Bush: Iraq Must Not Become Terrorists' Safe Haven
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
The 9/11 terrorist attack made it clear the nation was at war, Bush said in an address at Tipp City High School. Consequently, he vowed to protect the United States from harm by aggressively pursuing and defeating the enemy overseas, rather than facing them at home.
In keeping with this strategy, U.S. forces entered Afghanistan to remove the Taliban and then Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein from power.
“What has happened since then,” Bush said, “is that we are trying to help a young democracy survive in the heart of the Middle East, and at the same time prevent our stated enemies from establishing safe haven from which to attack us again.”
The president said al Qaeda’s stated objective is to drive the United States out of Iraq in order to establish a safe haven. “They would need a safe haven from which to plot and plan and train to attack again,” he said.
“They have an objective and that is to spread their ideology throughout the Middle East,” he said. “Our objective is to deny them safe haven, to prevent al Qaeda from being able to do in Iraq that which they did in Afghanistan, which is where they trained thousands of young men to come and to eventually kill innocent people.”
Bush said recently he made the difficult decision to increase the U.S. military presence in Iraq because he believes the Iraqis want a peaceful society.
“I wouldn’t ask families to have their troops there if I didn’t think, one, it was necessary, and two we can succeed,” he stressed. “I believe we’re going to succeed, and I believe success will embolden other moderate people to that (have) said, they’re going to reject extremists and radicals in their midst.”
He said coalition troop levels need to be commensurate with the Iraqi society’s ability to protect itself. “The objective is to have the Iraqi’s take over their own security,” he said. “It’s just that they weren’t ready to do so.”
Bush said al Qaeda claim credit for many of the “spectacular” violence in Iraq, such as the bombing of the parliament, and the Golden Samarra mosque. “These are the Sunni extremists, inspired by Osama bin Laden who attacked the United States,” he said.
“I keep repeating that,” he noted, “because I want you to understand what matters overseas, in my judgment, affects the security of our United States in America.”
Al Qaeda’s objective is twofold, Bush said. They aim to shake the confidences of the Iraqis by proving their government is incapable of providing security, and to shake the confidence of the American people.
Iraq is in the process of rebuilding it’s political and economic infrastructure, which cannot happen without security, Bush said.
“If a failed state creates violence and chaos that eventually could come and hurt us, it’s in our interest to help (that state) succeed,” he said.
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