View Full Version : Bush Discusses Murtha And Says Progress In Iraq Is 'Amazing'

11-21-2005, 01:56 PM
Bush Discusses Murtha and Says Progress in Iraq is 'Amazing'


By E&P Staff
Published: November 20, 2005 9:30 PM ET

NEW YORK At a press conference with reporters along for his trip to China, President Bush found several questions relating to the current debate back in the States over the Iraq pullout plan pushed by Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.).

Among other things, he said "the progress in Iraq is amazing" and rejected Murtha's complaint about Vice President Cheney, who received five deferments during the Vietnam war, questioning the "backbone" of Iraq war critics who had served in battle. "I don't think the Vice President's service is relevant in this debate," Bush said.

He also hailed "fine Democrats like Senator Joe Lieberman share the view that we must prevail in Iraq."

A transcript of press conference that considered Iraq follows.

Q It used to be that it was said that politics stopped at the water's edge. On this trip, clearly, the debate over Iraq has followed you. Were you at all disappointed by that? And why do you think it is that the Iraq debate in the last week has been so intense?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm not surprised that people are talking about Iraq. Iraq is a vital issue for the United States of America. And it's -- we're at war, and people, of course, have got strong opinions about war. On the trip here, by the way, I was most pleased that many of the leaders at the APEC conference understood the stakes in Iraq, that a democracy in the heart of the Middle East will make the entire world more peaceful.

It's -- this is a worthy debate, and I'm going to repeat something I've said before. People should feel comfortable about expressing their opinions about Iraq. I heard somebody say, well, maybe so-and-so is not patriotic because they disagree with my position. I totally reject that thought. This is not an issue of who's patriot and who's not patriotic. It's an issue of an honest, open debate about the way forward in Iraq.

I am confident we will succeed in Iraq. I'm confident that the Iraqi forces will be trained; I am confident the political process will slowly, but surely, marginalize those that are trying to stop the march of democracy. And I also know that we have got to make sure that Iraq does not become a safe haven for terrorists. It's very important for -- during this debate to listen to the words of Zawahiri, who's the number-two man of al Qaeda, where he has made it very clear that his intention, and the intention of his henchman, Zarqawi, is to drive us out of Iraq before we have completed the mission.

And there's a reason why he wants us out of Iraq; because he wants Iraq to be a safe haven. He wants to be able to find a place where he and his forces can plot and plan against the United States of America. They were -- the al Qaeda, the enemy was able to do just that in Afghanistan. They plotted and planned a monstrous attack on the United States of America. And that attack of September the 11th is a lesson we should never forget....

You know, it's interesting here in the Far East that we have this discussion about Iraq, and it's an appropriate place to think about the stakes in Iraq, because, after all, Japan was our sworn enemy. And after World War II, the Japanese adopted a Japanese-style democracy, which yielded a peaceful partner, an ally. It's amazing to think that in 60 years Japan has gone from enemy to ally in keeping the peace. The spread of democracies here in the Far East have made this part of the world a peaceful region.

And so the stakes are enormously high in Iraq, and I can understand why there's a debate. And I suspect there's going to be a debate for a long time coming in Iraq, as there should be. This is a serious matter of national concern.

Let's see -- Suzanne.

Q If I could follow up on your comments on Congressman Murtha. You said that he was a fine man and that he probably made this in a thoughtful manner. Congressman Murtha has also used the fact that neither you, nor the Vice President, has served in combat as part of his criticism of Iraq policy, as well as the administration's campaign to defend it. Do you believe that that is relevant to the debate? And is there any concern that the attacks on either side are becoming overly personal?

THE PRESIDENT: I don't think the Vice President's service is relevant in this debate. And I would hope all of us in this debate talk about the policy and have an honest, open debate about whether or not it makes sense to immediately withdraw our troops. My position is very clear: It does not make sense. It will make America less secure. Iraq is a battlefront in the war on terror, and it's vital that we succeed in this particular battle in the war on terror.

And our strategy is proceeding. There's a political strategy, and as I said the other day, I said a couple of times, the progress in Iraq is amazing when you think -- the political progress. I mean, they've gone from tyranny to the election of a transitional national government, to the ratification of a constitution. And they're about to have elections again. And all this took place in two-and-a-half years. When you compare it to our own history, our road was quite bumpy getting to a constitution. And so the progress is strong.

The other progress that's being made is the training of the Iraqi forces. And more and more of the forces are more capable of taking the fight to the enemy. And as that happens, and as our commanders on the ground inform me that Iraq's security can be maintained by Iraqi troops, we will adjust accordingly.