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Bush on Iraq: "We're Not Leaving So Long as I'm President":
In a press conference today, President Bush seemed to rule out the possibility of an exit from Iraq at some point in the next two-and-a-half years. [but see update below] The key exchange:
Q . Mr. President, I'd like to go back to Iraq. You've continually cited the elections, the new government, its progress in Iraq, and yet the violence has gotten worse in certain areas. You've had to go to Baghdad again. Is it not time for a new strategy? And if not, why not?

* * *

THE PRESIDENT: The strategy is to help the Iraqi people achieve their objectives and their dreams, which is a democratic society. That's the strategy. The tactics — now, either you say, yes, its important we stay there and get it done, or we leave. We're not leaving, so long as I'm the President. That would be a huge mistake. It would send an unbelievably terrible signal to reformers across the region. It would say we've abandoned our desire to change the conditions that create terror. It would give the terrorists a safe haven from which to launch attacks. It would embolden Iran. It would embolden extremists.

No, we're not leaving. The strategic objective is to help this government succeed. That's the strategic — and not only to help the government — the reformers in Iraq succeed, but to help the reformers across the region succeed to fight off the elements of extremism. The tactics are which change. Now, if you say, are you going to change your strategic objective, it means you're leaving before the mission is complete. And we're not going to leave before the mission is complete. I agree with General Abizaid: We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here.
(emphasis added)

  UPDATE: A few commenters suggest I may be misinterpreting this. The video is here, and the exchange appears about 1/3 the way through; after watching it a few times, I think the commenters may be right. In context, the President may be saying, in effect, "we're not leaving prematurely, so long as I'm President" rather than a flat statement that we're not leaving, period.
ThomasL (mail):
I think you're overreading this. If he'd said, we'll leave over my dead body, we wouldn't think he was saying that the US wouldn't leave until he died.
8.21.2006 6:50pm
Dustinoo:
Thomas is right. Bush is saying, we aren't leaving because it's up to me, the President, and I say no.

Obviously if we succeed in Iraq before Bush leaves office we will exit.
8.21.2006 6:53pm
A.S.:
While you quoted the relevant langauge, I think your conclusion takes the highlighted words out of context. Pretty clearly Bush meant we're not leaving until we "get [the job] done". See the sentence immediately prior to the highlighted sentence, which sets "get it done" against "leaving".

One may rationally believe (although I don't) that we can "get it done" before Bush leaves office, in which case, presumably, our troops would withdraw from Iraq before Bush leaves office. This would still be consistent with what the President said, no?
8.21.2006 6:54pm
Brian Garst (www):
Given his history of failings when it comes to language, I think what the others say is correct. His meaning was most likely that we would not "quit" while he was president, but that we would only leave if it was through victory.
8.21.2006 6:57pm
OrinKerr:
Thanks for the helpful comments; I have posted an update.
8.21.2006 7:03pm
Randy R. (mail):
I think he realizes that we won't be leaving Iraq for at least another two years, probably longer. And since that's the length of time left on his presidency, he is being quite literal -- we won't be leaving 'so long as I'm president', which will be for another two years.
8.21.2006 7:15pm
Hugo:
We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here.



So, according to Bush, the terrorists can't chew gum and walk at the same time.
8.21.2006 7:19pm
Kazinski:
Leaving early from Iraq would be irresponsible, no matter how you feel about us being there in the first place. Those that say that the US presence in Iraq is a recruiting tool for terrorists, should consider what kind of recruiting tool a premature US withdrawl from Iran would be.
8.21.2006 7:39pm
te (mail):
No you are not over interpreting this. Bush claims that he is going to take the advice of the generals on the ground - but that's just more dishonest crap.

Bush has previously alluded to the fact that decisions about the troops would be for "the next administration" to make.

Faced with more evidence every day that he has embarked on a reckless and ill-advised foray into Iraq, he doesn't have the balls to admit he was wrong. So he will just "stay the course" (or whatever sufficiently simple little motto his handlers have told him to repeat) and leave the huge steaming pile he has created for somebody else to clean up.
8.21.2006 7:40pm
Mark Field (mail):

Those that say that the US presence in Iraq is a recruiting tool for terrorists, should consider what kind of recruiting tool a premature US withdrawl from Iran would be.


I hope that's a typo and not revelation.
8.21.2006 8:11pm
Helpful Solutions:
The President: "I agree with General Abizaid: We leave before the mission is done, the terrorists will follow us here."

