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pd19ap04 Statement on Signing Legislation To Provide for the Conveyance to the...

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those in Iraq who trade in hatred and conspiracy theories would find a 
larger audience and gain a stronger hand. We will not step back from our 
pledge. On June 30th, Iraqi sovereignty will be placed in Iraqi hands.
    Sovereignty involves more than a date and a ceremony. It requires 
Iraqis to assume responsibility for their own future. Iraqi authorities 
are now confronting the security challenge of the last several weeks. In 
Fallujah, coalition forces have suspended offensive operations, allowing 
members of the Iraqi Governing Council and local leaders to work on the 
restoration of central authority in that city. These leaders are 
communicating with the insurgents to ensure an orderly turnover of that 
city to Iraqi forces, so that the resumption of military action does not 
become necessary. They're also insisting that those who killed and 
mutilated four American contract workers be handed over for trial and 
punishment. In addition, members of the Governing Council are seeking to 
resolve the situation in the south. Al Sadr must answer the charges 
against him and disband his illegal militia.
    Our coalition is standing with responsible Iraqi leaders as they 
establish growing authority in their country. The transition to 
sovereignty requires that we demonstrate confidence in Iraqis, and we 
have that confidence. Many Iraqi leaders are showing great personal 
courage, and their example will bring out the same quality in others. 
The transition to sovereignty also requires an atmosphere of security, 
and our coalition is working to provide that security. We will continue 
taking the greatest care to prevent harm to innocent civilians, yet we 
will not permit the spread of chaos and violence. I have directed our 
military commanders to make every preparation to use decisive force, if 
necessary, to maintain order and to protect our troops.
    The nation of Iraq is moving toward self-rule, and Iraqis and 
Americans will see evidence in the months to come. On June 30th, when 
the flag of free Iraq is raised, Iraqi officials will assume full 
responsibility for the ministries of Government. On that day, the 
transitional administrative law, including a bill of rights that is 
unprecedented in the Arab world, will take full effect.
    The United States and all the nations of our coalition will 
establish normal diplomatic relations with the Iraqi Government. An 
American Embassy will open, and an American Ambassador will be posted.
    According to the schedule already approved by the Governing Council, 
Iraq will hold elections for a national assembly no later than next 
January. That assembly will draft a new, permanent constitution which 
will be presented to the Iraqi people in a national referendum held in 
October of next year. Iraqis will then elect a permanent Government by 
December 15th, 2005, an event that will mark the completion of Iraq's 
transition from dictatorship to freedom.
    Other nations and international institutions are stepping up to 
their responsibilities in building a free and secure Iraq. We're working 
closely with the United Nations envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, and with Iraqis 
to determine the exact form of the Government that will receive 
sovereignty on June 30th. The United Nations election assistance team, 
headed by Karina Parelli, is in Iraq, developing plans for next 
January's election.
    NATO is providing support for the Polish-led multinational division 
in Iraq. And 17 of NATO's 26 members are contributing forces to maintain 
security. Secretary of State Powell and Secretary of State Rumsfeld and 
a number of NATO defense and foreign ministers are exploring a more 
formal role for

[[Page 582]]

NATO, such as turning the Polish-led division into a NATO operation and 
giving NATO specific responsibilities for border control.
    Iraqis' neighbors also have responsibilities to make their region 
more stable. So I am sending Deputy Secretary of State Armitage to the 
Middle East to discuss with these nations our common interest in a free 
and independent Iraq and how they can help achieve this goal.
    As we've made clear all along, our commitment to the success and 
security of Iraq will not end on June 30th. On July 1st and beyond, our 
reconstruction assistance will continue, and our military commitment 
will continue. Having helped Iraqis establish a new Government, 
coalition military forces will help Iraqis to protect their Government 
from external aggression and internal subversion.
    The success of free Government in Iraq is vital for many reasons. A 
free Iraq is vital because 25 million Iraqis have as much right to live 
in freedom as we do. A free Iraq will stand as an example to reformers 
across the Middle East. A free Iraq will show that America is on the 
side of Muslims who wish to live in peace, as we have already shown in 
Kuwait and Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan. A free Iraq will confirm to a 
watching world that America's word, once given, can be relied upon even 
in the toughest times.
    Above all, the defeat of violence and terror in Iraq is vital to the 
defeat of violence and terror elsewhere and vital, therefore, to the 
safety of the American people. Now is the time, and Iraq is the place, 
in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the 
civilized world. We must not waver.
    The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorist who 
takes hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the 
same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid 
and murders children on buses in Jerusalem and blows up a nightclub in 
Bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew. We've seen 
the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 marines in Beirut, the 
first attack on the World Trade Center, in the destruction of two 
Embassies in Africa, in the attack on the U.S.S. Cole, and in the 
merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and 
children on September the 11th, 2001.
    None of these acts is the work of a religion; all are the work of a 
fanatical political ideology. The servants of this ideology seek tyranny 
in the Middle East and beyond. They seek to oppress and persecute women. 
They seek the death of Jews and Christians and every Muslim who desires 
peace over theocratic terror. They seek to intimidate America into panic 
and retreat and to set free nations against each other. And they seek 
weapons of mass destruction to blackmail and murder on a massive scale.
    Over the last several decades, we've seen that any concession or 
retreat on our part will only embolden this enemy and invite more 
bloodshed. And the enemy has seen, over the last 31 months, that we will 
no longer live in denial or seek to appease them. For the first time, 
the civilized world has provided a concerted response to the ideology of 
terror, a series of powerful, effective blows. The terrorists have lost 
the shelter of the Taliban and the training camps in Afghanistan. 
They've lost safe havens in Pakistan. They lost an ally in Baghdad, and 
Libya has turned its back on terror. They've lost many leaders in an 
unrelenting international manhunt. And perhaps most frightening to these 
men and their movement, the terrorists are seeing the advance of freedom 
and reform in the greater Middle East.
    A desperate enemy is also a dangerous enemy, and our work may become 
more difficult before it is finished. No one can predict all the hazards 
that lie ahead or the costs they will bring. Yet, in this conflict, 
there is no safe alternative to resolute action. The consequences of 
failure in Iraq would be unthinkable. Every friend of America in Iraq 
would be betrayed to prison and murder, as a new tyranny arose. Every 
enemy of America in the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness 
and decadence and using that victory to recruit a new generation of 
    We will succeed in Iraq. We're carrying out a decision that has 
already been made and will not change: Iraq will be a free, independent 
country, and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it. 
Our coalition has the means and the will to prevail.

