- The Washington Times - Monday, October 27, 2003

President Bush yesterday said he would not let increasingly brazen terrorist attacks deter the United States from pushing ahead with the reconstruction and democratization of Iraq.

“We’re determined in this administration not to be intimidated by these killers,” said Mr. Bush during an Oval Office meeting with his envoy to Iraq, L. Paul Bremer. “We will find these people, and we will bring them to justice.”

The president’s comments came a day after Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz escaped injury in a rocket attack on a Baghdad hotel that killed Lt. Col. Charles Buehring. Yesterday, terrorists blew up cars at three police stations and the headquarters of the International Red Cross.

“We’ll have rough days such as we’ve had the last couple of days, but the overall thrust is in the right direction,” Mr. Bremer said. “The good days outnumber the bad days. And that’s the thing we need to keep in perspective.”

Mr. Bremer and his top military commander in Iraq, Gen. John Abizaid, gave a briefing on Iraq to the president and members of his national security team, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Gen. Richard Meyers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Mr. Bremer sought to downplay the recent bombings as bumps in the road to democracy and freedom for the Iraqi people.

“There are a lot of wonderful things that’ve happened in Iraq since July,” he said. “We have a Cabinet now; ministers actually are conducting affairs of state.

“We have met all of our goals in restoring essential services,” he added. “All the schools and hospitals are open. Electricity is back at prewar levels.”

Mr. Bush, who has been frustrated in recent weeks by negative media coverage of postwar Iraq, said the administration is actively trying to curb violence and protect U.S. forces.

“We’ve hardened a lot of our targets for U.S. personnel there,” he said. “There are terrorists in Iraq who are willing to kill anybody in order to stop our progress.

“The more successful we are on the ground, the more these killers will react,” he added. “These people will kill Iraqis. They don’t care who they kill. They just want to kill.”

White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan made no attempt to downplay the attacks in Iraq, which sometime number dozens per day. But he emphasized the vast majority of problems are occurring in central Iraq, particularly in the area bordered by Baghdad, Tikrit and Fallujah.

“There are dangerous people that are still in parts of Iraq, particularly that Sunni Triangle,” the spokesman said. “In the north and south, we have made significant progress. Those areas are secure areas.”

Echoing the defiance of his boss, Mr. McClellan added: “We will not be intimidated. We will stay the course, and we will prevail in this central front on the war on terrorism.”

Mr. Bush emphasized that despite the attacks, most Iraqis are pleased with the U.S. presence in their country.

“There’s a handful of people who don’t want them to live in freedom, aren’t interested in their children going to schools, don’t really care about the nature of the health care they get, aren’t pleased with the fact that the electricity is coming back online, aren’t happy about the fact that Iraq is now selling oil on the world markets and people are finding work,” he said. “And they’ll do whatever it takes to stop this progress.”

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