Bush Assures Former Secretaries of U.S. Commitment in Iraq
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
The president met with the secretaries at the White House to discuss Iraq and the broader Middle East.
"They've got good people on the ground," Bush told reporters he assured the former secretaries, as well as Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "We've got brave troops that are working every day to help this country succeed and at the same time, deny safe haven to al Qaeda."
Bush noted progress in Iraq since his last meeting with the former secretaries, in January. "Since we last met, a unity government is now in the process of becoming formed," he told reporters.
This government represents the people of Iraq, Bush said, adding that he has "great hopes" for it. "We've got a Shiia as the prime minister-designee, a Sunni as the speaker (and) a Kurd as the president -- all of whom have dedicated themselves to a country moving forward that meets the hopes and aspirations of the Iraqi people," he said.
Today the former secretaries discussed the challenges ahead, focusing heavily on militias that take the law into their own hands, the president said. "And it's going to be up to the (Iraqi) government to step up and take care of that militia so that the Iraqi people are confident in the security of their country," he said. "It's important to have a secure Iraq in order for people to go about their daily lives. And we understand that."
Bush thanked the secretaries for sharing their thoughts and suggestions about the way forward in Iraq. "I think it's very useful for those of us who are helping to plot the strategies and the tactics to help secure this country to hear from you," he said.
It's time to focus not on differences, but on shared views and goals, Bush said. "We've had our disagreements in this country about whether or not we should be there in the first place," he said. "Now the fundamental question is, 'How do we achieve our objectives?'"
That objective, the president said, is "a democracy which can defend itself (and) sustain itself, a country which is an ally in the war on terror, and a country which serves as a powerful example for others who desire to be free."
"I'm optimistic about our successes," Bush said. "I know this: The only way we will not succeed is if we lose our nerve, we don't have faith in our values, and that we're constantly changing tactics on the ground to achieve our objectives."
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