[[Page 583]]

We serve the cause of liberty, and that is always and everywhere a cause 
worth serving.
    Now, I'll be glad to take your questions. I will start with you.

Vietnam Analogy

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, April is turning into 
the deadliest month in Iraq since the fall of Baghdad, and some people 
are comparing Iraq to Vietnam and talking about a quagmire. Polls show 
that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half of 
Americans now support it. What does that say to you, and how do you 
answer the Vietnam comparison?
    The President. Yes. I think the analogy is false. I also happen to 
think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the 
wrong message to the enemy. Look, this is hard work. It's hard to 
advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. And 
yet, we must stay the course, because the end result is in our Nation's 
interest. A secure and free Iraq is an historic opportunity to change 
the world and make America more secure. A free Iraq in the midst of the 
Middle East will have incredible change. It's hard--freedom is not easy 
to achieve. We had a little trouble in our own country achieving 
    And we've been there a year, Terry [Terence Hunt, Associated Press]. 
I know it seems like a long time. It seems like a long time to the loved 
ones whose troops have been overseas, but when you think about where the 
country has come from, it's a relatively short period of time. And we're 
making progress.
    There's no question it's been a tough, tough series of weeks for the 
American people. It's been really tough for the families. I understand 
that. It's been tough on this administration, but we're doing the right 
    And as to whether or not I make decisions based upon polls, I don't. 
I just don't make decisions that way. I fully understand the 
consequences of what we're doing. We're changing the world. And the 
world will be better off, and America will be more secure as a result of 
the actions we're taking.

Troop Strength/Timing of Withdrawal From Iraq

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. What's your best prediction on how long 
U.S. troops will have to be in Iraq? And it sounds like you will have to 
add some troops. Is that a fair assessment?
    The President. Well, I--first of all, that's up to General Abizaid, 
and he's clearly indicating that he may want more troops. It's coming up 
through the chain of command. If that's what he wants, that's what he 
gets. Generally, we've had about 115,000 troops in Iraq. There's 135,000 
now, as a result of the changeover from one division to the next. If he 
wants to keep troops there to help, I'm more than willing to say, ``Yes, 
General Abizaid.''
    I talk to General Abizaid quite frequently. I'm constantly asking 
him, does he have what he needs, whether it be in troop strength or in 
equipment. He and General Sanchez talk all the time, and if he makes the 
recommendation, he'll get it.
    In terms of how long we'll be there: as long as necessary, and not 
one day more. The Iraqi people need us there to help with security. They 
need us there to fight off these violent few who are doing everything 
they can to resist the advance of freedom, and I mentioned who they are.
    And as I mentioned in my opening remarks, our commanders on the 
ground have got the authorities necessary to deal with violence and 
will--will in firm fashion. And that's what, by far, the vast majority 
of the Iraqis want. They want security so they can advance toward a free 
    Once we transfer sovereignty, we'll enter into a security agreement 
with the Government to which we pass sovereignty, the entity to which we 
pass sovereignty. And we'll need to be there for a while. We'll also 
need to continue training the Iraqi troops. I was disappointed in the 
performance of some of the troops. Some of the units performed 
brilliantly. Some of them didn't, and we need to find out why. If 
they're lacking equipment, we'll get them equipment. If there needs to 
be more intense training, we'll get more intense training. But 
eventually, Iraq's security is going to be handled by the Iraqi people, 

[[Page 584]]

    Let's see here--Terry [Terry Moran, ABC News].

