For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 7, 2006
President Bush Attends Lighting of the National Christmas Tree The Ellipse
5:55 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. Laura and I are pleased to welcome you to the Christmas Pageant of Peace. Christmas is a season of glad tidings, and a time when our thoughts turn to the source of joy and hope born in a humble manger 2000 years ago. And tonight we gather to observe one of the great traditions of our Nation's Capital, the lighting of the National Christmas Tree. (Applause.)
I'm really glad Santa made it. (Laughter.) I'm glad he could find a place to park. (Laughter.) And I'm glad you all joined us tonight.
I want to thank Vin for his leadership of the National Park Foundation. I thank Deputy Secretary of the Interior Lynn Scarlett for joining us. I am pleased to be here with members of my Cabinet; members of the Congress; Mary Bomar, who is the Director of the National Park Service; Joe Lawler, Regional Director of the National Capital Region, National Park Service. I want to thank all the National Park Service employees for their hard work. (Applause.)
I appreciate Dr. Robert Schuller for leading the invocation. I want to thank our fabulous entertainers for entertaining us tonight. (Applause.)
We have gathered for this ceremony for more than 80 years. We come together to celebrate a simple and inspiring story. It's a story of a miraculous birth in a humble place. It is a story of a single life that changed the world -- and continues to change hearts. And for two millennia, this story has carried the message that God is with us and He offers His love to every man, woman and child. (Applause.)
During the Christmas season we seek to reflect that love in our lives. Millions of Americans will celebrate at home in fellowship with friends and family. Millions will reach out with a compassionate hand to help brothers and sisters in need. And all will give thanks to the bonds of love and affection that bring fulfillment to our lives and the hope of peace around the world.
At this time of year, we give thanks for the brave men and women in uniform who are serving our nation. (Applause.) Many of those who have answered the call of duty will spend this Christmas season far from home and separated from family. We honor their sacrifice. We are proud of their service and that of their families. We will keep them close to our hearts and in our prayers.
And now, as an expression of our own hope for peace in this Christmas season, we will light the National Tree. (Applause.) We've asked three representatives from the National Park Service's Junior Ranger program to help. The Junior Ranger Program teaches children and families about science, nature and stewardship of our national parks.
And so, Attiyah Jenkins, Stephen Scott, and Dana Bederson will help me light the National Christmas Tree. (Applause.)
Come on up, guys.
I ask all of you to join us in the countdown -- five, four, three, two, one. (Applause.) END 5:59 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 7, 2006
President Bush Meets with British Prime Minister Tony Blair Dwight D. Eisenhower Executive Office Building
11:05 A.M. EST
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all. Please be seated. I just had a good visit with Prime Minister Tony Blair. I appreciate you coming back, Mr. Prime Minister. I always enjoy our discussions, and I appreciate your clear view that we are confronted with a struggle between moderation and extremism. And this is particularly evident in the broader Middle East.
I talked about my recent trip to Jordan, where I talked to Prime Minister Maliki. I briefed the Prime Minister on my visit with His Eminence, Mr. Hakim, one of the major political players in Iraq. We discussed the report I received yesterday from the Iraq Study Group, a report chaired by Secretary of State -- former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton. I told the Prime Minister I thought this was a very constructive report. I appreciated the fact that they laid out a series of recommendations, and they're worthy of serious study. I also updated the Prime Minister on the reviews that are being conducted by the Pentagon and the State Department and our National Security Council. I talked to him about the consultations I'm having with the United States Congress.
We agree that victory in Iraq is important; it's important for the Iraqi people, it's important for the security of the United States and Great Britain, and it's important for the civilized world. We agree that an Iraq that can govern itself, defend itself and sustain itself as an ally on the war on terror is a noble goal. The Prime Minister and I seek a wide range of opinions about how to go forward in Iraq, and I appreciate your opinions and your advice.
The increase in sectarian attacks we're seeing in and around Baghdad are unsettling. It has led to much debate in both our countries about the nature of the war that is taking place in Iraq. And it is true that Sunni and Shia extremists are targeting each other's innocent civilians and engaging in brutal reprisals. It's also true that forces beyond Iraq's borders contribute to this violence. And the Prime Minister put it this way, he said, "The violence is not an accident or a result of faulty planning. It is a deliberate strategy. It is the direct result of outside extremists teaming up with internal extremists -- al Qaeda with the Sunni insurgents, and Iran with the Shia militia -- to foment hatred and to throttle, at birth, the possibility of a non-sectarian democracy." You were right, and I appreciate your comments.
The primary victims of the sectarian violence are the moderate majority of Iraqis -- Sunni and Shia alike -- who want a future of peace. The primary beneficiaries are Sunni and Shia extremists, inside and outside of Iraq, who want chaos in that country so they can take control and further their ambitions to dominate the region.
These Sunni and Shia extremists have important differences, yet they agree on one thing: the rise of free and democratic societies in the Middle East where people can practice their faith, choose their leaders, and live together in peace would be a decisive blow to their cause.
And so they're supporting extremists across the region who are working to undermine young democracies. Just think about the Middle East. In Iraq, they support terrorists and death squads who are fomenting sectarian violence in an effort to bring down the elected government of Prime Minister Maliki. In Lebanon, they're supporting Hezbollah, which recently declared its intention to force the collapse of Prime Minister Siniora's democratically-elected parliament and government. In Afghanistan, they're supporting remnants of the Taliban that are seeking to destabilize President Karzai's government and regain power. In the Palestinian Territories, they are working to stop moderate leaders like President Abbas from making progress toward the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
In each of these places, radicals and extremists are using terror to stop the spread of freedom. And they do so because they want to spread their ideologies -- their ideologies of hate -- and impose their rule on this vital part of the world. And should they succeed, history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity and demand to know, what happened? How come free nations did not act to preserve the peace?
Prime Minister Blair and I understand that we have a responsibility to lead and to support moderates and reformers who work for change across the broader Middle East. We also recognize that meeting this responsibility requires action. We will take concerted efforts to advance the cause of peace in the Middle East. Prime Minister Blair informed me that he will be heading to the Middle East soon to talk to both the Israelis and the Palestinians. And I support that mission. I support the mission because it's important for us to advance the cause of two states living side by side in peace, and helping both parties eliminate the obstacles that prevent an agreement from being reached. And your strong leadership on this issue matters a lot.
We'll support the democratic government of Prime Minister Maliki as he makes difficult decisions and confronts the forces of terror and extremism that are working hard to tear his country apart.
Britain and America are old allies, and the Prime Minister and I are strong friends. But Britain and America aren't standing together in this war because of friendship. We're standing together because our two nations face an unprecedented threat to civilization. We're standing together to prevent terrorists and extremists from dominating the Middle East. We stand together to prevent extremists from regaining the safe haven they lost in Afghanistan, a safe haven from which they launched attacks that killed thousands of our citizens.
We stand together because we understand the only way to secure a lasting peace for our children and grandchildren is to defeat the extremist ideologies and help the ideology of hope, democracy, prevail. We know the only way to secure peace for ourselves is to help millions of moms and dads across the Middle East build what our citizens already have: societies based on liberty that will allow their children to grow up in peace and opportunity.
It's a tough time. And it's a difficult moment for America and Great Britain. And the task before us is daunting. Yet our nations have stood before in difficult moments. Sixty-five years ago this day, America was jolted out of our isolationism and plunged into a global war that Britain had been fighting for two years. In that war, our nation stood firm. And there were difficult moments during that war, yet the leaders of our two nations never lost faith in the capacity to prevail.
We will stand firm again in this first war of the 21st century. We will defeat the extremists and the radicals. We will help a young democracy prevail in Iraq. And in so doing, we will secure freedom and peace for millions, including our own citizens.
Mr. Prime Minister, welcome.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Thank you very much, Mr. President, and thank you, firstly, for stressing again the strength of the relationship between our two countries, which is important for us, but I think it's important for the wider global community, as well. Thank you also for the clarity of your vision about the mission that we're engaged in at the moment, which is a struggle between freedom and democracy on the one hand, and terrorism and sectarianism on the other. And it's a noble mission, and it's the right mission, and it's important for our world that it succeeds.
And so the question is, how do we make sure that it does, indeed, succeed? And in respect of Iraq, I, like you, welcome the Baker-Hamilton study group. It offers a strong way forward. I think it is important now we concentrate on the elements that are necessary to make sure that we succeed, because the consequences of failure are severe. And I believe this is a mission we have to succeed in and we can succeed in.
And I think there are three elements that we can take forward. The first is to make sure that we are supporting the Maliki government in making sure that that government's non-sectarian nature is reflected in the policies of that government and the way that it conducts itself. I think in respect of governance and security and capability -- particularly economic capability -- there is much that we are doing, but can do even more in order to make sure that they are supported in the vital work that they do, and in the work of reconciliation, in bringing the different parts of Iraq together in order to give effect to the will of the Iraqi people, expressed in their democratic election.
I think, secondly, it's important that all of us who are engaged in this, but particularly those in the region, live up to their responsibilities in supporting the Maliki government, in ensuring that Iraq is able to proceed in a democratic and non-sectarian way.
And I think that, finally, as you rightly emphasize, it is important that we do everything we can in the wider Middle East to bring about peace between Israel and the Palestinians. This is something that I know you feel deeply and passionately about; you are the first President who committed yourself to the two state solution. And I believe that by moving this forward we send a very strong signal not just to the region, but to the whole of the world that we are evenhanded and just in the application of our values, that we want to see an Israel confident of its security and a Palestinian people able to live in peace and justice and democracy.
