President Bush declared Monday night (early Tuesday Middle East time) the United States would stay in Iraq until it was free and democratic and suggested more American troops might have to be dispatched there to help the new government.
"There are difficult days ahead and the way forward may sometimes appear chaotic," he said. "The terrorists and Saddam loyalists would rather see many Iraqis die than have any live in freedom. But terrorists will not determine the future of Iraq."
In a prime-time address at the U.S. Army War College, he also promised to destroy the Abu Ghraib prison where U.S. occupation soldiers abused Iraqi detainess.
Bush outlined five steps that he said would help Iraq achieve democracy and freedom: transferring authority to a sovereign new Iraqi government on June 30, helping establish security in areas still gripped by chaos, urging broader international support, reconstructing the country and setting up national elections.
"Completing the five steps to Iraqi elected self-government will not be easy," Bush said. "There is likely to be violence before the transfer of sovereignty and after the transfer of sovereignty."
He said that the United States would keep its troop level at the current 138,000 as long as necessary and that commanders were constantly reassessing needs. "If they need more troops, I will send them," Bush conveyed.
Bush warned that the violence would continue.
He talked of the assassination this month of the president of the Iraqi Governing Council, Izzadine Saleem, and the beheading of American civilian Nicholas Berg. "We've also seen images of a young American facing decapitation. This vile display shows a contempt for all the rules of warfare, and all the bounds of civilized behavior. It reveals a fanaticism that was not caused by any action of ours, and would not be appeased by any concession. We suspect that the man with the knife was an al Qaeda associate named Zarqawi. He and other terrorists know that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terror. And we must understand that, as well. The return of tyranny to Iraq would be an unprecedented terrorist victory, and a cause for killers to rejoice."
Bush continued to express his resolve, saying, "No power of the enemy will stop Iraq's progress."
He said forces and Iraqis have the same enemies - "terrorists, illegal militia and loyalists of Saddam Hussein."
"History is moving, and it will tend toward hope or tend toward tragedy," he said. "We will persevere and defeat this enemy and hold this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty."
He took note of the abuse of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. soldiers, saying that the prison that was a symbol of death and torture under Saddam Hussein "became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values."
He said the United States would pay to demolish the prison and build a new one.
Bush said, "Despite past disagreements, most nations have indicated strong support for the success of a free Iraq, and I am confident they will share in the responsibility of assuring that success."
Bush said U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi would put forward the names of the interim government this week. In addition to a president, two vice presidents and a prime minister, 26 Iraqi ministers will oversee government departments. (Albawaba.com)
© 2004 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)