Outline for the Future
May 24, 2004
Thank you all. Thank you
and good evening. I'm honored to visit the Army War College.
Generations of officers have come here to study the strategies
and history of warfare. I've come here tonight to report
to all Americans, and to the Iraqi people, on the strategy
our nation is pursuing in Iraq, and the specific steps
we're taking to achieve our goals.
The actions of our enemies over the last few weeks have
been brutal, calculating, and instructive. We've seen a
car bombing take the life of a 61-year-old Iraqi named
Izzedin Saleem, who was serving as President of the Governing
Council. This crime shows our enemy's intention to prevent
Iraqi self-government, even if that means killing a lifelong
Iraqi patriot and a faithful Muslim. Mr. Saleem was assassinated
by terrorists seeking the return of tyranny and the death
We've also seen images of a young American facing decapitation.
This vile display shows a contempt for all the rules of
warfare, and all the bounds of civilized behavior. It reveals
a fanaticism that was not caused by any action of ours,
and would not be appeased by any concession. We suspect
that the man with the knife was an al Qaeda associate named
Zarqawi. He and other terrorists know that Iraq is now
the central front in the war on terror. And we must understand
that, as well. The return of tyranny to Iraq would be an
unprecedented terrorist victory, and a cause for killers
to rejoice. It would also embolden the terrorists, leading
to more bombings, more beheadings, and more murders of
the innocent around the world.
The rise of a free and self-governing Iraq will deny terrorists
a base of operation, discredit their narrow ideology, and
give momentum to reformers across the region. This will
be a decisive blow to terrorism at the heart of its power,
and a victory for the security of America and the civilized
Our work in Iraq has been hard. Our coalition has faced
changing conditions of war, and that has required perseverance,
sacrifice, and an ability to adapt. The swift removal of
Saddam Hussein's regime last spring had an unintended effect:
Instead of being killed or captured on the battlefield,
some of Saddam's elite guards shed their uniforms and melted
into the civilian population. These elements of Saddam's
repressive regime and secret police have reorganized, rearmed,
and adopted sophisticated terrorist tactics. They've linked
up with foreign fighters and terrorists. In a few cities,
extremists have tried to sow chaos and seize regional power
for themselves. These groups and individuals have conflicting
ambitions, but they share a goal: They hope to wear out
the patience of Americans, our coalition, and Iraqis before
the arrival of effective self-government, and before Iraqis
have the capability to defend their freedom.
Iraq now faces a critical moment. As the Iraqi people
move closer to governing themselves, the terrorists are
likely to become more active and more brutal. There are
difficult days ahead, and the way forward may sometimes
appear chaotic. Yet our coalition is strong, our efforts
are focused and unrelenting, and no power of the enemy
will stop Iraq's progress. (Applause.)
Helping construct a stable democracy after decades of
dictatorship is a massive undertaking. Yet we have a great
advantage. Whenever people are given a choice in the matter,
they prefer lives of freedom to lives of fear. Our enemies
in Iraq are good at filling hospitals, but they do not
build any. They can incite men to murder and suicide, but
they cannot inspire men to live, and hope, and add to the
progress of their country. The terrorists' only influence
is violence, and their only agenda is death.
Our agenda, in contrast, is freedom and independence,
security and prosperity for the Iraqi people. And by removing
a source of terrorist violence and instability in the Middle
East, we also make our own country more secure.
Our coalition has a clear goal, understood by all -- to
see the Iraqi people in charge of Iraq for the first time
in generations. America's task in Iraq is not only to defeat
an enemy, it is to give strength to a friend - a free,
representative government that serves its people and fights
on their behalf. And the sooner this goal is achieved,
the sooner our job will be done.
There are five steps in our plan to help Iraq achieve
democracy and freedom. We will hand over authority to a
sovereign Iraqi government, help establish security, continue
rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, encourage more international
support, and move toward a national election that will
bring forward new leaders empowered by the Iraqi people.
The first of these steps will occur next month, when our
coalition will transfer full sovereignty to a government
of Iraqi citizens who will prepare the way for national
elections. On June 30th, the Coalition Provisional Authority
will cease to exist, and will not be replaced. The occupation
will end, and Iraqis will govern their own affairs. America's
ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte, will present his credentials
to the new president of Iraq. Our embassy in Baghdad will
have the same purpose as any other American embassy, to
assure good relations with a sovereign nation. America
and other countries will continue to provide technical
experts to help Iraq's ministries of government, but these
ministries will report to Iraq's new prime minister.