And that brings me back, finally, to the point that I began with, because I think it is the central point -- yes, it is immensely tough at the moment and very challenging, and everybody knows that. But there are only two ways that the Middle East can go. Its people can either be presented with a choice between a secular or a religious dictatorship, which is not a choice that any free people would ever choose, or alternatively, they can enjoy the same possibilities of democracy that we hold dear in our countries. And this is not a view that we hold -- I hold because of idealism alone. It is because I also believe that the only realistic path to security is by ensuring the spread of liberty.
So, Mr. President, thank you again for welcoming me here, and we will work closely with you in the time to come in order to achieve the mission we have set ourselves.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir. Thank you. We'll answer a couple of questions.
Q Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister, neither of you has shown much doubt about your Iraq policies. Do you acknowledge that your approach has failed, as Baker-Hamilton suggests? And are you willing to engage directly with Syria and Iran and pull out most combat forces by early 2008, unless there's unexpected circumstances?
PRESIDENT BUSH: The thing I liked about the Baker-Hamilton report is it discussed the way forward in Iraq. And I believe we need a new approach. And that's why I've tasked the Pentagon to analyze the way forward. That's why Prime Minister Blair is here to talk about the way forward, so we can achieve the objective, which is an Iraq which can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself, and be an ally in the war on terror.
And the Baker-Hamilton report did some very interesting things. First, it shows that Republicans and Democrats can work together to achieve -- to come up with a strategy to achieve an objective, something the American people don't think is possible to happen. In other words, they've seen elections, and they saw all the bitterness and finger-pointing and name-calling and wonder whether or not we can work together on this important cause. And I believe we can. And the Baker-Hamilton commission showed it's possible for people of goodwill to sit down at the table and design a way forward.
And so that's why I'm sitting down with the members of Congress to say to both Republicans and Democrats, this is an important cause. It's important for our security; it's important to help lay the foundations for peace, and I want to hear your ideas. And I thought the report did a good job of showing what is possible. Congress isn't going to accept every recommendation in the report, and neither will the administration. But there's a lot of very important things in the report that we ought to seriously consider.
And as the Prime Minister talked about, there's three aspects to the report. One is, how do we empower the Maliki government so that the Maliki government -- the elected government of the Iraqis -- can help with the economy, can help secure peace, can do hard work necessary to achieve stability and to achieve the objective?
It talked about the regional -- the countries in the region, and the responsibilities of the region to help this Iraqi government. And the idea of having an international group is an interesting idea. We've already got the compact, and I think the Baker-Hamilton report suggests that we broaden the compact beyond just economic measures.
But one thing is for certain, when people-- if people come to the table to discuss Iraq, they need to come understanding their responsibilities to not fund terrorists, to help this young democracy survive, to help with the economics of the country. And if people are not committed, if Syria and Iran is not committed to that concept, then they shouldn't bother to show up.
Thirdly, the Palestinian-Israeli conflict is important to have -- is important to be solved. I'm committed to a two state solution. I believe it is in Israel's interest and the Palestinian people's interest to have two states living side by side for peace. And the Prime Minister shares that goal. And he is willing to take time to go over and help remove obstacles toward achieving that goal.
And there are two notable obstacles. One, one is the prisoner; and secondly, is for there to be a unity government that recognizes the principles of the Quartet, with which Israel can negotiate. And we want to help.
And so I view this as a very important way forward, important concepts. And the American people expect us to come up with a new strategy to achieve the objective which I've been talking about and which is laid out in the Baker-Hamilton report.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I think the analysis of the situation is not really in dispute. The question is, how do we find the right way forward? And what we've got at the moment is something that is at one level very simple to describe, but at another level very profound and difficult to deal with -- and that is that the outside extremists are linking up with internal extremists, basically to create the circumstances of sectarianism, where it's very, very difficult then for democracy and ordinary institutions to function.
And I think the Baker-Hamilton report allows us to, as the situation has evolved in Iraq, to evolve our strategy in order to meet it in the ways that I've just described. But I think we've got to be very, very clear about this: It will require everybody to face up to their responsibilities. Us, of course, because we are principal actors in this; but also the Iraqi government, they've got to be prepared to make the moves necessary -- full governance, full capability, reconciliation and full help and security -- and we will be there to support them.
But then there are responsibilities, as the President was saying a moment or two ago, on the region and the neighbors. And let me come directly to the Iran and Syria point. The issue for me is not a question of being unwilling to sit down with people or not, but the basis upon which we discuss Iraq has got to be clear and it's got to be a basis where we are all standing up for the right principles, which are now endorsed in the United Nations resolutions, in respect of Iraq. In other words, you support the democratic elected government; you do not support sectarians and you do not support, arm or finance terrorists.
Now, the very reason we have problems in parts of Iraq -- and we know this very well down in the south of Iraq -- is that Iran, for example, has been doing that, has been basically arming, financing, supporting terrorism. So we've got to be clear the basis upon which we take this forward. And as I say, it's got to be clear the basis upon which we take this forward. And as I say, it's got to be on the basis of people accepting their responsibilities.
And finally, in relation to what the President was just saying a moment or two ago on Israel and Palestine, I think that one thing that is very clear is that the old Middle East had within it the origins of all the problems we see. I mean, this terrorist problem that we faced in the last few years, it didn't originate, I'm afraid, a few years ago. It's been building up over decades. It's come out of a series of states of oppression, of warped ideology, based on a perverted view of the faith of Islam. This has been building up for a long period of time. And it has basically come out of the Middle East.
Now, my view in the end is that you go back to the origins of this and say, well, how do we resolve it? And the only way we resolve it is by having the right vision and then the practical measures to achieve it.
Now, I think the vision is absolutely correct. What we've got to do now -- and this is exactly why the President was talking about the way forward -- is that we've got to get the right way forward -- this is where Baker-Hamilton helped -- in order that we have the practical policy that bolsters and gives effect to the vision, because the vision is the right vision. You leave a Middle East in which the Israel-Palestine issue is not solved, in which there's no moves towards democracy, in which Iraq goes back in its old state, in which the Iranian people have no chance to express themselves, maybe not in the months or one year, two years, but you'll have the same problem. You know, the reason we are faced with this issue is because in the end, everything that happened in that region erupted, in fact, on the streets of New York. But it -- the origins of this went way, way back before that.
And so it is -- there's a tendency I think sometimes to see this as a battle between the idealists on the one hand and the realists on the other. In my view, the only modern form of realism is one that has ideals at the center of it.
Q Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group described the situation in Iraq as grave and deteriorating. You said that the increase in attacks is unsettling. That won't convince many people that you're still in denial about how bad things are in Iraq, and question your sincerity about changing course.
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's bad in Iraq. Does that help? (Laughter.)
Q Why did it take others to say it before you've been willing to acknowledge for the world --
PRESIDENT BUSH: In all due respect, I've been saying it a lot. I understand how tough it is. And I've been telling the American people how tough it is. And they know how tough it is. And the fundamental question is, do we have a plan to achieve our objective. Are we willing to change as the enemy has changed? And what the Baker-Hamilton study has done is it shows good ideas as to how to go forward. What our Pentagon is doing is figuring out ways to go forward, all aiming to achieve our objective.
Make no mistake about it, I understand how tough it is, sir. I talk to families who die. I understand there's sectarian violence. I also understand that we're hunting down al Qaeda on a regular basis and we're bringing them to justice. I understand how hard our troops are working. I know how brave the men and women who wear the uniform are, and therefore, they'll have the full support of this government. I understand what long deployments mean to wives and husbands, and mothers and fathers, particularly as we come into a holiday season. I understand. And I have made it abundantly clear how tough it is.
I also believe we're going to succeed. I believe we'll prevail. Not only do I know how important it is to prevail, I believe we will prevail. I understand how hard it is to prevail. But I also want the American people to understand that if we were to fail -- and one way to assure failure is just to quit, is not to adjust, and say it's just not worth it -- if we were to fail, that failed policy will come to hurt generations of Americans in the future.
And as I said in my opening statement, I believe we're in an ideological struggle between forces that are reasonable and want to live in peace, and radicals and extremists. And when you throw into the mix radical Shia and radical Sunni trying to gain power and topple moderate governments, with energy which they could use to blackmail Great Britain or America, or anybody else who doesn't kowtow to them, and a nuclear weapon in the hands of a government that is -- would be using that nuclear weapon to blackmail to achieve political objectives -- historians will look back and say, how come Bush and Blair couldn't see the threat? That's what they'll be asking. And I want to tell you, I see the threat and I believe it is up to our governments to help lead the forces of moderation to prevail. It's in our interests.
And one of the things that has changed for American foreign policy is a threat overseas can now come home to hurt us, and September the 11th should be a wake-up call for the American people to understand what happens if there is violence and safe havens in a part of the world. And what happens is people can die here at home.
So, no, I appreciate your question. As you can tell, I feel strongly about making sure you understand that I understand it's tough. But I want you to know, sir, that I believe we'll prevail. I know we have to adjust to prevail, but I wouldn't have our troops in harm's way if I didn't believe that, one, it was important, and, two, we'll succeed. Thank you.
Q Prime Minister, if I may, briefly --
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: You're not going to do a follow up, are you? (Laughter.)
Q No, no, forgive me. I just wanted to ask you about your Middle East mission, if I may. Given your trip to the Middle East, isn't the truth of what the Arab-Israeli solution -- sorry, isn't the truth of what the Arab-Israeli problem requires is not, however hard you try, another visit by a British Prime Minister, but the genuine commitment -- and not merely in words -- of an American administration that's serious about doing something about it?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Well, I believe that we have that commitment. I mean, you're right in this sense, there would be no point in me going unless it was part of a mission that was supported fully by our American allies. But it is -- we agree -- the vision -- I mean, the one thing that I find very frustrating about the situation, Israel-Palestine, is that there is actually an agreement as to the solution we want to see, which is a two- state solution. And, really, everybody is agreed to that. So the question is how do you get there?
