Contact: White House, Office of the Press Secretary, 202-456-2580
1:19 P.M. PDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you, all. (Applause.) I've been waiting all day to say, Hoo-ah!
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you for greeting me. General Cone, thanks. I appreciate your service to our country and thanks for leading these men and women. I'm honored also to be with Jill. Thank you for joining us today for lunch. Command Sergeant Kim Boyink has been a generous host. Sarge, I appreciate being with you. Thank you for your service. Thanks for setting such a good example for the enlisted folks.
I often tell people that the backbone of the Army is the sergeant.
THE PRESIDENT: And I appreciate you sergeants who have joined us here, and I appreciate you serving.
I want to thank two members of the United States Congress who have traveled with me today, men who have concerns about
But I do want to introduce to you the Congressmen from this district, Congressman Buck McKeon -- where are you, Buck? There he is. Thanks, Buck. (Applause.) And Congressman Jerry Lewis, ranking member of the Appropriations Committee. (Applause.)
I'm proud to be here with Mayor Dale, of the city of
I appreciate not only those who wear the uniform who are here today, I want to thank your families, too, for coming. It means a lot to me to be with our military families. I'll say a word about our military families here in a minute.
I do want to thank those who have just returned from
AUDIENCE: Hoo-ah. (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: I guess the best words I can say are, welcome -- I mean, thanks and welcome back. We're glad you're here.
I appreciate those of you who are about to deploy in an important theater in this war against radicals and extremists, this war on terror, the "Red Devils" of the 58th Engineers, the "Renegades" of the 557th Maintenance Company, the "Super HETT" of the 2nd Transportation Company. I appreciate your -- (applause.)
Ours is a remarkable country when people volunteer to serve our country in a time of war. The amazing thing about our
I also want to thank the families. I understand how difficult this war is on
This country's life changed on September the 11th, 2001, and my attitude about the world changed that day, too. I decided that I -- that our most important task in
In other words, the attack on September the 11th wasn't the first move by the extremists. As a matter of fact, they conducted their acts of murder believing that there wouldn't be a response. They became convinced that free nations were weak. And they grew bolder believing that history was on their side.
After the attacks of September the 11th I vowed to our country that we wouldn't tire, that we would use whatever it took to protect us. And so we changed our strategy. The strategy is to defeat the enemy overseas so we don't have to face them here at home. The strategy is to find those who would kill Americans and bring them to justice. So for those of you in -- who have been in
Another part of the doctrine is when you see a threat, we must take threats seriously, before they come here to hurt us. See, what changed on September the 11th is oceans can no longer protect the people in the
In the long-term, we must remember that freedom is universal, and the best way to defeat an ideology -- and make no mistake about it, these extremists believe things -- for example, they don't believe you can worship freely; they don't believe you should speak your mind; they don't believe in dissent; they don't believe in human rights. We believe in the right for people to worship. We believe in the dignity of each human being. Our ideology is based on the universality of liberty. Their dark ideology is based upon hatred. And the way to defeat -- ultimately defeat those who would do harm to
And that's the work we're doing, whether it be in
And I had a choice to make, and that is whether or not to pull back and hope that chaos wouldn't spread, or to do something about the sectarian violence that was taking place and to help the Iraqis bring order to their capital in order to give them breathing space, time to reconcile their differences after having lived under the thumb of a tyrant for years.
In weighing the options I thought about the consequences of a country that could sustain itself and defend itself and serve as an ally in the war on terror. And those consequences will have profound impact over the next years, over the decades, to know that in the midst of the
That's important because history has proven, has shown that free societies don't war with each other. But it's also important to have allies in this war against the extremists who would do us harm.
I've also thought about the consequences of failure and what it would mean to the American people. If chaos were to reign in the capital of that country it could spill out to the rest of the country; it could then spill out to the region, where you would have religious extremists fighting each other with one common enemy, the
The enemy that had done us harm would be embolden. They would have seen the mighty
In other words, this is a war in which, if we were to leave before the job is done, the enemy would follow us here. That's the lesson of September the 11th. It's an integral part of my thinking about how to secure this country -- to do the most important job that the government must do, and that is to protect the American people.
