Bush Rejects Restrictions on Iraq Operations

By David McKeeby
USINFO Staff Writer

Washington - President Bush says the United States is honoring its commitment to confront insurgent forces in Iraq and is standing by the Iraqi people as they build a democratic nation.

“I believe strongly in the universality of liberty,” Bush said in a March 28 speech to a trade group in Washington.  “I believe people want to be free, and if given a chance, they will take the risks necessary to be free.”

As U.S. troops continue deploying to the region to help Iraqi security forces carry out a new security operation to bring violence under control, Bush criticized members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate for adding provisions to an emergency spending bill that would require most U.S. forces to leave Iraq in 2008. Bush has threatened to veto any congressional funding bill that includes withdrawal deadlines.

The House would set a date for withdrawal to begin in September 2008; the Senate specified March 2008.

“The consequences of imposing such a specific and random date for withdrawal would be disastrous,” Bush said.  If enacted, “our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars,” and “spend the months ahead ... plotting how to use their new safe havens once we were to leave.”

The resulting security vacuum, Bush said, would be filled by Sunni and Shiite extremists, unleashing “a contagion of violence” across the region.  Al-Qaida, already active in Iraq, also would benefit by gaining a new stronghold to replace its lost positions in Afghanistan from which it could plan future attacks.

“Al-Qaida wants us to fail in Iraq. This is what their leaders have clearly said,” Bush said.  “And they're willing to kill innocent women and children to achieve their objectives.”

Bush urged continued support for the new Baghdad security plan, which he said is beginning to show encouraging, early signs of progress.

Iraqi leaders have deployed more troops and lifted restrictions against operating in certain areas of Baghdad.  With coalition forces, they have established security stations and checkpoints throughout the capital, tightened security around marketplaces and other public spaces that have been targeted by terrorists, and continue joint operations to seize weapons and bomb-making materials and to root out Sunni insurgents, Shiite militants and al-Qaida terrorists.  (See related article.)   

“If you're trying to destabilize this young democracy, the Iraqis with coalition help are coming after you,” Bush said. “Murderers are murderers and they ought to be brought to justice,” he said.

Bush cited Internet reports by Iraqi bloggers that “displaced families are returning home. Marketplaces are seeing more activity.  Stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve.”

By restoring order to the capital, Bush said that the security plan will give Iraqi leaders time to strengthen the new government, promote political reconciliation among Iraq’s Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish communities and rebuild their country.  (See related article.)

“We see the desire for liberty in Iraqi soldiers who risk their lives every day. We see the desire in the shopkeepers and civic leaders who are working to reform their neighborhoods. We see it in the desire of Iraqi moms and dads who want the same thing for their children that we want for our children,” Bush said.

Bush acknowledged that the stakes are high, and the efforts being undertaken in Iraq are part of a long, ideological struggle against those who have spread hatred and lack of hope and lack of opportunity.  “But I believe with patience and resolve, we will succeed,” the president said.

A transcript of Bush’s remarks is available from the White House Web site.

For more information, see Iraq Update.