And there are critical obstacles that stand in the way of that that require detailed attention and management, and it's not merely myself who's going to be engaged in this, of course, but as you know, the Secretary of State has been very closely involved in this. She's been visiting the region recently, and I know is, again, fully committed to it.
I think what is interesting from what you have from this today is an acceptance and, indeed, a clear belief that you look at these issues together. And there is a -- there is a kind of whole vision about how we need to proceed that links what happens inside Iraq with what happens outside Iraq. And again, I think that the Baker-Hamilton report put this very simply and very clearly.
You know, there is -- there is no way that you ever succeed in these things unless you just carry on trying, and that's what we will do. And one of the things I learned in all the long years that you followed me in relation to Northern Ireland is that you just -- you don't accept that you ever give up. You just carry on doing it. And I am sure that it is possible to resolve this, and I also do believe that if we do, then it would -- it would send a signal of massive symbolic power across the world.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Steve.
Q Thank you, sir. You mentioned Iran and Syria as part of this regional effort. Are you willing to engage with them directly as the report -- as the report recommends? And back to the issue of the troops, is it possible to get them out of Iraq by early 2008, as the report talks about? And when do you hope to have this report? Sorry to --
PRESIDENT BUSH: How many questions do you got, Steve?
Q Sorry about that. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: You mean, when -- when do I hope to announce the strategy, is that what you're talking about? After I get the reports. And Baker-Hamilton is a really important part of our considerations. But we want to make sure the military gets their point of view in. After all, a lot of what we're doing is a military operation. I want to make sure the State Department is able to help us analyze the strategy to make sure that we've got the right political emphasis, not only inside Iraq but outside Iraq.
I appreciate the Prime Minister's answer to this lad -- we call them lads, in Great Britain -- lad's question, is that --(laughter.)
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: You've made a friend, I think, there. (Laughter.) It's a long time since anyone's called him that. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: You got to understand -- well --
Q He calls me a number of other things.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Our Secretary of State is very much engaged in this issue. She works hard on the issue. And as much as we'd like to impose the settlement, it's important for you to understand, sir, that the Israelis and the Palestinians must accept responsibility and must sign off on an agreement. It's kind of easy to sit back and say, okay, we're going to impose this on them. We can help, and we will help.
So Steve, that's -- we're spending a lot -- I know, I'm heading back. We're spending a lot of time considering the new course, because the decisions that we make affect lives. They affect the lives of our soldiers, they affect the lives of the Iraqi people. But one thing is central to this new course, and that is the Iraqi government must be given more responsibility so they can prove to their people and to their allies that they're capable of making hard decisions necessary for their young democracy to move forward.
Second part of your long question?
Q Well, are you willing to engage direct talks with --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, Iran and Syria.
Q -- just a regional effort --
PRESIDENT BUSH: No, no, I understand. Steve, let me talk about engaging Iran. We have made it clear to the Iranians that there is a possible change in U.S. policy, a policy that's been in place for 27 years, and that is that if they would like to engage the United States, that they've got to verifiably suspend their enrichment program. We've made our choice. Iran now has an opportunity to make its choice. I would hope they would make the choice that most of the free world wants them to make, which is there is no need to have a weapons program; there is no need to isolate your people; there's no need to continue this obstinance when it comes to your stated desires to have a nuclear weapon. It's not in your interest to do so.
And should they agree to verifiably suspend their enrichment, the United States will be at the table with our partners.
It's really interesting to talk about conversations with countries -- which is fine; I can understand why people speculate about it -- but there should be no mistake in anybody's mind, these countries understand our position. They know what's expected of them.
There is -- if we were to have a conversation, it would be this one, to Syria: Stop destabilizing the Siniora government. We believe that the Siniora government should be supported, not weakened. Stop allowing money and arms to cross your border into Iraq. Don't provide safe haven for terrorist groups. We've made that position very clear.
And the truth of the matter is, is that these countries have now got the choice to make. If they want to sit down at the table with the United States, it's easy -- just make some decisions that will lead to peace, not to conflict.
Is that the third part of your question? You've got to stop these long questions, Steven. Steven.
Q Combat troops out by early 2008, is that --
PRESIDENT BUSH: One of the things the report did mention, and I think you've said it in your comment, if conditions so allow. And we want our combat troops out as quick as possible. We want the Iraqis taking the fight. But it's very important to be -- as we design programs, to be flexible and realistic. And as the report said -- I don't -- got the exact words, but it was along the lines of depending upon conditions, I believe is what the qualifier was. And I thought that made a lot of sense. I've always said we'd like our troops out as fast as possible. I think that's an important goal.
On the other hand, our commanders will be making recommendations based upon whether or not we're achieving our stated objective. And the objective, I repeat, is a government which can sustain, govern, and defend itself -- free government of Iraq that can do that -- and will be an ally in this movement -- against this movement that is threatening peace and stability. And it's real.
I like to remind people it's akin to the Cold War in many ways. There's an ideological clash going on. And the question is, will we have the resolve and the confidence in liberty to prevail? That's really the fundamental question facing -- it's not going to face this government or this government, because we made up our mind. We've made that part clear. But it will face future governments. There will be future opportunities for people to say, well, it's not worth it, let's just retreat. I would strongly advise a government not to accept that position because of the dangers inherent with isolationism and retreat.
Q I'll try to be succinct. Mr. President, two years ago you said that you were ready to expend political capital on the Israel-Palestinian situation. With hindsight, do you think you've fulfilled that intention? How closely do you see a linkage between what happens in Israel-Palestine and a settlement in Iraq, achieving your goals?
Prime Minister, given that you were so recently in the Middle East and the situation hasn't exactly improved since then, is there anything specific you're hoping to achieve next week when you go back?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Want me to start? I'm getting older, so you're going to have to repeat the second part of your question. (Laughter.) Let me answer the first part. What's important is for people to accept the goal of two states living side-by-side for peace. And what has changed in the Middle East is that Israel and Palestine -- at least the current leadership of both countries, or both -- one entity and one country -- accept that goal. That's important.
To that end, the previous Prime Minister made a decision to unilaterally withdraw from Gaza, which I felt was a good decision, which would expedite the potential arrival of a state. And so to answer your question, yes, we're spending a lot of capital getting people headed in the same direction, which if you look at the history of the Middle East, is a change.
Secondly, one of the reasons why there hasn't been instant success is because radicals and extremists are trying to stop the advance of a Palestinian state. Why? Because democracy is a defeat for them. That's what I strongly believe. I find it interesting that when Prime Minister Olmert reaches out to Palestinians to discuss a way forward on the two state solution, Hezbollah attacks Israel. Why? Because radicals and extremists can't stand the thought of a democracy. And one of the great ironies is that people in the Middle East are working hard to prevent people in the Middle East from realizing the blessings of a free society in their democracy.
And so, no question progress has been spotty. But it's important for people to understand one of the reasons why is, is because radicals are trying to prevent it, and they're willing to kill innocent people to prevent progress. Now, our goal is to help the Abbas government strengthen its security forces, and we're doing that. Our goal is to help the Abbas government form a government that adheres to the principles of the Quartet. We can't abandon the principles of the Quartet just because it may sound easy. You can't do that. When nations lay out principles, you've got to adhere to those principles -- just like when we laid out a vision, you adhere to that vision.
And so the Prime Minister's visit, like Condi's visit recently to the Middle East, are all aiming to help countries remove obstacles necessary to achieve the vision. And it's hard work, but it's necessary work. And so I do believe there is a -- I know there's a change of attitude. And now the fundamental question is, can we help the moderates prevail? And make no mistake about it, radicals and extremists will kill in order to stop the progress. And that's what's difficult. But it should be a signal to those of us who have got the comfort of liberty to understand the consequences of this ideological struggle we're fighting. One of the consequences is denial of a Palestinian state.
This is ironic, isn't it -- I think it is, and it's sad.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I think, first of all, it's important to understand how much has begun, how much work there's been. I mean, I know I've had many, many meetings on this issue over the past few months. I know Secretary Rice has been immensely active on it over these past months, as well. Now, some of that is visible and out there at press conferences and meetings, and a lot of it is behind the scenes.
But in essence, what we've got to do is to try to resolve two issues. First of all, we need to get the release of Corporal Shalit, which, as Prime Minister Olmert made clear the other day, would then allow the release of many Palestinian prisoners, as well. And this is obviously a very important issue.
But then, secondly, and this is, I think, really -- one of the core questions is, we are prepared to release the money to the Palestinian Authority. We are prepared to take the peace process forward and get into a process of negotiation. But we need a government on both sides that is committed to the basic principles of that negotiation. And at the present time, we are not able to achieve a national unity government on the Palestinian side. And the reason for that is that we are saying, not as a matter of dogma at all, but you can't have a government that everyone can deal with, and you can then negotiate a peace between Israel and Palestine, unless it's on the basis that everyone accepts the other's right to exist. So that's the difficulty. It's not a kind of technical point, it's absolutely at the heart of it.
Now, what we have got to do is to find either a way of unlocking the problem of forming that national unity government on the principles laid down by the United Nations, as well as the rest of the Quartet, or alternatively, a different way forward, but whatever way forward will have to be on the basis you get an empowered Palestinian government with whom everyone can negotiate and deal with.
Now, you know, again, it's a very, very obvious thing. It's not just for the Israelis and the Palestinians, but also for the whole of the region. You know, you can't negotiate this unless everyone accepts the basic principles of the negotiation. But if people were to do that, and after all, we're only asking people to accept the position that the United Nations, and really, the whole of the international community, you could move this forward quickly. I mean, I don't think there's any doubt at all that if you could get an empowered Palestinian government able to negotiate -- Israel has made it clear it is prepared to negotiate.
