By Gerry J. Gilmore
WASHINGTON, Aug. 21, 2006 – Amid national debate about whether or not to stay the course in Iraq, President Bush today firmly placed himself in the "stay" category.
It's imperative America continues to support the new Iraqi government in its struggle against an insurgency that seeks to divide and topple it, Bush told White House reporters here. "A failed Iraq would make America less secure," Bush declared. The end of democracy in Iraq, he said, would provide a haven for terrorists and extremists in the heart of the Middle East.
Bush acknowledged that some Americans are saying it's time for U.S. forces to leave Iraq. However, a premature troop withdrawal before the job is completed would prove disastrous, he said. "It would be a huge mistake for this country," Bush said. And, things would only get worse in Iraq, he added, if U.S. troops depart before the Iraqi government, its armed forces and police are firmly established.
Bush said Iraqi government leaders are "determined to thwart the efforts of the extremists and the radicals and al Qaeda." Additionally, "Iraqis want a unified country," Bush pointed out, downplaying talk of civil war precipitated by sectarian strife.
The U.S. strategy includes assisting the Iraqis to establish democracy, Bush said, and to help them defeat extremists in their country. "We're not going to leave before the mission is complete," the president said.
U.S. military commanders have changed tactics, Bush said, since sectarian violence erupted across Iraq after the bombing of a holy mosque in Samarra on Feb. 22, noting more U.S. forces have flowed into Baghdad to confront the escalating violence there. Bush predicted the Iraqis would succeed in establishing a free society and defeating the extremists. "And, our job is to help them succeed," Bush concluded.