Perhaps if we did not leave a forwarding address...?
8.21.2006 8:53pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
We have reached a point where staying in Iraq is in fact a worse option than withdrawing from Iraq. Let the Sunnis and Shias kill each other if they so desire. The greater immediate threat is Iran and its masters in Moscow and Beijing who are masterfully making fools out of the United States on the geopolitical chessboard.
8.21.2006 9:10pm
Kazinski:
MF:
I guess it was more a Freudian slip. We are going to have to deal with Iran eventually.
8.21.2006 9:12pm
te (mail):
Compare and contrast Bush's stance with that of Olmert.

Olmert realized that his intelligence vastly underestimated the difficulty of "destroying" Hezbollah. So Olmert basically declared victory and will be vacating Lebanon under cover of the face saving ceasefire.

Bush should do the same - just declare victory and bring our troops home.
8.21.2006 9:25pm
bluecollarguy:
te,

You kiddin'?

Olmert is a goner. What has he accomplished by his half measures? Not much except that Iran is cranking up the rocket factories and once again the UN and the French are shown to be the paper tiger, gutless wonders of the world.

Yup, Olmert is a genius.
8.21.2006 9:51pm
magoo (mail):
We have to wait until they're throwing rose petals and candy to our troops in thanks for liberating their country. Then we can leave.
8.21.2006 9:57pm
plunge (mail):
50 years later, we're going to be hearing the same thing from ultra-mega-president: we can't leave Iraq. The terrorists would declare a moral victory and that would make us look bad!
8.21.2006 10:38pm
Randy R. (mail):
All along, we've heard that we can't leave Iraq, because it would lead to civil war. Well, guess what? We stayed, and they have civil war.

We should have left years ago.

Now, everyone is saying, we have to stay, or it will get worse. Well, what happens if we stay and it STILL gets worse? Then what's the plan?
8.22.2006 12:47am
TruthInAdvertising:
Randy,

Don't you get it? There is no plan save Bush's plan not to leave Iraq during his term of office. Does anyone seriously think that conditions will improve enough that we can leave and legitimately declare victory? Unfortunately, we have people declaring that "We can't leave Iraq! That will encourage the terrorists!" But when asked for how we "win the war" in Iraq, all you'll hear is the sound of crickets chirping. People like Kazinski are apparently more than willing to keep sending American soldiers and Marines off to Iraq to be maimed and killed and for what purpose? To maintain the fiction that we're "fighting terrorists"?
8.22.2006 3:26am
douglas (mail):
I find it ironic that the same people who were tossing about the word 'blowback' about Afghanistan in an effort to besmirch the Reagan legacy are now advocating doing in Iraq what we did in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, which was nothing, rather than helping establish a stable government. That gave us the Taliban, and ultimately 9/11. What would leaving Iraq bring us? I dread the thought.
Obviously, the cut-and-run crowd care not at all for Iraqi lives, and not much for our own safety and security.
8.22.2006 4:04am
noahpraetorius (mail):
An ancillary benefit of the war in Afghanistan is that we now have a strategic airbase (Bagram) near unstable nuclear Pakistan. Fortunately the left has not yet made withdrawal from Afghanistan a political issue.

It makes no sense whatsoever to ever completely withdraw from Iraq as long as the Iraqis will have us there for similar geopolitical reasons.
8.22.2006 7:21am
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Douglas,

The truth is that I could care less about Iraqi lives...I only care about my fellow Americans' lives. That said, you conveniently leave out a couple of pertinent facts. One fact is that President Clinton had the opportunity (but not the cajones) to take Osama out in the '90s when it was already determined that Osama was a threat. That my friend, would have prevented 9-11.

As for your ridiculous "cut-and-run" retort, I'll just bet that General Custer told his troops at Little Big Horn that to "cut-and-run" was not an option. For that matter, it would not surprise me if Napoleon told his troops in 1812 that to "cut-and-run" from Russia was not an option. Well, we all know what happened to Custer and Napoleon. I can assure you that there are individuals in Moscow and Beijing who are hoping that President Bush and his neoconservative advisors are just dumb enough to keep throwing American soldiers into Iraq because that will be fewer American soldiers for them to contend with when the time comes.
8.22.2006 9:12am
Medis:
Personally, I'd like to get a few more details about exactly what people are imagining when they say things like "until the job is done" or "until the mission is complete". What does Iraq look like when the "job/mission" is "done/complete"?
8.22.2006 10:47am
goesh (mail):
-and give up some of those very, very nice airbases so modernized by saddam hussein left untouched in the war sitting empty on Iran's flank?? I don't think so...
8.22.2006 11:12am
Third Party Beneficiary (mail):
"What does Iraq look like when the 'job/mission' is 'done/complete'?"