I'm not saying there aren't very tricky issues. There are things like Jerusalem, the right of return, which are very, very difficult. But actually, it's not beyond our wit to put it together. We could put it together. But you need to get these initial steps taken.
Now what I'm wont to do when I go out there is just explore what is the way that we get that ability to get the negotiation underway, trying to work round these obstacles. And it's something -- we were talking about Iran and Syria moments ago, it's something all of those countries could help with if they wanted to help with it. So I kind of feel one thing that is important is that everyone understands that there's no shortage of willingness, energy, commitment on our side.
And believe me, I've thought about this with the President many, many times, and I don't believe there's any shortage of those qualities on his part at all. But we need to get this -- we need to get the door unlocked because it's kind of barred at the moment. It needs to be opened. And that's the task, I think, for the next period.
PRESIDENT BUSH: L.A. Times Man.
Q Mr. President, you have said that you have the Baker-Hamilton report, you also have the -- you're waiting to hear from the Pentagon, you're waiting to hear from the State Department. This report was prepared by a bipartisan group, the only one you'll get. Secretary Baker has a special relationship with the family. Should this report not get extra consideration? Does it not carry more weight than any of the others?
PRESIDENT BUSH: That's an interesting question. It's certainly an important part of our deliberations, and it was certainly an important part of our discussions this morning. Some reports are issued and just gather dust. And truth of the matter is, a lot of reports in Washington are never read by anybody.
To show you how important this one is, I read it, and our guest read it. The Prime Minister read -- read a report prepared by a commission. And this is important. And there are some -- I don't think Jim Baker and Lee Hamilton expect us to accept every recommendation. I expect them -- I think -- I know they expect us to consider every recommendation, Jim. We ought to pay close attention to what they advise. And I told them yesterday at our meeting that we would pay close attention, and would seriously consider every recommendation. We've discussed some of their recommendations here at this press conference. And we are -- we will spend a lot of time on it.
And I -- and so you ask its relative importance. I'd call it a very important report, and a very important part of our working to a new approach, a new way forward in Iraq.
And I can't -- I really do thank those citizens for taking time out of busy lives to spend time helping us look at different options. These are distinguished souls; they got plenty to do. They're busy people, and yet they took nine months out and they talked to a lot of people. They went to Iraq, they thought about it a lot, and it was a very considerate, important report. And I will take the recommendations very seriously.
Q Mr. President, the Iraq Study Group said that leaders must be candid and forthright with people. So let me test that. Are you capable of admitting your failures in the past, and perhaps much more importantly, are you capable of changing course, perhaps in the next few weeks?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I think you're probably going to have to pay attention to my speech coming up here when I get all the recommendations in, and you can answer that question, yourself. I do know that we have not succeeded as fast as we wanted to succeed. I do understand that progress is not as rapid as I had hoped. And therefore, it makes sense to analyze the situation and to devise a set of tactics and strategies to achieve the objective that I have stated.
And so if the present situation needs to be changed, it follows that we'll change it if we want to succeed. What's really interesting is the battle has changed in Iraq from the rejectionists and former Baathists and definitely foreign fighters who have entered the country that were trying to destabilize the new government to one that Mr. Zarqawi stated clearly -- he said, look, let's kill Shia in order to create enough chaos and confusion and doubt of the government, and set off a sectarian battle. And he succeeded in that extent. He didn't succeed at avoiding us, but he did succeed at starting off sectarian strife. And now the fundamental question is, what strategy is necessary to deal with this type of violence?
We'll continue after al Qaeda. Al Qaeda will not have safe haven in Iraq. And that's important for the American people to know. We've got special operators, we've got better intelligence. And al Qaeda is effective at these spectacular bombings, and we'll chase them down, and we are, along with the Iraqis. The strategy now is how to make sure that we've got the security situation in place such that the Iraqi government is capable of dealing with the sectarian violence, as well as the political and economic strategies, as well.
So, yes, I think you'll see something differently, because it's a practical answer to a situation on the ground that's not the way we like it. You wanted frankness -- I thought we would succeed quicker than we did, and I am disappointed by the pace of success.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Look, there isn't any -- as I said a moment or two ago, there isn't any doubt about how tough this is. It's hugely challenging. But what the report did not say is that we should just get out and leave it. What it did say is that it's immensely important that we succeed.
Now, the question is, therefore, how do we do it? And in that regard, I think the report is practical, it's clear, and it offers also the way of bringing people together.
The other thing that we want to do, because this is part of succeeding in this mission, is actually to make people understand that this is something where you've got to try and bring people together around a set of common objectives and a practical set of methods to achieve those objectives.
The issues that the report raises -- I mean, these aren't issues that, obviously, no one has ever thought of; these aren't issues that haven't been part of the continual discussion and debate and iteration within the coalition and, indeed, between us and the Iraqi government. But those essential elements we want to make sure, in the light of the changing situation that there is there, that, one, we have the Iraqi government able to operate effectively, but in a non-sectarian way, because that's what we began with. Secondly, that we make sure that everyone in the region is supporting that. And, thirdly, that we set this within the context of a broader vision for the Middle East, not least in respect of Israel and Palestine.
Now, in respect of the elements of that strategy, this report gives us a basis on which we can move forward -- but we've obviously then got to look at the practical measures that are necessary in order to give effect to those elements. And that's what we'll do. And I think that, you know, the one thing that no one who is dealing with this on a day to day basis has any doubt about is how tough it is. But the question is how we make sure that we overcome those tough conditions and succeed, because the need to succeed is so huge.
Q Prime Minister, just a brief supplementary -- sorry, I didn't get to ask you the question. You promised some time -- I'm sorry.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Look, I agree, this is a total violation of -- (laughter.) Our press corps is calling you down, man. I mean, there you are -- no, go ahead. (Laughter.)
Q You're encouraging it.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I'm not encouraging it. You're not a member of the American press, it's the Prime Minister. (Laughter.)
Q He's my guy. (Laughter.)
Q Only because you cut me off, Mr. President --
PRESS: Ohhhhh! (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Okay. (Laughter.)
Q Prime Minister, you promised the British military whatever it takes to fight in Iraq and Afghanistan, but the former head of the British Army says the British military is not being funded properly for the job it's being asked to do. Do you accept that?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: We get from our military advice as to what they need and we do our level best to meet it. I mean, we'll -- I haven't actually read Mike Jackson's comments. I think it's Mike's speech you're talking about. And let me tell you he's someone I have enormous amount of respect for, and did a fantastic job when he was chief of our staff.
But in relation to this, we've worked closely with the military the whole time. It's important we carry on doing it. And I've simply made the point that in the last few years, and not least yesterday in the pre-budget report of the chancellor, we gave another significant increase in funding. But it's important we do this. This is a mission which it is -- because it's important that we succeed, it's important that we equip our armed forces properly. But I've got nothing -- if you'll forgive me, I've not got anything to comment on in detail until I've actually read the speech that he made. Not that -- I'm not saying you wouldn't give me a fair resume of it. (Laughter.)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Okay.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good job. END 11:58 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 6, 2006
President Bush Meets with Members of Congress The Cabinet Room
3:27 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I've just met with members of Congress from both political parties. My message is this: I want to work with the Congress, I want to work with people in both parties, so that we can send a message to the American people that the struggle for freedom, the struggle for our security is not the purview of one party over the other. The American people want us to work together, and my intention is to do just that.
Today the Baker-Hamilton commission, the Iraq Study Group put out what I thought was a very interesting report. There's some very good ideas in there. Not all of us around the table agree with every idea, but we do agree that it shows that bipartisan consensus on important issues is possible. It's really important for the American people to know that there are people of goodwill here in town willing to set aside politics and focus on the security of this country and the peace of the world.
And I want to thank you all for taking time out of your schedules to come. It means a lot to me, and I think it means a lot to the American people, to recognize that there are people in this town who are concerned more about the security of this country than they are about the security of their own political positions. And I'm proud to be with you. I want to thank you for your thoughts. I take your comments very seriously. I take your ideas very seriously. And it's important to me that we continue to hear from the Congress as we fashion a way -- a new way forward in Iraq, a new look, to achieve our objective of a country which can sustain itself, govern itself, defend itself and be an ally in this war against extremism and terrorism.
Thank you all very much. END 3:29 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 6, 2006
President Bush Welcomes President Arias of Costa Rica to the White House Oval Office
12:41 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT BUSH: Mr. President, welcome. I'm glad to welcome you back to the White House. I appreciate the very important discussions we had. Our discussions started with the bilateral relationship between the United States and Costa Rica. It is an important relationship. It's an important relationship when it comes to trade, it's an important relationship when it comes to interchanges between our governments and our peoples.
Mr. President, you spent a lot of time talking about the importance of education, and I respect you for that, and I appreciate your emphasis on education. And we will investigate ways to determine whether or not the United States can help, if you so desire, on matters of education. And I congratulate you on being very successful in educating the younger children of your country. And I, again, admire your focus on extending the education through all grades in Costa Rica.
Secondly, we spent time on CAFTA. It's an important initiative for this administration. I appreciate your dedication to the issue of trade. The President understands full well that trade is the best way to help reduce poverty around the world, and so he made it clear to me his deep desire for the United States to take the lead on the Doha round of the trade discussions, which I assured him we would.
I appreciated very much your advice, Mr. President, on the neighborhood in which you live. I thank you for your clear vision when it comes to forms of government. And I appreciate you sharing with me your insights as to the different countries and different leaders and how best that we can work together to achieve peace and stability.
It's an honor to have you here, Sir. You represent a fine country that a lot of Americans have had first-hand knowledge with. And I'm proud to welcome you.