 Decisionmaking on Iraq

    Q. Mr. President, before the war, you and members of your 
administration made several claims about Iraq, that U.S. troops would be 
greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers, that Iraqi oil revenue 
would pay for most of the reconstruction, and that Iraq not only had 
weapons of mass destruction, but as Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld said, 
``We know where they are.'' How do you explain to Americans how you got 
that so wrong? And how do you answer your opponents who say that you 
took this Nation to war on the basis of what have turned out to be a 
series a false premises?
    The President. Well, let me step back and review my thinking prior 
to going into Iraq. First, the lesson of September the 11th is, when 
this Nation sees a threat, a gathering threat, we've got to deal with 
it. We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. Every threat 
we must take seriously.
    Saddam Hussein was a threat. He was a threat because he had used 
weapons of mass destruction on his own people. He was a threat because 
he coddled terrorists. He was a threat because he funded suiciders. He 
was a threat to the region. He was a threat to the United States. That's 
the assessment that I made from the intelligence, the assessment that 
Congress made from the intelligence. That's the exact same assessment 
that the United Nations Security Council made with the intelligence.
    I went to the U.N., as you might recall, and said, ``Either you take 
care of him, or we will.'' Anytime an American President says, ``If you 
don't, we will,'' we better be prepared to. And I was prepared to. I 
thought it was important for the United Nations Security Council that 
when it says something, it means something, for the sake of security in 
the world. See, the war on terror had changed the calculations. We 
needed to work with people. People needed to come together to work, and 
therefore, empty words would embolden the actions of those who are 
willing to kill indiscriminately.
    The United Nations passed a Security Council resolution unanimously 
that said, ``Disarm, or face serious consequences.'' And he refused to 
    I thought it was very interesting that Charlie Duelfer, who just 
came back--he's the head of the Iraqi Survey Group--reported some 
interesting findings from his recent tour there. And one of the things 
was, he was amazed at how deceptive the Iraqis had been toward UNMOVIC 
and UNSCOM, deceptive in hiding things. We knew they were hiding things. 
A country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting 
caught, and that was part of our calculation. Charlie confirmed that. He 
also confirmed that Saddam had a--the ability to produce biological and 
chemical weapons. In other words, he was a danger. He had long-range 
missiles that were undeclared to the United Nations. He was a danger, 
and so we dealt with him.
    What else--part of the question--oh, oil revenues. Well, the oil 
revenues are--they're bigger than we thought they would be at this point 
in time. I mean, one year after the liberation of Iraq, the revenues of 
the oil stream is pretty darn significant. One of the things I was 
concerned about prior to going into Iraq was that the oilfields would be 
destroyed, but they weren't. They're now up and running. And that money 
is--it will benefit the Iraqi people. It's their oil, and they'll use it 
to reconstruct the country.
    Finally, the attitude of the Iraqis toward the American people--it's 
an interesting question. They're really pleased we got rid of Saddam 
Hussein, and you can understand why. This is a guy who was a torturer, a 
killer, a maimer; there's mass graves. I mean, he was a horrible 
individual that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into 
kind of a fear of making decisions toward liberty. That's what we've 
seen recently. Some citizens are fearful of stepping up. And they were 
happy--they're not happy they're occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were 
occupied either. They do want us there to help with security, and that's 
why this transfer of sovereignty is an important signal to send, and 
it's why it's also important for them to hear we will stand with them 
until they become a free country.
    Elisabeth [Elisabeth Bumiller, New York Times].

[[Page 585]]

Hindsight on September 11

    Q. Thank you, Mr. President. To move to the 9/11 Commission, you, 
yourself, have acknowledged that Usama bin Laden was not a central focus 
of the administration in the months before September 11th. ``I was not 
on point,'' you told the journalist Bob Woodward. ``I didn't feel that 
sense of urgency.'' Two-and-a-half years later, do you feel any sense of 
personal responsibility for September 11th?
    The President. Let me put that quote to Woodward in context. He had 
asked me if I was--something about killing bin Laden. That's what the 
question was. And I said, ``Compared to how I felt at the time, after 
the attack, I didn't have that.'' I also went on to say, ``My blood 
wasn't boiling,'' I think is what the quote said. I didn't see--I mean, 
I didn't have that great sense of outrage that I felt on September the 
11th. I was--on that day I was angry and sad, angry that Al Qaida had--
well--[inaudible]--at the time, thought Al Qaida, found out shortly 
thereafter it was Al Qaida--had unleashed this attack, sad for those who 
lost their life.
    Your question, do I feel----
    Q. Do you feel a sense of personal responsibility for September 
    The President. I feel incredibly grieved when I meet with family 
members, and I do quite frequently. I grieve for the incredible loss of 
life that they feel, the emptiness they feel.
    There are some things I wish we'd have done, when I look back. I 

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