So I made a decision, in consultation with our military commanders, people of sound military judgment; people who have made a career about how to set strategies in place to achieve military victories. And the new strategy we developed was to, rather than retreat, reenforce; rather than pull back was to go in with additional troops to help this young democracy do the job that the 12 million people who voted in free elections want them to do, which is to provide security, so a mother can raise her child the way we would want our mothers to be able to raise our children; to provide security so that the political reconciliation necessary can go forward in a more secure environment.
As I made the decision to send in more troops, I also made the decision to send in a new commander, General David Petraeus. He's an expert on counter-insurgency. Right now about half of the reinforcements that are expected to go to
We're after al Qaeda. After all, al Qaeda wants us to fail because they can't stand the thought of a free society in their midst. We're destroying car bomb factories, killing and capturing hundreds of insurgents. And neighborhoods are being reclaimed. There is progress, but the enemy sees that progress and they're responding in a brutal way.
I was amazed by the story of the extremists who put two children into a automobile so that they could make it into a crowded area -- then they got of the car and blew up the car with the children inside. It only hardens my resolve to help free
I had a meeting, a SVTS -- what they call a SVTS, it's a real-time video conference -- with Prime Minister Maliki. I urged him, of course, to continue making the actions necessary to reconcile in their society: pass an oil law, a de-Baathification law. It's interesting to watch a government emerge. It's interesting to watch this new democracy begin to take on responsibilities. And they are. They said they would commit additional troops into
And there's more work to be done. And I reminded the Prime Minister of that. And I reminded him that our patience is not unlimited. I also reminded him that we want him to succeed, that it's in the interest of the
Just as the strategy is starting to make inroads, a narrow majority in the Congress passed legislation they knew all along I would not accept. Their bills impose an artificial deadline for withdrawal from
In the meantime, the clock is ticking for our military. The Secretary of Defense, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Chief of Staff of the Army have warned that if Congress delays these funds past mid-April, we'll have significant consequences for our Armed Forces. Army Chief of Staff says this: "Without approval of the supplemental funds in April, we will be forced to take increasingly draconian measures, which will impact Army readiness and impose hardship on our soldiers and their families."
For example, the Army says that without these funds, it will be forced to consider cutting back on training for Guard and Reserve units, and eventually for active duty personnel. The folks at
Soon Congress will return from its break. I urge them to work on legislation to fund our troops, but that does not tell our military how to conduct war and sets an artificial timetable for withdrawal. The enemy does not measure the conflict in
There are fine, fine people debating this issue in
I spent some time with the soldiers out in the field, and I want to share with you what I told them. The work that you have volunteered to do will have a lasting impact on the world in which we live. When we succeed in helping this Iraqi government become a country that can sustain itself, defend itself, govern itself, and serve as an ally in the war on terror, we will have delivered a significant blow to those who have designs on harming the American people, because they can't stand the thought of free societies in their midst. They can't stand the thought of people being able to have a government of, by, and for the people. It is the opposite of what they do.
But we have done this kind of work before. The
You know, after the Korean War, if you had asked somebody, can you imagine an American President being able to stand up in front of some troops and say the Far East is peaceful, a part of the world where we lost thousands of our troops in World War II and Korea is now a relatively peaceful part of the world, they would have said what a hopeless idealist that person is. And yet, I can report to you that. And I believe it is because our troops not only helped in
I believe liberty is universal. I don't believe it is just for the
And so that's why I report to our citizens that the hard work we're doing today is laying the foundation of peace for generations to come. And it gives me great confidence to know that standing with the President of the
I'm proud to be your Commander-in-Chief. May God bless you all. (Applause.)
END 1:44 P.M. PDT