PRESIDENT ARIAS: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your time. This room is familiar to me. I visited the Oval Office in the past, during the Reagan years and when President Bush was President. I was telling President Bush that in the past, every time I came to the White House it was not to talk about Costa Rica, but about Nicaragua, and I'm very happy that we had a chance to talk about Costa Rica this time.
As he just mentioned, my country is a small country -- we produce what we do not consume, and we consume what we do not produce. This is why trade is so important to us. Costa Rica is a very open economy, is the second-largest open economy in this hemisphere, after Chile. And this is why CAFTA is important to us and this is why we're so determined to approve CAFTA, ratify CAFTA in our congress as soon as possible. And we are in the process of initiating negotiations with the European Union about free trade agreement with the whole of Europe, the European Union.
Concerning education, this is my priority. Peace was my priority 20 years ago, now it's education. I was asking President Bush that his program, No Child Left Behind, could be applied in many Latin American countries. You are all aware that what explains our failures among other things is the fact that average schooling in Latin American countries is only six-and-a-half years and that explains the social inequality and the poverty of our people.
So at the beginning of the 21st century, we're going to spend more on education, which is my dream and my determination to spend as much as 8 percent of GDP on education. We are simply condemning our children to remain poor as their grandfathers -- and this is something that certainly the people of Latin America don't deserve.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, sir. END 12:45 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 6, 2006
President Bush Receives Report from the Iraq Study Group The Cabinet Room
THE PRESIDENT: I just received the Iraq Study Group report, prepared by a distinguished panel of our fellow citizens. I want to thank James Baker and Lee Hamilton and the panel members for spending a lot of time on this really difficult issue. And I thank you for coming into the White House today to give me a copy of this report.
I told the members that this report, called "The Way Forward," will be taken very seriously by this administration. This report gives a very tough assessment of the situation in Iraq. It is a report that brings some really very interesting proposals, and we will take every proposal seriously and we will act in a timely fashion.
The commission is headed up to Congress, and I urge the members of Congress to take this report seriously. While they won't agree with every proposal -- and we probably won't agree with every proposal -- it, nevertheless, is an opportunity to come together and to work together on this important issue.
The country, in my judgment, is tired of pure political bickering that happens in Washington, and they understand that on this important issue of war and peace, it is best for our country to work together. And I understand how difficult that is, but this report will give us all an opportunity to find common ground, for the good of the country -- not for the good of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party, but for the good of the country.
We can achieve long-lasting peace for this country, and it requires tough work. It also requires a strategy that will be effective. And we've got men and women of both political parties around this table who spent a lot of time thinking about the way forward in Iraq, and the way forward in the Middle East, and I can't thank them enough for your time. You could be doing a lot of other things, you could have had a lot more simple life than to allow your government to call you back into service. But you did allow us to call you back into service, and you made a vital contribution to the country. Our fellow citizens have got to know that it is possible for people of goodwill to come together to help make recommendations on how to deal with a very serious situation.
And we applaud your work. We take it very seriously, and we'll act on it in a timely fashion. Thank you very much.
END 8:01 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 4, 2006
President and Mrs. Bush Host Children's Holiday Reception at the White House East Room 10:40 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Thanks for coming. Laura and I want to welcome you all to the White House. We're really happy you're here. I think you're going to really enjoy this special occasion. My job is to introduce my wife, Laura Bush. (Laughter.) Before I do so, though, I want to say something about your moms and dads. Thank you very much for supporting your mom and dad as they're on a very important mission for our country. I want you to know that they love you dearly and the American people love and respect those who wear our uniform a lot.
I know it's tough to have your mom or dad overseas, and we wish you all the best. But it's really important work. And so we wanted to welcome you here to the White House to, first of all, thank you for your strength, and so that you would do me a favor and email your mom or dad who is overseas how much the Commander-in-Chief respects them, admires them and supports them.
So welcome to the White House, we're glad you're here. And now I'm going to introduce my wife, Laura Bush. (Applause.)
MRS. BUSH: Thank you very much. Thanks to each and every one of you for coming today. As President Bush said, I know that many of you have parents in the military, and your mom or your dad is deployed and I know that's hard for you, especially during this time of year.
President Bush and I are proud of each and every one of you. I know that you all support your moms and dads and you're always there for them when they need your help, and I want to thank you all, each one of you, for doing that.
Every year, children come to the White House for a special children's party at Christmas. And this year, I'm so excited that each one of you are the ones that are here with us. Today, we have a very fun performance for you. And can you guess what it is by looking at that? Willy Wonka. It's "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory." This is a play that will be at the Kennedy Center, will be opening at the Kennedy Center.
Some of you may have read the book by Roald Dahl. Have you ever read it, "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"? After you see these parts of the play, you can go home and check that book out of your library and read it.
This is a new production that will premiere at the Kennedy Center Family Theater, which performs plays and concerts for children. Michael Kaiser, the president of the Kennedy Center; the director and the composer of Willy Wonka, Graham Whitehead; and Leslie Bricusse, are all with us today. So let's give them a big round of applause. They're right here. (Applause.)
And now I want to introduce to you Harrison Chad, who is one of the young actors at the Kennedy Center. He's going to come up and tell you about what you're going to see. And then we'll have our special performers perform some of the scenes from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."
Are you ready? Okay.
* * * * *
MRS. BUSH: Thank you all very, very much; that was so much fun. You were terrific. Should we give another big hand? (Applause.) Remember that Willy Wonka is going to open at the Kennedy Center on December 23rd -- is that right -- and it will be there for two weeks, so if you want to go and see the whole play, go to the Kennedy Center and see Willy Wonka there.
Thank you all for coming. President Bush and I wish you a very, very happy Christmas. I think we have somebody right here waiting to say something to you -- who is it? Santa, that's right. END 11:10 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 4, 2006
President Bush Meets with His Eminence Abdul-Aziz Al-Hakim, Leader of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq The Oval Office 2:26 P.M. EST
PRESIDENT BUSH: Your Eminence, welcome back to the Oval Office. This is the second opportunity I've had to meet with one of the distinguished leaders of a free Iraq. This is a man whose family suffered unbelievable violence at the hands of the dictator, Saddam Hussein. He lost nearly 60 family members, and yet rather than being bitter, he's involved with helping the new government succeed.
We talked about a lot of important issues. I appreciate so very much His Eminence's commitment to a unity government. I assured him the United States supports his work and the work of the Prime Minister to unify the country. Part of unifying Iraq is for the elected leaders and society leaders to reject the extremists that are trying to stop the advance of this young democracy. I appreciated very much His Eminence's strong position against the murder of innocent life.
We talked about the need to give the government of Iraq more capability, as quickly as possible, so that the elected government of Iraq can do that which the Iraqi people want, which is to secure their country from the extremists and murderers. I told His Eminence that I was proud of the courage of the Iraqi people. I told him that we're not satisfied with the pace of progress in Iraq, and that we want to continue to work with the sovereign government of Iraq to accomplish our mutual objectives, which is a free country that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself; a free country which will serve as an ally in the war against the extremists and radicals and terrorists.
So, Your Eminence, welcome back. Thank you for the very constructive conversation we had.
SCIRI LEADER HAKIM: In the name of God, the merciful, the passionate, and blessing upon Prophet Mohammed and his purified family and his loyal companions. My meeting with President Bush today emerges from our shared commitment to continue dialogue and consultation among us and also on the basis of our conviction that the Iraqi issue is a mutual interest. It's an issue that requires coordination between the two sides in a way that concerns both of us politically and from a security point of view and economic point of view, as well.
Therefore, our conversation today focused on ways to advance the work of the Iraqi government, the elected government, as well as to advance the whole situation in Iraq and move it forward. Also, we have discussed ways in order to provide all the necessities that the Iraqi armed forces will need, in terms of armament, in terms of trainings, in order to be in a position to assume the security file.
The Iraqi situation has been subjected to a great deal of defamation, and the true picture is not being presented in order to show a dark side of what's happening in Iraq. We see the attempts to defame and distort the situation in Iraq not taking into consideration the democratic steps that that country has taken, writing the constitution and establishing a state that depends heavily on the constitution, that it is unified and that it is strong. There are attempts to show the sectarian strife in an attempt to weaken the position in Iraq.
The U.S. interests, the Iraqi interests, the regional interests, they are all linked. Therefore, it is very important when we deal with this issue, we look at the interests of the Iraqi people. If we don't, this whole issue could backfire and could harm the interests of the region, the United States, and Iraq, as well.
Therefore, we believe that the Iraqi issue should be solved by the Iraqis with the help of friends everywhere. But we reject any attempts to have a regional or international role in solving the Iraqi issue. We cannot bypass the political process. Iraq should be in a position to solve Iraqi problems. We welcome any effort that could enhance the democratic reality in Iraq and protect the constitutional role of that state.
We have gone a long way to establish a democratic and pluralistic society in Iraq. We have given a great deal of sacrifice to achieving the objective. We cherish all the sacrifices that took place for the liberation and the freedom of Iraq, sacrifices by the Iraqi people, as well as friendly nations, and on top of that list, sacrifices by the Americans. We have now an elected government in Iraq, a government that is so determined to combat both violence and terror, a government that it is -- strongly believes in the unity of that government and of that country and the society, a government that deals and will deal with all the sources of terrorism regardless where they come from.
We will work very hard and seek all forms of cooperation at the international level and the regional level in order to defeat terrorism that it is trying to use Iraq as a base in order to sabotage the future of that nation.
Thank you very much, Mr. President, for allowing me this opportunity to meet with you. I would like to take this opportunity also to thank the American people and their sympathy toward Iraq, those who helped Iraq to get rid of a brutal dictatorship and to enjoy freedom and liberties.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all.
