By Linda D. KozarynApril 5, 2007
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 5, 2007) - The hard work U.S. troops are doing in Iraq is "laying the foundations of peace for generations to come," President Bush told Soldiers and family members yesterday at Fort Irwin, Calif.
"The work that you have volunteered to do will have a lasting impact on the world in which we live," the president told the troops.
By helping Iraq become a country that can sustain, defend and govern itself - and become an ally in the war on terror - the U.S. military will have delivered a significant blow to those who want to harm the American people, he said.
"The amazing thing about our United States military is that thousands and thousands of you have signed up knowing full well that we're a nation at war," he said. "You decided to put your country ahead of self in many ways."
Bush said he's proud to be the commander-in-chief of such decent, honorable and noble people. He noted that it gives him great confidence to know that "standing with the president of the United States is a fantastic military, well-trained, courageous and dedicated to protecting this country."
He also thanked the families and said he understands the troop rotations are difficult and deployments create anxiety. "You are an integral part of making sure this volunteer army is as successful as it is today," he told the family members.
The president said the troops are facing a "tough war" and the American people are weary of it. But in his judgment, leaving before the job was done would make the United States at risk to further attack.
Bush noted that his new plan for military operations in Iraq involves sending in more troops and naming a new commander, Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, an expert on counter-insurgency. Bush said about half of the reinforcements expected to go to Baghdad have arrived, and the security situation is improving.
American and Iraqi troops are on the move, Bush said, rounding up both Sunni and Shiite extremists and going after Al Qaeda. They're destroying car bomb factories, killing and capturing hundreds of insurgents, and reclaiming neighborhoods.
"There is progress," he said, "but the enemy sees that progress and they're responding in a brutal way," For example, Bush said extremists used two children to drive into a crowded area, and then they got out and blew up the car with the children inside.
"It only hardens my resolve to help free Iraq from a society in which people can do that to children, and it makes me realize the nature of the enemy that we face, which hardens my resolve to protect the American people," Bush said.
What's happening in Iraq is not a civil war, he stressed, "It is pure evil and I believe we have an obligation to protect ourselves from that evil."
The president said the Iraqi government is doing its part and is meeting its obligations. They've committed additional troops to Baghdad, named a Baghdad commander and manned checkpoints. They've also committed $10 billion for reconstruction.
While the United States wants the Iraqi government to succeed, the president said he warned Iraqi officials that U.S. patience is not unlimited.
"It's in the interest of the United States that this young democracy succeed," Bush said. "It's in our interest that we gain a new ally in the war on terror in the midst of a part of the world that produced 19 kids that came and killed 3,000 of our citizens."
Bush noted that Congress has passed legislation that would impose an artificial deadline from Iraq. He said Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Peter Pace and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker have warned that delaying the funds past mid-April will have significant consequences for the armed forces.
When Congress returns from spring break, Bush said he will "urge Congress to work on legislation to fund the troops, but that does not tell the military how to conduct war and sets an artificial timetable for withdrawal."
"The enemy does not measure the conflict in Iraq in terms of timetables," he said. "They plan to fight us and we've got to fight them alongside the Iraqis. A strategy that encourages its enemies to wait us out is dangerous. It's dangerous for our troops. It's dangerous for our country's security, and it's not going to become the law."
Acknowledging the Congress members' patriotism, Bush said he understands people have passionate points of views about this war. "Yet we cannot allow honest differences in Washington to harm our troops in battle or their families here at home," he said.
"Members of Congress have sent their message now they need to send me a war spending measure that I can sign into law so we can provide our troops and their families with the funds and support that they deserve and they need," he concluded.
(Linda D. Kozaryn writes for the American Forces Press Service.)