President Bush and British Prime Minister acknowledged far-reaching mistakes in their Iraq policy. In a joint news conference Thursday night, Bush acknowledged the bloodshed has been difficult for the world to understand. Blair called the violence "ghastly."
But, Bush said at the White House, "Despite setbacks and missteps, I strongly believe we did and are doing the right thing." According to the AP, the US leader said he had learned not to use so much "tough talk". "I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe in a little more sophisticated manner, you know," Bush said.
Blair noted the leaders did not accurately predict immense challenges such as the strength of the "insurgency." "It should have been very obvious to us," the British prime minister said.
The press conference came after Bush and Blair had a private meeting. Blair briefed the president on his discussions in Baghdad on Monday with Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who said his forces are capable of taking control of security in all provinces within 18 months.
"I think it's possible to happen in the way that Prime Minister Maliki said," Blair said. "For that to happen, obviously, the first thing that we need is a strong government in Baghdad that is prepared to enforce its writ throughout the country. My very strong feeling, having talked to the leaders there, is that they intend theirs to be such a government."
"We're going to work with our partners in Iraq, the new government, to determine the way forward," Bush said. He said the goal remains "an Iraq that can govern itself and sustain itself and defend itself."
He said one problem was the lack of an Iraqi defense minister, and he urged Maliki to fill the post soon.