The United Nations Special Envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, is
now consulting with a broad spectrum of Iraqis to determine
the composition of this interim government. The special
envoy intends to put forward the names of interim government
officials this week. In addition to a president, two vice
presidents, and a prime minister, 26 Iraqi ministers will
oversee government departments, from health to justice
to defense. This new government will be advised by a national
council, which will be chosen in July by Iraqis representing
their country's diversity. This interim government will
exercise full sovereignty until national elections are
held. America fully supports Mr. Brahimi's efforts, and
I have instructed the Coalition Provisional Authority to
assist him in every way possible.
In preparation for sovereignty, many functions of government
have already been transferred. Twelve government ministries
are currently under the direct control of Iraqis. The Ministry
of Education, for example, is out of the propaganda business,
and is now concerned with educating Iraqi children. Under
the direction of Dr. Ala'din al-Alwan, the Ministry has
trained more than 30,000 teachers and supervisors for the
schools of a new Iraq.
All along, some have questioned whether the Iraqi people
are ready for self-government, or even want it. And all
along, the Iraqi people have given their answer. In settings
where Iraqis have met to discuss their country's future,
they have endorsed representative government. And they
are practicing representative government. Many of Iraq's
cities and towns now have elected town councils or city
governments - and beyond the violence, a civil society
The June 30th transfer of sovereignty is an essential
commitment of our strategy. Iraqis are proud people who
resent foreign control of their affairs, just as we would.
After decades under the tyrant, they are also reluctant
to trust authority. By keeping our promise on June 30th,
the coalition will demonstrate that we have no interest
in occupation. And full sovereignty will give Iraqis a
direct interest in the success of their own government.
Iraqis will know that when they build a school or repair
a bridge, they're not working for the Coalition Provisional
Authority, they are working for themselves. And when they
patrol the streets of Baghdad, or engage radical militias,
they will be fighting for their own country.
The second step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to
help establish the stability and security that democracy
requires. Coalition forces and the Iraqi people have the
same enemies -- the terrorists, illegal militia, and Saddam
loyalists who stand between the Iraqi people and their
future as a free nation. Working as allies, we will defend
Iraq and defeat these enemies.
America will provide forces and support necessary for
achieving these goals. Our commanders had estimated that
a troop level below 115,000 would be sufficient at this
point in the conflict. Given the recent increase in violence,
we'll maintain our troop level at the current 138,000 as
long as necessary. This has required extended duty for
the 1st Armored Division and the 2nd Light Cavalry Regiment
-- 20,000 men and women who were scheduled to leave Iraq
in April. Our nation appreciates their hard work and sacrifice,
and they can know that they will be heading home soon.
General Abizaid and other commanders in Iraq are constantly
assessing the level of troops they need to fulfill the
mission. If they need more troops, I will send them. The
mission of our forces in Iraq is demanding and dangerous.
Our troops are showing exceptional skill and courage. I
thank them for their sacrifices and their duty. (Applause.)
In the city of Fallujah, there's been considerable violence
by Saddam loyalists and foreign fighters, including the
murder of four American contractors. American soldiers
and Marines could have used overwhelming force. Our commanders,
however, consulted with Iraq's Governing Council and local
officials, and determined that massive strikes against
the enemy would alienate the local population, and increase
support for the insurgency. So we have pursued a different
approach. We're making security a shared responsibility
in Fallujah. Coalition commanders have worked with local
leaders to create an all-Iraqi security force, which is
now patrolling the city. Our soldiers and Marines will
continue to disrupt enemy attacks on our supply routes,
conduct joint patrols with Iraqis to destroy bomb factories
and safe houses, and kill or capture any enemy.
We want Iraqi forces to gain experience and confidence
in dealing with their country's enemies. We want the Iraqi
people to know that we trust their growing capabilities,
even as we help build them. At the same time, Fallujah
must cease to be a sanctuary for the enemy, and those responsible
for terrorism will be held to account.
In the cities of Najaf and Karbala and Kufa, most of the
violence has been incited by a young, radical cleric who
commands an illegal militia. These enemies have been hiding
behind an innocent civilian population, storing arms and
ammunition in mosques, and launching attacks from holy
shrines. Our soldiers have treated religious sites with
respect, while systematically dismantling the illegal militia.
We're also seeing Iraqis, themselves, take more responsibility
for restoring order. In recent weeks, Iraqi forces have
ejected elements of this militia from the governor's office
in Najaf. Yesterday, an elite Iraqi unit cleared out a
weapons cache from a large mosque in Kufa. Respected Shia
leaders have called on the militia to withdraw from these
towns. Ordinary Iraqis have marched in protest against
As challenges arise in Fallujah, Najaf, and elsewhere,
the tactics of our military will be flexible. Commanders
on the ground will pay close attention to local conditions.
