By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
May 24, 2007 – The world is better off without former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, President Bush said in a White House news conference today. Even given the violence in Iraq since 2003, the country is still better off than when Saddam ruled, Bush said. Reporters pointed out that some critics of the administration's Iraq policy maintain Iraqis would be better off if the United States had left Saddam Hussein in power. "Saddam Hussein was an enemy of the United States," Bush responded. "He attacked his neighbors. He was ... paying Palestinian suicide bombers.
"I don't buy (that Iraq would be better off)," he continued. "I don't buy that this world would be a better place with Saddam Hussein in power, and ... I'm sure the Iraqis would agree with that."
Other reporters' questions suggested that if the United States had not gone into Iraq, then terrorist groups would have left America alone. Bush called al Qaeda in Iraq public enemy No. 1 and said they would fight the United States no matter what. "Their strategy is to drive us out of the Middle East," he said.
Bush said al Qaeda wants to spread its ideology and establish a safe haven from which to plan and launch attacks. "And the fundamental question is, will we fight them? I have made the decision to do so," he said.
The current U.S. strategy stresses offense, Bush said. U.S. servicemembers and their allies are confronting terrorists directly in Iraq and Afghanistan. Servicemembers also are working with soldiers of other nations to confront terror in places like the Philippines and Colombia.
"This notion about how this isn't a war on terror, in my view, is naÃ¯ve," he said. "The lessons of September the 11th are these: We've got to stay on the offense, we've got to bring these people to justice before they hurt again, and at the same time defeat their ideology with (an) ideology based upon liberty."
The fact that al Qaeda is attacking democracies should tell the people of the world that the terrorists fear the will of the people, the president said. "That ought to tell you that we're dealing with people that have an ideology that is opposite of liberty and will take whatever measures are necessary to prevent this young democracy from succeeding," he said.
If the United States left Iraq or Afghanistan before those countries could stand on their own, it would encourage terrorists like al Qaeda, Bush said.
"Failure in Iraq affects the security of this country; ... it's hard for some Americans to see that," Bush said. "I see it clearly. I believe this is the great challenge, ... not just Iraq, but dealing with this radical, ideological movement in a way that secures us in the short term and more likely secures us in the long term."
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