Bush sends 21,500 soldiers to Iraq
US President Bush acknowledged for the first time Wednesday (Thursday Middle East time) that he erred by not ordering a military buildup in Iraq last year and said he was increasing American soldiers by 21,500. "Where mistakes have been made, the responsibility rests with me," Bush said.
In a prime-time address to the nation, Bush rejected the Democrats' calls to end the war. He said that "to step back now would force a collapse of the Iraqi government, tear that country apart and result in mass killings on an unimaginable scale."
"If we increase our support at this crucial moment and help the Iraqis break the current cycle of violence, we can hasten the day our troops begin coming home," Bush said.
Bush said it also was a mistake to have allowed American forces to be restricted by the Iraqi government, which tried to prevent U.S. military operations against fighters controlled by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The US leader said Iraqi PM Nuei al-Maliki had assured him that from now on, "political or sectarian interference will not be tolerated."
"Our past efforts to secure Baghdad failed for two principal reasons: There were not enough Iraqi and American troops to secure neighborhoods that had been cleared of terrorists and insurgents," the president said. "And there were too many restrictions on the troops we did have."
Bush, however, cited the Iraqi government's latest optimistic estimate. "To establish its authority, the Iraqi government plans to take responsibility for security in all of Iraq's provinces by November," the American president said. Still, Bush said that "America's commitment is not open-ended. If the Iraqi government does not follow through on its promises, it will lose the support of the American people and it will lose the support of the Iraqi people. Now is the time to at."
Resisting calls for troop reductions, Bush said that "failure in Iraq would be a disaster for the United States. ... A democratic Iraq will not be perfect. But it will be a country that fights terrorists instead of harboring them."
But Bush warned that the strategy would bring more violence rather than less.
"Even if our new strategy works exactly as planned, deadly acts of violence will continue, and we must expect more Iraqi and American casualties," he said, according to the AP. "The question is whether our new strategy will bring us closer to success. I believe that it will."