And we will do all that is necessary -- by measured force
or overwhelming force -- to achieve a stable Iraq.
Iraq's military, police, and border forces have begun
to take on broader responsibilities. Eventually, they must
be the primary defenders of Iraqi security, as American
and coalition forces are withdrawn. And we're helping them
to prepare for this role. In some cases, the early performance
of Iraqi forces fell short. Some refused orders to engage
the enemy. We've learned from these failures, and we've
taken steps to correct them. Successful fighting units
need a sense of cohesion, so we've lengthened and intensified
their training. Successful units need to know they are
fighting for the future of their own country, not for any
occupying power, so we are ensuring that Iraqi forces serve
under an Iraqi chain of command. Successful fighting units
need the best possible leadership, so we improved the vetting
and training of Iraqi officers and senior enlisted men.
At my direction, and with the support of Iraqi authorities,
we are accelerating our program to help train Iraqis to
defend their country. A new team of senior military officers
is now assessing every unit in Iraq's security forces.
I've asked this team to oversee the training of a force
of 260,000 Iraqi soldiers, police, and other security personnel.
Five Iraqi army battalions are in the field now, with another
eight battalions to join them by July the 1st. The eventual
goal is an Iraqi army of 35,000 soldiers in 27 battalions,
fully prepared to defend their country.
After June 30th, American and other forces will still
have important duties. American military forces in Iraq
will operate under American command as a part of a multinational
force authorized by the United Nations. Iraq's new sovereign
government will still face enormous security challenges,
and our forces will be there to help.
The third step in the plan for Iraqi democracy is to continue
rebuilding that nation's infrastructure, so that a free
Iraq can quickly gain economic independence and a better
quality of life. Our coalition has already helped Iraqis
to rebuild schools and refurbish hospitals and health clinics,
repair bridges, upgrade the electrical grid, and modernize
the communications system. And now a growing private economy
is taking shape. A new currency has been introduced. Iraq's
Governing Council approved a new law that opens the country
to foreign investment for the first time in decades. Iraq
has liberalized its trade policy, and today an Iraqi observer
attends meetings of the World Trade Organization. Iraqi
oil production has reached more than two million barrels
per day, bringing revenues of nearly $6 billion so far
this year, which is being used to help the people of Iraq.
And thanks in part to our efforts -- to the efforts of
former Secretary of State James Baker, many of Iraq's largest
creditors have pledged to forgive or substantially reduce
Iraqi debt incurred by the former regime.
We're making progress. Yet there still is much work to
do. Over the decades of Saddam's rule, Iraq's infrastructure
was allowed to crumble, while money was diverted to palaces,
and to wars, and to weapons programs. We're urging other
nations to contribute to Iraqi reconstruction -- and 37
countries and the IMF and the World Bank have so far pledged
$13.5 billion in aid. America has dedicated more than $20
billion to reconstruction and development projects in Iraq.
To ensure our money is spent wisely and effectively, our
new embassy in Iraq will have regional offices in several
key cities. These offices will work closely with Iraqis
at all levels of government to help make sure projects
are completed on time and on budget.
A new Iraq will also need a humane, well-supervised prison
system. Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were
symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a
symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops
who dishonored our country and disregarded our values.
America will fund the construction of a modern, maximum
security prison. When that prison is completed, detainees
at Abu Ghraib will be relocated. Then, with the approval
of the Iraqi government, we will demolish the Abu Ghraib
prison, as a fitting symbol of Iraq's new beginning. (Applause.)
The fourth step in our plan is to enlist additional international
support for Iraq's transition. At every stage, the United
States has gone to the United Nations -- to confront Saddam
Hussein, to promise serious consequences for his actions,
and to begin Iraqi reconstruction. Today, the United States
and Great Britain presented a new resolution in the Security
Council to help move Iraq toward self-government. I've
directed Secretary Powell to work with fellow members of
the Council to endorse the timetable the Iraqis have adopted,
to express international support for Iraq's interim government,
to reaffirm the world's security commitment to the Iraqi
people, and to encourage other U.N. members to join in
the effort. Despite past disagreements, most nations have
indicated strong support for the success of a free Iraq.
And I'm confident they will share in the responsibility
of assuring that success.
