Bush: Pullout would hand Iraq to enemies
Updated: 2005-12-19 07:24
US President Bush will say Sunday, according to excerpts of a prepared
speech, that Iraq's elections signal the birth of democracy in the Middle East,
arguing against a U.S. troop pullout while acknowledging the doubts of some
"that the war is lost and not worth another dime or another day."
The president's speech says
that last week's voting for parliament will not bring an end to the violence in
Iraq, where he has estimated that 30,000 civilians and more than 2,100 Americans
have died. But Iraq's election, 6,000 miles away, "means that America has an
ally of growing strength in the fight against terror."
President Bush , right, and first lady Laura
Bush, left, walk out of St. John's Episcopal Church with Rev. Luis Leon,
back, after attending the Sunday morning service, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2005,
in Washington. [AP]
The president is to speak to the nation in his first address from the Oval
Office since he announced the invasion of Iraq in March, 2003. Excerpts of his
remarks were released in advance.
His speech comes amid an uproar in Congress over whether he exceeded his
powers in conducting the war on terror with a secret eavesdropping program and
on a day that Vice President Dick Cheney made a surprise visit to Baghdad.
The Pentagon hopes to be able to reduce U.S. troop levels as Iraqi security
forces become more capable of defending their own country, but it is unclear
when that point will be reached. The usual U.S. troop level this year of about
138,000 was strengthened to about 160,000 this fall out of concern for a
potential rise in violence during voting in October and December.
"It is also important for every American to understand the consequences of
pulling out of Iraq before our work is done," excerpts of Bush's speech say. "We
would abandon our Iraqi friends and signal to the world that America cannot be
trusted to keep its word. ... We would hand Iraq over to enemies who have
pledged to attack us and the global terrorist movement would be emboldened and
more dangerous than ever before."
Acknowledging doubts about his strategy, Bush's speech reads, "Some look at
the challenges in Iraq, and conclude that the war is lost, and not worth another
dime or another day.
"I don't believe that," it says. "Our military commanders do not believe
that. Our troops in the field, who bear the burden and make the sacrifice, do
not believe that America has lost. And not even the terrorists believe it. We
know from their own communications that they feel a tightening noose and fear
the rise of a democratic Iraq."
Rep. John Murtha has said the United States should redeploy all troops as
quickly as possible because more than half of the Iraqis people "want us out and
almost half of them think we're the enemy."
A new poll shows that a strong majority of Americans oppose an immediate
withdrawal of U.S. troops. The AP-Ipsos poll found 57 percent of those surveyed
said the U.S. military should stay until Iraq is stabilized.
There is skepticism on Capitol Hill about the U.S. military's ability to
sustain forces in Iraq indefinitely and about the ability of Iraqis to carry the
"We failed to expand the Army and Marine Corps as many of us wanted to happen
a long time ago," said Sen. John McCain.
Appearing on ABC's "This Week," McCain said that even though militias control
some parts of the Iraqi military and there is still corruption, there now are
certain towns where the Iraqi military has been able to take over from U.S.
Regarding a turnover to Iraqi troops, Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid
said Bush "has to tell us how we're going to get there. The people on the ground
said there is one battalion that can fight alone.
"The last speech he gave, he used the word `victory' 14 times. What does that
mean?" asked Reid, appearing on "Fox News Sunday."
Sen. Carl Levin, appearing on NBC's "Meet the Press, said Iraqis must be told
the United States will reconsider its presence unless the new constitution is
revised to give the Sunni-Arab community a bigger stake in running the country.
"That's the club, that's the leverage which we must exercise," said Levin.
"They've got to unify in order to beat the insurgency." A disabled Iraq war
veteran who is running for Congress in Illinois said she thinks going into Iraq
was a mistake.
"We should have been fighting the enemies that attacked us at home on 9/11,"
said Major Tammy Duckworth, appearing on ABC's "This Week." "We should have been
out there trying to catch Osama bin Laden."