By Sgt. Sara Wood, USA
American Forces Press Service
Sept. 14, 2007 - President Bush spoke to Marines at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Va., today, thanking them for their service and explaining the way forward in Iraq. After meeting with young Marine officers and the enlisted troops who train them, Bush said he told the troops about his address to the nation last night, in which he endorsed Army Gen. David H. Petraeus' recommendations for the future of the U.S. mission in Iraq. Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, and U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan C. Crocker this week provided their assessment of the situation in Iraq following the recent troop surge.
Last night, Bush endorsed Petraeus' recommendations for reduced U.S. troop levels in Iraq by next summer and a change in the U.S. mission in Iraq to one of support for Iraqi forces.
Bush said he told the troops today that he was able to make his speech last night because of the progress on the ground in Iraq.
"I hope the American people listen very carefully to what our commanders and Ambassador Crocker had to say," Bush said. "They're there; they understand the progress that's being made."
It is in America's interest that Iraq's democracy succeeds, Bush said he told the troops, because chaos in the Middle East would embolden terrorists around the world. "I made it clear that the sacrifices that they and their families were going to make were necessary for the short-term and long-term security of the country, that we'd rather defeat the enemy overseas than have to face them here," he said.
The Iraqi people are courageous and are stepping up to the fight, Bush said, but the United States still expects the Iraqi government to pass laws to enhance reconciliation. This new approach to Iraq is a chance for Americans on both sides of the war debate to agree, because security progress is being made and the troops are coming home, he said.
"I told the American people last night we've got what's called 'return on success,'" Bush said. "I also told them that our commanders will have the flexibility and the troops needed to achieve the mission, which is an ally in this war on terror and a stable country that can self-govern, a democracy in the heart of the Middle East."
Bush noted that he was impressed with the Marines he met during his visit today.
"It's an amazing country where people volunteer in the face of danger," he said. "A lot of these Marine lieutenants fully understand the nature of the world in which we live, and they're willing to serve. They're willing to serve to protect and defend this country; they're willing to serve to help shape the conditions so the world is more peaceful."