END 2:37 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 4, 2006
President Bush Meets with United Nations Ambassador John Bolton
The Oval Office 3:49 P.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: I received the resignation of Ambassador John Bolton. I accepted. I'm not happy about it. I think he deserved to be confirmed. And the reason why I think he deserved to be confirmed is because I know he did a fabulous job for the country.
And I want to thank you and Gretchen for serving in a very important position, and doing so in a way that a lot of Americans really appreciate, John. We're going to miss you in this administration. You've been a stalwart defender of freedom and peace. You've been strong in your advocacy for human rights and human dignity. You've done everything that can be expected for an Ambassador.
And I accept your letter, and I wish you and Gretchen all the very best.
AMBASSADOR BOLTON: Many thanks.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
END 3:50 P.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 2, 2006
President's Radio Address
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. I returned home this week from a visit to the Middle East. On my trip, I met with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq to discuss how we can improve the situation on the ground in his country and help the Iraqis build a lasting democracy.
My meeting with Prime Minister Maliki was our third since he took office six months ago. With each meeting, I'm coming to know him better, and I'm becoming more impressed by his desire to make the difficult choices that will put his country on a better path. During our meeting, I told the Prime Minister that America is ready to make changes to better support the unity government of Iraq, and that several key principles will guide our efforts.
First, the success of Prime Minister Maliki's government is critical to success in Iraq. His unity government was chosen through free elections in which nearly 12 million Iraqis cast their ballots in support of democracy. Our goal in Iraq is to strengthen his democratic government and help Iraq's leaders build a free nation that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself -- and is an ally in the war on terror.
Second, the success of the Iraqi government depends on the success of the Iraqi security forces. The training of Iraqi security forces has been steady, yet we both agreed that we need to do more, and we need to do it faster. The Prime Minister wants to show the people who elected him that he's willing to make the hard decisions necessary to provide security.
To do that, he needs larger and more capable Iraqi forces under his control, and he needs them quickly. By helping Iraq's elected leaders get the Iraqi forces they need, we will help Iraq's democratic government become more effective in fighting the terrorists and other violent extremists, and in providing security and stability, particularly in Baghdad.
Third, success in Iraq requires strong institutions that will stand the test of time and hardship. Our goal in Iraq is to help Prime Minister Maliki build a country that is united, where the rule of law prevails and the rights of minorities are respected. The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his country into parts is not what the Iraqi people want and that any partition of Iraq would lead to an increase in sectarian violence.
Security in Iraq requires sustained action by the Iraqi security forces, yet in the long term, security in Iraq hinges on reconciliation among Iraq's different ethnic and religious communities. And the Prime Minister has committed his government to achieving that goal.
The Prime Minister and I also discussed the review of America's strategy in Iraq that is now nearing completion. As part of this review, I've asked our military leaders in the Pentagon and those on the ground in Iraq to provide their recommendations on the best way forward.
A bipartisan panel, led by former Secretary of State James Baker and former Congressman Lee Hamilton, is also conducting a review. And I look forward to receiving their report next week. I want to hear all advice before I make any decisions about adjustments to our strategy in Iraq.
I recognize that the recent violence in Iraq has been unsettling. Many people in our country are wondering about the way forward. The work ahead will not be easy, yet by helping Prime Minister Maliki strengthen Iraq's democratic institutions and promote national reconciliation, our military leaders and diplomats can help put Iraq on a solid path to liberty and democracy. The decisions we make in Iraq will be felt across the broader Middle East.
Failure in Iraq would embolden the extremists who hate America and want nothing more than to see our demise. It would strengthen the hand of those who are seeking to undermine young democracies across the region and give the extremists an open field to overthrow moderate governments, take control of countries, impose their rule on millions, and threaten the American people. Our Nation must not allow this to happen.
Success in Iraq will require leaders in Washington -- Republicans and Democrats alike -- to come together and find greater consensus on the best path forward. So I will work with leaders in both parties to achieve this goal. Together we can help Iraqis build a free and democratic nation in the heart of the Middle East, strengthen moderates and reformers across the region who are working for peace, and leave our children and grandchildren a more secure and hopeful world.
Thank you for listening.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary December 1, 2006
President Discusses World AIDS Day
10:41 A.M. EST
THE PRESIDENT: Laura and I welcome our guests -- this is World AIDS Day. It's a day for the world to recognize the fact that there are 39 million people living with HIV/AIDS, and a day to remember the fact that 25 million people have died of AIDS. It's a day, as well, for the United States to remember that we have a duty to do something about this epidemic, this pandemic.
And today Laura and I met with the Secretary of HHS, as well as Mark Dybul, our U.S. coordinator for our AIDS effort, and people who are involved with helping to save lives, people from our country and people from around the world who have come to share with us the stories of compassion and courage.
This country is committed -- we're committed in helping solve this problem by dedicating a lot of resources to the battle against HIV/AIDS. The American taxpayers have funded over $15 billion to help groups around this table save lives. Before the PEPFAR program -- that's the name of the program that we -- that's what we call the program that we dedicate money to, to help save lives -- before it became into being, there was about 50,000 people receiving lifesaving drugs. Today there are over 800,000 people receiving lifesaving drugs, and we thank those who are on the ground in the countries around the world who are using taxpayers' money to save lives. We believe that it's one thing to spend money, we also believe it's another thing to say that we expect there to be results. And the American people need to know we're getting good results with your money, and we'll continue to spend it wisely.
We also -- as we think about people affected with HIV/AIDS in countries around the world, we remember those who have got HIV/AIDS here at home. And it's very important for the American people to understand we're spending over $18 billion to help save lives here at home. And I call upon the Congress to reauthorize the Ryan White Act. The bill has passed the United States House of Representatives; the Senate has time to act before it goes on recess. It is an important piece of legislation that will enable us to continue our fight against HIV/AIDS domestically.
I can't thank you all enough for coming, and I thank you for being such decent, compassionate people. The pandemic of HIV/AIDS can be defeated, and the United States is willing to take the lead in that fight. But we can't do it alone, and so for our international partners, we appreciate what you do. For the faith-based community, we thank you for hearing the universal call to love a neighbor. And for the taxpayers, we appreciate your generosity in showing the world the good heart and compassion of the American people.
END 10:44 A.M. EST
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary November 30, 2006
President Bush Participates in Joint Press Availability with Prime Minister Maliki of Iraq Four Seasons Hotel Amman Amman, Jordan 9:43 A.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good morning. It's good to be in Amman. I first want to thank His Majesty King Abdullah for his gracious hospitality.
Prime Minister Maliki and I just had a very productive meeting. This is the third time we've met since he took office six months ago, and with each meeting I'm coming to know him better. He's a strong leader who wants a free and democratic Iraq to succeed. The United States is determined to help him achieve that goal.
I told the Prime Minister we're ready to make changes to better support the unity government of Iraq, and that certain key principles behind our strategy remain firm and they're fixed. First, we believe the success of Prime Minister Maliki's government is critical to the success in Iraq. His government was chosen by the Iraqi people through free elections in which nearly 12 million people defied terrorists to cast their ballots. I've told the Prime Minister that our goal in Iraq is to strengthen his government and to support his efforts to build a free Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself, and defend itself, and is an ally in the war against the terrorists.
Secondly, the success of the Iraqi government depends on the success of the Iraqi security forces. During our meetings, the Prime Minister and I heard an update from an important group that our government established last month: the Joint Committee on Accelerating the Transferring of Security Responsibility. We agreed on the importance of speeding up the training of Iraqi security forces. Our goal is to ensure that the Prime Minister has more capable forces under his control so his government can fight the terrorists and the death squads, and provide security and stability in his country.
Third, success in Iraq requires a united Iraq where democracy is preserved, the rule of law prevails, and minority rights are respected. The Prime Minister made clear that splitting his country into parts, as some have suggested, is not what the Iraqi people want, and that any partition of Iraq would only lead to an increase in sectarian violence. I agree. In the long-term, security in Iraq requires reconciliation among Iraq's different ethnic and religious communities, something the overwhelming majority of Iraqis want.
The Prime Minister and I also discussed the review of our strategy in Iraq that is now nearing completion. I assured the Prime Minister that our review is aimed at strengthening the capacity of the sovereign government of Iraq to meet their objectives, which we share. As part of the review, I've asked our military leaders in the Pentagon and those on the ground in Iraq to provide their recommendations on the best way forward.
Others outside the government are conducting their own review, and I look forward to hearing their recommendations. I want to hear all advice before I make my decisions about adjustments to our strategy and tactics in Iraq to help this government succeed.
My consultations with the Prime Minister and the unity government are a key part of the assessment process. And that's why I appreciate him coming over from Iraq so that we could have a face-to-face visit. The Prime Minister and I agree that the outcome in Iraq will affect the entire region. To stop the extremists from dominating the Middle East, we must stop the extremists from achieving their goal of dominating Iraq. If the extremists succeed in Iraq, they will be emboldened in their efforts to undermine other young democracies in the region, or to overthrow moderate governments, establish new safe havens, and impose their hateful ideology on millions. If the Iraqis succeed in establishing a free nation in the heart of the Middle East, the forces of freedom and moderation across the region will be emboldened, and the cause of peace will have new energy and new allies.
Mr. Prime Minister, I want to thank you again for your time. I appreciate your friendship, and I appreciate the courage you show during these difficult times as you lead your country.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: (As translated.) Thank you. In the name of God. In the beginning, I would like to thank King Abdullah for hosting this meeting. And I would also like to thank the President of the United States for his response and for the role that he has shown in dealing most positively with all the files that we've discussed.
And I would like, during this occasion as we leave this transitional stage, we have won initially when we have accomplished democracy in Iraq and when we give Iraq the permanent constitution and the parliament and the unity government. And all these are victories that are victories with the principles that we believe in. And therefore, these victories were our decision not to let those who would like to tamper with the fates of the region, or those who oppose democracy to win, so that the despotic regime comes back. And Iraq will never be a safe haven for terrorists who are trying to spread darkness instead of light, the light that started in Mesopotamia.
