Bush Calls Victory America's Only Option in Iraq

By John D. Banusiewicz
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Feb. 1, 2006  - Reinforcing his State of the Union message, President Bush today defended his decision to go to war in Iraq and repeated his assertion that victory is America's only option.

Speaking to an audience at the Grand Ole Opry House in Nashville, Tenn., Bush said deposed dictator Saddam Hussein made the decision to ignore United Nations Security Council resolutions. "He chose to defy the resolutions," Bush said, "and so we took action. The world is safer and America is more secure without Saddam Hussein in power."

Bush acknowledged that debate of big issues is important in a free society. "But as I said last night to Congress, whether you agree or (don't) agree with the decision, this country has one option, and that's victory in Iraq."

Noting what he called the "incredible courage" of the Iraqi people and their strong desire for democracy, the president set forth his vision of what winning means.

"The victory is for Iraq to be a democracy that can sustain itself and govern itself and defend itself, a country which will be an ally in the war on terror, a country which will deny safe haven to the al Qaeda, and a country which will serve as a powerful example of liberty and freedom in a part of the world that is desperate for liberty and freedom," he said.

Bush noted gains toward that victory. "We're making great progress in dismantling al Qaeda," he said. "We're using every asset in our power to keep ... them on the defense, to find them and bring them to justice."

As Iraqi security forces are trained and become more capable of defending the country, the United States will reduce its troop levels accordingly, the president said.

"It's a mistake to have a definitive timetable of withdrawal, because the enemy will react (and) the Iraqis will react," Bush said. "That's not fair to our men and women who wear the uniform." He repeated his frequent assertion that military commanders, not politics, will decide U.S. troop levels, and he noted that those commanders already have begun the process of reducing the U.S. military presence in Iraq.

"As the Iraqis are capable of taking the fight to the enemy, we will reduce our troop levels," he said. The United States has two fewer brigades deployed to Iraq than projected earlier, he said, because Iraqi forces are growing in numbers and capabilities. "The troops that we're training are more effective, more capable of taking the fight to the enemy," he said. "The commanders on the ground say we need less American presence."