I think they're going for a really hot and dusty Switzerland.
8.22.2006 11:52am
Monty:
"The strategic objective is to help this goverment succeed."
- George W. Bush, 8/21/06

"And so I don't think our troops ought to be used for what's called nation-building."
- George W. Bush, 10/11/00


So, Mr. President, were you lying then or are you lying now?
8.22.2006 12:07pm
Derrick (mail):
One fact is that President Clinton had the opportunity (but not the cajones) to take Osama out in the '90s when it was already determined that Osama was a threat.


And that's different from Bush's refusal to use our special forces in Afghanistan to get Osama how? At least Clinton saw a threat and tried to deal with it, mind you while Republicans cried that he was "wagging the dog".

If we want to talk about cajones, Bush doesn't have the cajones to get out. He would have to admit that his neo-conservative fantasy mission in Iraq would have failed, and we know that the one thing that Bush is certainly scared of is admitting that he was wrong. Dead wrong in the case of Iraq. Face it the terrorists are already emboldened by our mission in Iraq. At this point, its best to fight them on better ground of which Iraq is obviously not.
8.22.2006 12:17pm
uh clem (mail):
The "plan", such as it is, is quite clear: Muddle through for the next two and a half years when it'll become somebody else's problem.
8.22.2006 12:21pm
Medis:
TPB,

Or maybe they are going for Utah, except with LDS replaced by Shi'ism.
8.22.2006 12:56pm
David Maquera (mail) (www):
Derrick,

Actually Bush did send special forces to Afghanistan to hunt Osama down. In fact, there were special forces in the Tora Bora region at the time Osama was reputed to be in that region. Therefore, your comparison between Clinton and Bush is intellectually dishonest since Clinton essentially had Osama in his gunsights and didn't have the cajones to pull the trigger (what do you expect from a draft dodging, dope smoking whoremonger) while Bush did have Osama in his gunsights and pulled the trigger but missed.
8.22.2006 1:17pm
te (mail):

Bush did have Osama in his gunsights and pulled the trigger but missed.

Sort of the same way that Rumsfeld had Saddam in his sights when he was shaking hands with him?
8.22.2006 1:47pm
Matt Janovic (mail) (www):
From the White House Press conference of 08/21/2006:


Q Quick follow-up. A lot of the consequences you mentioned for pulling out seem like maybe they never would have been there if we hadn't gone in. How do you square all of that?

THE PRESIDENT: I square it because, imagine a world in which you had Saddam Hussein who had the capacity to make a weapon of mass destruction, who was paying suiciders to kill innocent life, who would — who had relations with Zarqawi. Imagine what the world would be like with him in power. The idea is to try to help change the Middle East. Now, look, part of the reason we went into Iraq was — the main reason we went into Iraq at the time was we thought he had weapons of mass destruction. It turns out he didn't, but he had the capacity to make weapons of mass destruction. But I also talked about the human suffering in Iraq, and I also talked the need to advance a freedom agenda. And so my question — my answer to your question is, is that, imagine a world in which Saddam Hussein was there, stirring up even more trouble in a part of the world that had so much resentment and so much hatred that people came and killed 3,000 of our citizens. You know, I've heard this theory about everything was just fine until we arrived, and kind of "we're going to stir up the hornet's nest" theory. It just doesn't hold water, as far as I'm concerned. The terrorists attacked us and killed 3,000 of our citizens before we started the freedom agenda in the Middle East.

Q What did Iraq have to do with that?

THE PRESIDENT: What did Iraq have to do with what?

Q The attack on the World Trade Center?

THE PRESIDENT: Nothing, except for it's part of — and nobody has ever suggested in this administration that Saddam Hussein ordered the attack. Iraq was a — the lesson of September the 11th is, take threats before they fully materialize, Ken. Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq. I have suggested, however, that resentment and the lack of hope create the breeding grounds for terrorists who are willing to use suiciders to kill to achieve an objective. I have made that case. And one way to defeat that — defeat resentment is with hope. And the best way to do hope is through a form of government. Now, I said going into Iraq that we've got to take these threats seriously before they fully materialize. I saw a threat. I fully believe it was the right decision to remove Saddam Hussein, and I fully believe the world is better off without him. Now, the question is how do we succeed in Iraq? And you don't succeed by leaving before the mission is complete, like some in this political process are suggesting.


You read-correctly, the Bush administration is finally admitting there was NO CONNECTION between 9/11 and Iraq, none. Wonder when we'll ever read this in the press?


http://chickasawpicklesmell.blogspot.com/
8.22.2006 1:59pm
Medis:
"The idea is to try to help change the Middle East."