We have many visions and many ideas about the transformation process and we are determined to succeed in the face of all the challenges that we believe are probably -- should exist in a situation such as the situation that Iraq is going through. These are not outrageous challenges. There are criminals, there are people who are breaking the law. But the steel strength of the national unity government would help us face all those who are breaking the law, or those who are trying to take down democracy in Iraq, or those who are conspiring and trying to have coups or basically bring down the national unity government.
We are active with anybody who are working within the framework of the constitution. Because we established the constitution, we'll abide by it, we'll protect it, and we'll be protected by it. We assure everybody that we are in alliance with the international community in facing all the challenges that the world is facing. And foremost of those challenges is terrorism. Terrorism is not a danger only to Iraq, it's a culture, it's an ideology. The whole civilized world must face it as one line, one unit. Some people might not understand the successes that we have as we daily face terrorism in Iraq and as the security forces in Iraq chase them down, arrest them. This is solid strength based on our vision, and our vision is that terrorism, terroristic ideology, extremism, sectarianism are all issues that will rob humans from happiness.
We are ready to cooperate with everybody who believe that they need to communicate with the national unity government, especially our neighbors. Our doors are open, and our desire is strong that between us and our neighbors, we will have strong relationships based on mutual respect and staying away from everybody's internal business. Iraq is for Iraqis, and its borders will be sound and will not allow anybody to violate these borders or interfere in our internal affairs.
So everybody who is trying to make Iraq their own influences appear on the account of the Iraqi people needs to recalculate for it will not happen. And all the political forces in Iraq have agreed on that. They want to form a very strong political base to support the national unity government. We have visions in Iraq, and we are at the steps of transformation into a new stage where we'll have security plans that we believe will be effective and will deliver what is required.
In Iraq, we don't only deal with terrorism. We're dealing with building a whole state in all its aspects -- political, economic, security, militarily -- and all these are signs of maturity that are now very obvious in Iraq. And we hope that they will be complemented and supported by the international community and by our neighbors, who I hope that will be supportive not only for the benefit of Iraq, for the benefit of those countries, as well.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We will take a couple of questions. Abramowitz.
Q Mr. President, the memo from your National Security Advisor has raised the possibility the United States should press Prime Minister Maliki to break with Moqtada al-Sadr. Is this, in fact, your strategy? And did you raise this issue with the Prime Minister this morning?
And to the Prime Minister, I'd like to ask, the President's Advisor has said that a central problem in Iraq is your close alliance with Mr. al-Sadr, and did you make any representations to the President that you would break with al-Sadr, and could your government survive such a break?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I will let the Prime Minister talk about his relations with al-Sadr. I will tell you that he and I spent a lot of time talking about the security situation inside of Iraq. I expressed my concern about the security situation; he expressed his concern about the security situation. After all, one of his most important jobs is to provide security for the Iraqi people. Part of the Prime Minister's frustration is, is that he doesn't have the tools necessary to take care of those who break the law.
I was reassured by his commitment to a pluralistic society that is politically united, and a society in which people are held to account if they break the law -- whether those people be criminals, al Qaeda, militia, whoever.
He discussed with me his political situation, and I think it is best that he talk to you about the Sadr group or any other group he wants to talk about inside of Iraq.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: Matter of fact, my coalition is not with only one entity. The national unity government is a government formed of all the entities that participated in it. Therefore, that coalition basically represents a national responsibility.
And Mr. Sadr and the Sadrists are just one component that participate in the parliament or in the government. And I think participating in the government is a responsibility and it's a mutual commitment, and those who participate in this government need to bear responsibilities. And foremost upon those responsibilities is the protection of this government, the protection of the constitution, the protection of the law, not breaking the law.
Therefore, I do not talk about one side at the expense of the other. I'm talking about a state; I'm talking about law; I'm talking about commitments. And this should apply to all the partners in the government who have chosen to participate in the political process.
As to the issues that would pertain to violating the law or breaking the law, we would deal with them the same way, because the most important principle is the sovereignty and the power and the establishment of the state that must be borne by the state, but only our partners should participate in that.
Q Hezbollah has denied that his forces trained Moqtada al-Sadr forces, but do you have any information if Hezbollah has actually trained the forces of Moqtada al-Sadr?
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: I think they expressed itself and expressed its responsibilities. And one -- another time I would like to say that Iraq and all the Iraqis in the political process; nobody has the right, outside of Iraq, to interfere in the political or the security situation inside of Iraq. We invite everybody to cooperate with us, but as far as this issue related to training, Hezbollah denied and they're responsible for their denial.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Our objective is to help the Maliki government succeed. And today we discussed how to further the success of this government. This is a government that is dedicated to pluralism and rule of law. It's a government elected by the Iraqi people under a constitution approved by the Iraqi people, which, in itself, is an unusual event in the Middle East, by the way.
We talked today about accelerating authority to the Prime Minister so he can do what the Iraqi people expect him to do, and that is bring security to parts of his country that require firm action. It's going to -- the presence of the United States will be in Iraq so long as the government asks us to be in Iraq. This is a sovereign government. I believe that there is more training to be done. I think the Prime Minister agrees with me. I know that we're providing a useful addition to Iraq by chasing down al Qaeda and by securing -- by helping this country protect itself from al Qaeda.
Al Qaeda wants a safe haven in Iraq. Al Qaeda made it clear earlier that suicide bombers would increase sectarian violence. That was part of their strategy. One of our goals is to deny safe haven for al Qaeda in Iraq, and the Maliki government expects us and wants us to provide that vital part of security.
So we'll be in Iraq until the job is complete, at the request of a sovereign government elected by the people. I know there's a lot of speculation that these reports in Washington mean there's going to be some kind of graceful exit out of Iraq. We're going to stay in Iraq to get the job done, so long as the government wants us there.
We want the people of Iraq to live in a free society. It's in our interests. In my judgment, if we were to leave before the job is done, it would only embolden terrorists, it would only embolden the extremists. It would dash the hopes of millions of people who want to live in a free society, just like the 12 million people who voted in the Iraqi election. They want to live in a free society. And we support this government, because the government understands it was elected by the people. And Prime Minister Maliki is working hard to overcome the many obstacles in the way to a peaceful Iraq, and we want to help him.
Let's see -- Martha.
Q Mr. President, is there a time limit on meeting any of these goals for Prime Minister Maliki? And you keep mentioning that the U.S. goal is to fight al Qaeda. Does that mean you believe it's up to the Iraqis to stop the sectarian violence and quell the sectarian violence, and this is something you don't want U.S. troops involved in?
And Prime Minister Maliki, can you tell us why you canceled the meeting last night?
PRESIDENT BUSH: What was the first part of your three-part question? (Laughter.)
Q Time limit on meeting goals. Is there a time limit on meeting goals?
PRESIDENT BUSH: A time limit. As soon as possible. But I'm realistic, because I understand how tough it is inside of Iraq. The Prime Minister is dealing with sectarian violence. The Prime Minister is having to deal with al Qaeda. The Prime Minister is having to deal with criminal elements. And we want to help him.
And, yes, I talked about making sure that al Qaeda doesn't take -- doesn't provide -- gets safe haven in Iraq. Sure, that's an important part of our strategy. But I also have said that the goal is a country that can defend, sustain, and govern itself. And therefore, to the extent that our troops are needed to help do that, we're willing to do that. That's part of the operation in Baghdad. Part of the plan in Baghdad was to prevent -- prevent killers from taking innocent life.
Q Including sectarian violence?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well that's -- killers taking innocent life is, in some cases, sectarian. I happen to view it as criminal, as well as sectarian. I think any time you murder somebody, you're a criminal. And I believe a just society and a society of -- that holds people to account and believes in rule of law protects innocent people from murderers, no matter what their political party is.
And I discussed this with the Prime Minister, and I don't want to put words in his mouth, but I received a satisfactory answer about the need to protect innocent life. And that's exactly what our troops have been doing, along with the Iraqis. My plan, and his plan, is to accelerate the Iraqis' responsibility. See, here's a man who has been elected by the people; the people expect him to respond, and he doesn't have the capacity to respond. And so we want to accelerate that capacity. We want him to be in the lead in taking the fight against the enemies of his own country.
And that's exactly what we discussed today. We had a Joint Committee on Accelerating the Transfer of Security Responsibility Report. And it was a report that General Casey, who is with us today, and our Ambassador Zal Khalilzad, who is with us today, as well as the Prime Minister's team, delivered to both of us about how to accelerate responsibility to the Iraqi government so this person elected by the people can take the fight to those who want to destroy a young democracy.
You had a question --
Q Sir, there are no time limits here?
PRESIDENT BUSH: As quick as possible, Martha. As quick -- I've been asked about timetables ever since we got into this. All timetables mean is that it -- it is a timetable for withdrawal. You keep asking me those questions. All that does is --
Q Mr. President --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on a second. All that does is set people up for unrealistic expectations. As soon as possible. And today, we made a step toward as soon as possible by transferring a -- accelerating the transfer of authorities, military authorities to the Prime Minister.
Q Did you put any pressure --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Hold on a second. Hold on, please, sir. Please. Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: I emphasize what the President has just said, that we have agreed together, and we are very clear together, about the importance of accelerating the transfer of the security responsibility. And be assured that the Iraqi forces and the security forces have reached a good level of competency and efficiency to protect Iraq as a country and to protect its people.
As far as the other issue related to the meeting, I have met with King Abdullah, then have met again with his Prime Minister, and a group of his ministers, and we've discussed bilateral relations that are of concern to both nations -- Iraq and Jordan -- and that relationship is based on mutual friendship and being a good host and a good neighbor. And there was not part of our agenda a trilateral meeting, so there is no problem.