Next month, at the NATO summit in Istanbul, I will thank
our 15 NATO allies who together have more than 17,000 troops
on the ground in Iraq. Great Britain and Poland are each
leading a multinational division that is securing important
parts of the country. And NATO, itself, is giving helpful
intelligence, communications, and logistical support to
the Polish-led division. At the summit, we will discuss
NATO's role in helping Iraq build and secure its democracy.
The fifth and most important step is free, national elections,
to be held no later than next January. A United Nations
team, headed by Carina Perelli, is now in Iraq, helping
form an independent election commission that will oversee
an orderly, accurate national election. In that election,
the Iraqi people will choose a transitional national assembly,
the first freely-elected, truly representative national
governing body in Iraq's history. This assembly will serve
as Iraq's legislature, and it will choose a transitional
government with executive powers. The transitional national
assembly will also draft a new constitution, which will
be presented to the Iraqi people in a referendum scheduled
for the fall of 2005. Under this new constitution, Iraq
will elect a permanent government by the end of next year.
In this time of war and liberation and rebuilding, American
soldiers and civilians on the ground have come to know
and respect the citizens of Iraq. They're a proud people
who hold strong and diverse opinions. Yet Iraqis are united
in a broad and deep conviction: They're determined never
again to live at the mercy of a dictator. And they believe
that a national election will put that dark time behind
them. A representative government that protects basic rights,
elected by Iraqis, is the best defense against the return
of tyranny -- and that election is coming. (Applause.)
Completing the five steps to Iraqi elected self-government
will not be easy. There's likely to be more violence before
the transfer of sovereignty, and after the transfer of
sovereignty. The terrorists and Saddam loyalists would
rather see many Iraqis die than have any live in freedom.
But terrorists will not determine the future of Iraq. (Applause.)
That nation is moving every week toward free elections
and a permanent place among free nations. Like every nation
that has made the journey to democracy, Iraqis will raise
up a government that reflects their own culture and values.
I sent American troops to Iraq to defend our security,
not to stay as an occupying power. I sent American troops
to Iraq to make its people free, not to make them American.
Iraqis will write their own history, and find their own
way. As they do, Iraqis can be certain, a free Iraq will
always have a friend in the United States of America. (Applause.)
In the last 32 months, history has placed great demands
on our country, and events have come quickly. Americans
have seen the flames of September the 11th, followed battles
in the mountains of Afghanistan, and learned new terms
like "orange alert" and "ricin" and "dirty
bomb." We've seen killers at work on trains in Madrid,
in a bank in Istanbul, at a synagogue in Tunis, and at
a nightclub in Bali. And now the families of our soldiers
and civilian workers pray for their sons and daughters
in Mosul and Karbala and Baghdad.
We did not seek this war on terror, but this is the world
as we find it. We must keep our focus. We must do our duty.
History is moving, and it will tend toward hope, or tend
toward tragedy. Our terrorist enemies have a vision that
guides and explains all their varied acts of murder. They
seek to impose Taliban-like rule, country by country, across
the greater Middle East. They seek the total control of
every person, and mind, and soul, a harsh society in which
women are voiceless and brutalized. They seek bases of
operation to train more killers and export more violence.
They commit dramatic acts of murder to shock, frighten
and demoralize civilized nations, hoping we will retreat
from the world and give them free rein. They seek weapons
of mass destruction, to impose their will through blackmail
and catastrophic attacks. None of this is the expression
of a religion. It is a totalitarian political ideology,
pursued with consuming zeal, and without conscience.
Our actions, too, are guided by a vision. We believe that
freedom can advance and change lives in the greater Middle
East, as it has advanced and changed lives in Asia, and
Latin America, and Eastern Europe, and Africa. We believe
it is a tragedy of history that in the Middle East -- which
gave the world great gifts of law and science and faith
-- so many have been held back by lawless tyranny and fanaticism.
We believe that when all Middle Eastern peoples are finally
allowed to live and think and work and worship as free
men and women, they will reclaim the greatness of their
own heritage. And when that day comes, the bitterness and
burning hatreds that feed terrorism will fade and die away.
America and all the world will be safer when hope has returned
to the Middle East.
These two visions -- one of tyranny and murder, the other
of liberty and life -- clashed in Afghanistan. And thanks
to brave U.S. and coalition forces and to Afghan patriots,
the nightmare of the Taliban is over, and that nation is
coming to life again. These two visions have now met in
Iraq, and are contending for the future of that country.
The failure of freedom would only mark the beginning of
peril and violence. But, my fellow Americans, we will not
fail. We will persevere, and defeat this enemy, and hold
this hard-won ground for the realm of liberty.
May God bless our country. (Applause.)
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