I'd also like some details on this. What exactly is the New Middle East is going to look like by the time "the mission is complete"?
8.22.2006 2:34pm
Mark F. (mail):
What a country! ---even the totally ignorant, amoral and deluded can become President.
8.22.2006 2:39pm
Hamilton Lovecraft (mail):
I find it ironic that the same people who were tossing about the word 'blowback' about Afghanistan in an effort to besmirch the Reagan legacy are now advocating doing in Iraq what we did in Afghanistan after the Soviet withdrawal, which was nothing, rather than helping establish a stable government.

But was getting out of Afghanistan the right decision for the Soviets?
8.22.2006 3:53pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Well it's obvious, the President has no planning for winning in Iraq, realizes that there is no reasonable expectation that the Iraqis "will stand up" so that "we can stand down" in the amount of time left in his presidency. So he is just going to maintain the no win status quo and hope to hell that not too many soldiers get killed by the time he leaves the White House. Of course if Iraq completely falls apart and the Shia south cuts off the fuel supplies to our troops, they will be in a heap of trouble and it might get real ugly for them real fast. Will he and Rumsfeld then look like "Baghdad Bob" as they insist everything is going according to plan as they scramble to secure airfields and abandon all our equipment in Iraq and try to evacuate as many soldiers by air as possible while thousands die defending the airfields without any heavy armor (because they have run out of gas).

What a pathetic excuse for a president.
8.22.2006 4:11pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Matt Janovic wrote:

You read-correctly, the Bush administration is finally admitting there was NO CONNECTION between 9/11 and Iraq, none. Wonder when we'll ever read this in the press?


And I'm not sure what he meant by it.

Since the administration never claimed there was any direct link between Iraq and 9/11, is Matt saying the media is ignoring it because it reflects that Bush never claimed that in the first place -

"Nobody has ever suggested that the attacks of September the 11th were ordered by Iraq."


And so the mainstream media will ignore it because it brings into question their false narrative that Bush did claim such a connection?

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.22.2006 5:27pm
markm (mail):
JF, don't be ridiculous: "Of course if Iraq completely falls apart and the Shia south cuts off the fuel supplies to our troops" we'll have an identifiable enemy that we can crush more easily than we crushed Saddam's troops in the first place - and that was a very easy victory with very light casualties compared to most wars. The only thing on this planet that can directly beat us is ourselves.

OTOH, we'd better get used to slow attrition, because doing the job right is going to take a long time. Remember, Germany surrendered 61 years ago, and our troops are still there. (They shouldn't be anymore.) I think it only took 3-5 years to stabilize the country and create a self-sustaining democracy, but the Germans could build upon long traditions of an orderly government of laws. Nor were those born before 1933 unfamiliar with true elections - not just from the Wiemar Republic, but the Kaisers shared power with an elected parliament.

Iraq and Afghanistan are a whole different challenge, tribal societies with no traditions of good government of any sort. We have gone into such places and left behind a better government than most of those making up the UN. The Phillipines, for example - but it took over 50 years.
8.22.2006 5:48pm
person (mail):
TD wrote:

"And so the mainstream media will ignore it because it brings into question their false narrative that Bush did claim such a connection?"

Look at these claims?

"You read-correctly, the Bush administration is finally admitting there was NO CONNECTION between 9/11 and Iraq, none. Wonder when we'll ever read this in the press?"

"Since the administration never claimed there was any direct link between Iraq and 9/11, is Matt saying the media is ignoring it because it reflects that Bush never claimed that in the first place -"

The Bush Administration most certainly insinuated a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Queda. Al-Queda was responsible for 9/11. Therefore, the Bush Administration insinuated Saddam Hussein had some (indirect) connection to 9/11. But now he claims that Iraq had no connection with 9/11.
8.22.2006 7:03pm
TDPerkins (mail):
The Bush Administration most certainly insinuated a connection between Saddam Hussein and Al-Queda.


There were connections between Iraq and AlQaeda.

Al-Queda was responsible for 9/11.


At least you aren't completely divorced from reality.

Therefore, the Bush Administration insinuated Saddam Hussein had some (indirect) connection to 9/11.


A non sequitor. No such insinuation logically follows.

But now he claims that Iraq had no connection with 9/11.


He never made such claims nor insinuated anything to the contrary.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.23.2006 10:00am
Medis:
in·sin·u·ate (past and past participle in·sin·u·at·ed, present participle in·sin·u·at·ing, 3rd person present singular in·sin·u·ates)

verb

Definition:

1. transitive and intransitive verb; imply something: to hint at something unpleasant or suggest it indirectly and gradually.

