CRAWFORD, Texas — Leaving Iraq would be more dangerous to the United States than staying and would dishonor GIs who already have been killed there, President Bush said yesterday.
“Leaving Iraq prematurely would only embolden the terrorists and increase the danger to America,” Mr. Bush said in his weekly radio address. “We will honor the sacrifice of the fallen by ensuring that the cause for which they fought and died is completed.”
The president said recent terrorist attacks in Iraq against police stations, the International Red Cross and living quarters for the Coalition Provisional Authority would not “cause America and our allies to flee.”
However, he said he understood how terrorists could think otherwise, because U.S. forces withdrew from Somalia after they were attacked in 1993 and pulled out of Beirut after they were attacked in 1983.
“During the last few decades, the terrorists grew to believe that if they hit America hard — as in Lebanon and Somalia — America would retreat and back down,” Mr. Bush said.
“They have learned the wrong lesson,” he added. “We are determined to stay, to fight and to win.”
As part of a continuing effort to counter the daily negative headlines from Iraq, the president continued to highlight success stories that show significant progress in the democratization and reconstruction of the war-torn nation.
“One example is Operation Ivy Focus, a series of aggressive raids by the Army’s 4th Infantry Division, that in a little over a month has yielded the capture of more than 100 former regime members,” he said.
“In other operations, those soldiers have also seized hundreds of weapons, thousands of rounds of ammunition and explosives, and hundreds of thousands of dollars suspected of being used to finance terror operations,” he added.
In his address, which he delivered as he headed to Mississippi and Kentucky to stump for Republican gubernatorial candidates, Mr. Bush also provided an update on the effort to train Iraqis to defend their own nation.
“Today, more than 90,000 Iraqis are serving as police officers, border guards and civil defense personnel,” he said. “These Iraqi forces are also supplying troops in the field with better intelligence, allowing for greater precision in targeting the enemies of freedom.
“And we are accelerating our efforts to train and field a new Iraqi army and more Iraqi civil defense forces,” he added.
Although the president vowed the United States would not be driven from Iraq, he spoke of a future in which U.S. forces would be able to withdraw peacefully.
“We are implementing a specific plan to transfer sovereignty and authority to the Iraqi people,” he said. “The Governing Council, made up of Iraqi citizens, has appointed ministers who are responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Iraqi government.
“The Council has also selected a committee that is developing a process through which Iraqis will draft a new constitution for their country,” he added. “When a constitution has been ratified by the Iraqi people, Iraq will enjoy free and fair elections.”
In recent weeks, Mr. Bush has interpreted terrorist attacks as a sign of progress in Iraq, because the terrorists are lashing out in frustration at their diminishing control over the society. However, the president suggested yesterday that the attacks would ebb as democratization accelerates.