WASHINGTON - US President Bush said Wednesday he would "not be rushed" into a
decision on a strategy change for Iraq, saying that in a round of consultations
he heard both some interesting ideas and some "ideas that would lead to defeat."
"And I reject those ideas,"
Bush said after meeting with top generals and Defense Department officials at
the Pentagon. He said those ideas included "leaving before the job is done,
ideas such as not helping this (Iraqi) government take the necessary and hard
steps to be able to do its job."
US President George W. Bush (L)
speaks as Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Ed Giambastiani (C)
and outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld look on following a meeting
with senior Department of Defense officials at the Pentagon in Washington,
DC. Bush vowed not to be rushed into unveiling his new Iraq strategy
overhaul, as he defended his decision to delay an announcement until early
with reporters after wrapping up a round of high-level talks on revising his
Iraq war policy. Earlier he spoke by telephone with two Kurdish leaders in Iraq
as part of what the White House called efforts to forge a "moderate bloc" behind
the shaky central government in Baghdad.
Standing with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Bush said he and the nation's top
military commanders had "a very candid and fruitful discussion about how to
secure this country and about how to win a war that we now find ourselves in."
Bush made it clear that "there has been a lot of violence in Iraq. The
violence has been horrific."
Although the White House had initially suggested that Bush would deliver his
speech on Iraq strategy before Christmas, he has decided to delay it until early
Defending that decision, Bush said, "I will not be rushed into making a
difficult decision ... a necessary decision."
Joined by Vice President Dick Cheney, incoming Defense Secretary Robert Gates
and outgoing Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, Bush met with the military
leaders and other members of his national security team at the Pentagon, where
war commanders are calling for more U.S. trainers and equipment for beleaguered
He addressed some of his remarks to members of the nation's military,
including some 140,000 now stationed in Iraq. "I appreciate their sacrifices,
and I want them to know I'm focused on developing a strategy that will help them
achieve their mission," the president said.
"I know there is a lot of debate at home, and our troops pay attention to
that debate," Bush said. Directing his remarks to the troops, he said: "It means
I'm listening to a lot of advice to develop a strategy to help you succeed."
Bush's meeting at the Pentagon lasted more than 90 minutes.
Bush said part of the reason for his putting off his speech to next year was
to allow Gates to familiarize himself with the top defense job "and be part of
"At the appropriate time, I'll stand up in front of the nation and say,
`here's where we're headed,'" Bush said.
Bush pledged anew to work with the Democratic-controlled Congress that
convenes in January "to forge greater bipartisan consensus" on Iraq policy.
Asked by a reporter if recommendations made a week ago by the bipartisan Iraq
Study Group included some of the bad advice he had cited, Bush said that his
opinion of the report "hasn't changed."
"I thought it was interesting that Republicans and Democrats could work in
concert to help achieve an objective," Bush said. The panel was headed by former
Republican Secretary of State James A. Baker III and former Rep. Lee Hamilton,
On Tuesday, in similar discussions with field commanders, Bush heard Gen.
John Abizaid, top U.S. commander in the Middle East, and Gen. George Casey, the
top general in Iraq, ask the administration to pour increased funding into more
armored vehicles, body armor and other critical equipment for the Iraqis, said a
defense specialist familiar with the meetings. The source requested anonymity
because the discussions were private.
Abizaid has told the Senate Armed Services Committee that troop levels in
Iraq need to stay fairly stable and the use of military adviser teams expanded.
About 140,000 U.S. troops and about 5,000 advisers are in Iraq.
The message to Bush, the defense specialist said, is that the U.S. cannot
withdraw a substantial number of combat troops by early 2008, as suggested by
the independent commission on Iraq, because the Iraqis will not be ready to
assume control of their country.
Iraqi leaders, meanwhile, last month presented Bush with a plan for its
troops to assume primary responsibility for security in Baghdad early next year
and that US troops be shifted to the capital's periphery, The New York Times
reported on its Web site Tuesday night.
Bush already has visited this week with State Department officials to review
options, hosted a few outside Iraq experts, and met with Iraq's Sunni vice
president, Tariq al-Hashemi. Last week, the president held talks with the leader
of the largest Shiite bloc in Iraq's parliament, Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, and with
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, the president's staunchest war ally.
On Wednesday, Bush placed calls to Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd,
and Massoud Barzani, president of the Kurdish region.
Bush's discussions across Iraq's ethnic and religious lines come as major
partners in the country's governing coalition are in behind-the-scenes talks to
form a new parliamentary bloc and sideline supporters of the radical Shiite
cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, a vehement opponent of the U.S. military presence and
the main patron of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. There is discontent in
Iraq and within the Bush administration over al-Maliki's failure to rein in
Shiite militias and quell raging violence.