V.P. Cheney on Meet the Press:

"MR. RUSSERT: The Washington Post asked the American people about Saddam Hussein, and this is what they said: 69 percent said he was involved in the September 11 attacks. Are you surprised by that?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: No. I think it’s not surprising that people make that connection.

MR. RUSSERT: But is there a connection?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: We don’t know. You and I talked about this two years ago. I can remember you asking me this question just a few days after the original attack. At the time I said no, we didn’t have any evidence of that. Subsequent to that, we’ve learned a couple of things. We learned more and more that there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaeda that stretched back through most of the decade of the ’90s, that it involved training, for example, on BW and CW, that al-Qaeda sent personnel to Baghdad to get trained on the systems that are involved. The Iraqis providing bomb-making expertise and advice to the al-Qaeda organization.

We know, for example, in connection with the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93 that one of the bombers was Iraqi, returned to Iraq after the attack of ’93. And we’ve learned subsequent to that, since we went into Baghdad and got into the intelligence files, that this individual probably also received financing from the Iraqi government as well as safe haven.

Now, is there a connection between the Iraqi government and the original World Trade Center bombing in ’93? We know, as I say, that one of the perpetrators of that act did, in fact, receive support from the Iraqi government after the fact. With respect to 9/11, of course, we’ve had the story that’s been public out there. The Czechs alleged that Mohamed Atta, the lead attacker, met in Prague with a senior Iraqi intelligence official five months before the attack, but we’ve never been able to develop anymore of that yet either in terms of confirming it or discrediting it. We just don’t know."
8.23.2006 2:23pm
Medis:
Oh, and I forgot:

"If we’re successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government in Iraq, that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, so it’s not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, so that it’s not a safe haven for terrorists, now we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."
8.23.2006 2:31pm
person (mail):
TD,
I think you're confusing two separete issues: the connection and its strength. If you agree that Bush &co. made the following statements: Saddam had ties with Al-Queda; and Al-Queda committed 9/11, then you must admit that Bush is asserting that Saddam had some connection with 9/11 if only through his connection to Al-Queda.

Saddam had WsMD? duh. But why did Bush &co. believe that it was necessary to remove Saddam's WsMD? Because he would directly use them against the U.S.? Probably not. He would risk massive retaliation. Like Iran, (so the argument runs) Iraq could supply WsMD covertly to terrorist groups. These groups could then hurt the U.S., and Saddam would not face direct retaliation. (My problem with this argument was whenever we found out that Saddam had supplied these groups with WsMD, we would then retaliate with massive force.) Unlike other terrorist groups, Hezbollah and Hamas, Al-Queda has shown an intense desire and resolve to directly harm the U.S. Key to this argument is that Saddam had ties with Al-Queda and affiliated groups. Bush most certainly alleged a ties between Saddam and 9/11 in its only meaningful sense. That Saddam would supply WsMD to these groups and the nation would observe the smoking gun in the form of mushroom cloud.
8.23.2006 5:39pm
TDPerkins (mail):
Medis,

There is no reality where.

"We just don’t know."

Which is the most equivocal and non-committal of statements, is the equivalent of:

"Yes there was."

Wanting it to be so simply doesn't make it so, and that leaves alone President Bush's flat statement to the contrary.

"If we’re successful in Iraq, if we can stand up a good representative government in Iraq, that secures the region so that it never again becomes a threat to its neighbors or to the United States, so it’s not pursuing weapons of mass destruction, so that it’s not a safe haven for terrorists, now we will have struck a major blow right at the heart of the base, if you will, the geographic base of the terrorists who have had us under assault now for many years, but most especially on 9/11."

And the portion of the world which is referred to here is the ummah, the Moslem world, of which Iraq is certainly very near the heart if not in fact cartographically the heart. It is a metaphorical statement outlining an overarching strategy, not an explicit statement of tactically striking the literal base of operations of the terrorists.

You can certainly misconstrue that statement if you must, I place no worth in your opinions if you do.

To Person:

If you are going to use the "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" definition of "connection", then you and I have some connection to 9/11. Turn yourself in.

Yours is a ludicrous, unserious definition of connection in the context of this thread.

None of the statements to the effect that Al Qaeda committed 9/11, and that Al Qaeda had connections to Iraq prior to 9/11, are statements that also require for Iraq as a govenemntal entity or even any given Iraqi person to have any prior knowledge of what AQ planned that day.

Your assertion "then you must admit that Bush is asserting that Saddam had some connection with 9/11 if only through his connection to Al-Queda" simply is not a logical conclusion.

It's a political one.

Good luck with that.

Yours, TDP, ml, msl, &pfpp
8.23.2006 10:57pm