before it has a chance to work" for no reason. They see no rationale for a "more of the same" approach, especially when nobody in the administration can really say convincingly why it should work this time. They just say "because it has to."

At the six-party talks in Beijing, North Korea agreed to specific actions that will bring us closer to a Korea Peninsula that is free of nuclear weapons. ... This is a unique deal.

...This is good progress. It is a good first step. There's a lot of work to be done to make sure that the commitments made in this agreement become reality. But I believe it's an important step in the right direction.

Agreed. wonderful news. Seriously, congratulations on making the deal, even though you could have cut it two years ago and avoided seeing a nuclear North Korea. In any case, it's a good deal and a good first step, as you say.

Q: General Pace says that these bombs found in Iraq do not, by themselves, implicate Iran. What makes you so certain that the highest levels of Tehran's government is responsible?

BUSH: Yes...

Q: And how can you retaliate against Iran without risking a war?

BUSH: What we do know is that the Quds Force was instrumental in providing these deadly IEDs to networks inside of Iraq. We know that.

And we also know that the Quds Force is a part of the Iranian government. That's a known. What we don't know is whether or not the head leaders of Iran ordered the Quds Force to do what they did.

But here's my point: Either they knew or didn't know. And what matters is that they're there.

What's worse: that the government knew or that the government didn't know?

Hm. very weak reply to the question.

Now, let me step back on Iran itself. We have a comprehensive strategy to deal with Iraq. There's a variety of issues that we have with Iraq.

One, of course, is influence inside of Iraq.

Another is whether or not they end up with a nuclear weapon.

And I believe an Iran with a nuclear weapon would be very dangerous for world peace, and have worked with other nations of like mind.

I'd suggest the President explain why it makes sense that Iran's legitimate concerns are ignored, that all the current nuclear nations totally ignore the NPT, and that Iran can have no nuclear power technology. But Israeli can have weapons and nuclear power plants.

And it turns out there's a lot of countries in the world that agree with that assessment. After all, we did get a Chapter 7 resolution out of the United Nations that included E.U.-3, as well as Russia and China.

As I recall, the General Assembly of the UN has repeatedly supported Iran's right to develop peaceful nuclear technology.

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