Q (As translated.) Did you discuss with the President the Iranian influence that is expanding in Iraq, and the almost complete Iranian control over Baghdad, as the press sources seems to indicate? -- did you build this big wall between Iraq and Iranian? So and are you going to deal with --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Did I -- I didn't understand your first question.
Q To deal with Iranian directly?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Am I going to meet with the Iranians directly, is that the question?
Q The question of Iraq, yes.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: As far as the first question that was mentioned by the reporter, I think these are wrong and exaggerated information, and they are being used as one of the propaganda mechanisms to give the impression of sectarian strife so that will reach a point of no return. Because we want to emphasize that we will not allow anybody to exert their control over any part of Iraq. If there is any talk about intervention in Iraq and all the discussion, all the talks about people or other nations exerting control over Iraq, this is not true. This is a political process in Iraq. We want good relationships with our neighbors, we want complementary relationships with our neighbors to protect the region from tensions. But the main principle underlying all this is the respect of the Iraqi borders and the internal affairs of Iraq.
PRESIDENT BUSH: I believe the Iranians fear democracy, and that's why they destabilize Lebanon; that's why they are worried about the establishment of a Palestinian state.
I appreciate the Prime Minister's views that the Iraqis are plenty capable of running their own business and they don't need foreign interference from neighbors that will be destabilizing the country. I am very worried, as should the world, about Iran's desires to have a nuclear weapon and, therefore, will continue to work with the world to send a clear message to the Iranians, the Iranian government, that we will -- they will become more isolated. And my message to the Iranian people is we have no beef with the Iranian people. We respect their heritage, we respect their history, we respect their traditions. I just have a problem with a government that is isolating its people, denying its people benefits that could be had from engagement with the world.
I told the Prime Minister, we'll continue to work with the world community to insist that Iran abandon its nuclear weapons programs. And I have said that if they were to verifiably suspect their enrichment program, we would part of the EU3 plus Russia plus China discussions. They know how to get us to the table. The choice is theirs to make. It's the choice of the Iranian government as to whether or not they make the right decisions, for not only the sake of the diplomacy, but for the sake -- more importantly, for the sake of their people.
We might as well keep going, Prime Minister.
Richard. Please, sir. Please. Thank you.
Q When you were in Baghdad six months ago, you expressed the same kind of confidence in the Prime Minister and his government that you've expressed today. Yet there have been repeated rounds of disappointments when it comes to the Prime Minister's Baghdad Security Plan, with his plans for reconciliation. I'm wondering, if anything, if you've had any doubts over the last six months about the strength of his government, about the Prime Minister's own abilities. And what gives you such confidence today to think that he can achieve what he hasn't done over the last six months?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, as you mentioned, he's been in power for six months, and I've been able to watch a leader emerge. The first thing that gives me confidence is that he wants responsibility. A sign of leadership is for somebody to say, I want to be able to have the tools necessary to protect my people. One of his frustrations with me is that he believes we've been slow about giving him the tools necessary to protect the Iraqi people. And today we had a meeting that will accelerate the capacity for the Prime Minister to do the hard work necessary to help stop this violence. No question it's a violent society right now. He knows that better than anybody. He was explaining to me that occasionally the house in which he lives gets shelled by terrorists who are trying to frighten him.
And so the second point I make to you is that I appreciate his courage. You can't lead unless you have courage. And he's got courage, and he's shown courage over the last six months. Thirdly, he has expressed a deep desire to unify his country. You hear all kinds of rumors about the politics inside of Iraq. I'm talking to the man face-to-face, and he says that he understands that a unified government, a pluralistic society, is important for success. And he's making hard decisions to achieve that.
No question it's been tough. It would have been a lot easier had people not tried to destabilize the young democracy. His job would have been more simple had there not been terrorists trying to create sectarian violence.
Now, I want everybody to remember that it was Mr. Zarqawi of al Qaeda who said, let us bomb Shia in order to create the
conditions necessary for sectarian violence. The Samara bombing started off this new phase of violence. The Prime Minister comes in about halfway through that phase in order to -- he'd been selected and now he's dealing with a serious situation on the ground. And what I appreciate is his attitude. As opposed to saying, America, you go solve the problem, we have a Prime Minister who's saying, stop holding me back, I want to solve the problem.
And the meeting today was to accelerate his capacity to do so. It's not easy for a military to evolve from ground zero, and I appreciate our forces, and I appreciate General Casey, who have worked very hard to train the Iraqis so they become a capable fighting force, as well as a unifying element for Iraq. But it's one thing to put people in uniform, and another thing to have clear command structure, or the capacity to move troops from point A to point B, or the capacity to make sure that the troop carrier from point A to point B has got the necessary air in its tires or oil in its engine. In other words, this is a sophisticated operation to get a unifying army stood up.
And one of the reasons I appreciate the Prime Minister is that he, on the one hand, sees that it's a sophisticated operation to get a military up from zero, but on the other hand, is frustrated by the pace. And the reason why he's frustrated is because he wants to show the people who elected him that he is willing to take the hard tasks on necessary to provide security for the Iraqi people, such as hunting down those who are killing the innocent. And the reason I came today to be able to sit down with him is to hear the joint plans developed between the Iraqi government, the sovereign government of Iraq, and our government, to make sure that we accelerate the transfer of capacity to the Prime Minister. And I know he's looking forward to more capacity being transferred so he can do his job.
Anyway, he's the right guy for Iraq, and we're going to help him, and it's in our interest to help him, for the sake of peace.
Q Mr. President -- what is your -- Prime Minister Olmert and President Abu Mazen to keep this cease-fire agreement? And what should be done --
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, first of all, there's no question that if we were able to settle the Palestinian-Israeli issue, it would help bring more peace to the Middle East. And therefore, our government is focused on helping develop the two-state solution. As a matter of fact, I was the -- our government strongly believes in the two-state solution, and I believe it's in the Palestinian people's interest that they have their own state. And I believe it's in Israel's interest that there be a democracy on her border. And therefore, we're working to that end.
Look, there are extremists who want to stop the development of a Palestinian state, just like there are extremists who want to destabilize Lebanon -- and we're strongly in support of the Siniora government -- just like there are extremists who want to destabilize this young democracy. Isn't it interesting that the radicals and extremists fear democracy so much that they're willing to kill innocent people? And the task at hand is to support moderate, reasonable people in their quest for free societies. And that means that Abu Mazen, who I believe wants there to be a Palestinian state living side-by-side with peace in Israel, deserves the support of the world. And he deserves support in peeling his government away from those who do not recognize Israel's right to exist.
And therefore, Condoleezza Rice will be going to talk to Abu Mazen tomorrow, as well as Prime Minister Olmert, working with both parties together to see how we can advance the vision that the Prime Minister himself talked about earlier this week.
Q And your advice to both of them?
PRESIDENT BUSH: My advice is, support reasonable people and reject extremists. Understand that most people want to live in peace and harmony and security. It's very important for the American people to understand that most Muslim mothers want their children to grow up in peace, and they're interested in peace. And it's in our interest to help liberty prevail in the Middle East, starting with Iraq.
And that's why this business about graceful exit just simply has no realism to it at all. We're going to help this government. And I'm able to say that it is -- that we have a government that wants our help and is becoming more capable about taking the lead in the fight to protect their own country. The only way that Iraq is going to be able to succeed is when the Iraqis, led by a capable person, says, we're tired of it, we don't want violence, we want the peace that our 12 million people voted for. And it's in the world's interest that Iraq succeed.
Mr. Prime Minister, you want to answer some more questions? (Laughter.) Go ahead. Hold on for a minute. Wait, wait, wait.
PRIME MINISTER MALIKI: We said six question, now this is the seventh -- this is the eighth -- eight questions.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, this guy?
Q (As translated.) Mr. President, in light of the war that the United States is fighting against terror in Iraq, what has been accomplished? What do you expect to be accomplished after a three-year confrontation?
Another question -- other people are accusing the United States of bringing terrorism to Iraq, and the proof is that what's going on in Iraq and what's going on in Afghanistan. And the biggest loser is the Iraqi citizen.
PRESIDENT BUSH: It's an interesting analysis: the biggest loser for a free society is the Iraqi citizen when this society was just liberated from the grips of a brutal tyrant that killed thousands and thousands of the Iraqi citizens.
What has been accomplished is the liberation of a country from a tyrant who is now sitting in jail getting a trial that he was unwilling to give thousands of people he murdered himself, or had murdered.
Secondly, this country has a constitution, which is one of the most modern constitutions ever written in the Middle East. This is a government that had been elected by the people. No question it's tough. But the reason why terrorists are trying to stop the advance of freedom in Iraq is the very reason why we need to help them, because they can't stand democracies and they want to impose a hateful vision on as much of the world as possible. They want safe haven from which to launch attacks again. A safe haven in Iraq, a country that has got a lot of resources, would be very dangerous for America.
It didn't take but 19 people who were trained in Afghanistan to get on airplanes and come and kill over 3,000 citizens in my country. Threats that gather overseas must be taken seriously if we want to protect ourselves. And the best way to protect ourselves is to hunt down the terrorists and to help young democracies survive. Freedom and liberty is the great alternative to the hateful vision of those who are willing to murder innocent lives to achieve their objective.
And so, you bet it's worth it in Iraq, and necessary. And I was very proud and pleased to see 12 million Iraqis go to the polls, to be able to express their desires, their wishes, as they helped put a government in place that this man now leads.
For Immediate Release Office of the Press Secretary November 28, 2006
President Bush Discusses NATO Alliance During Visit to Latvia Grand Hall Latvia University Riga, Latvia 4:30 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all. Labdien! (Applause.) Madam President, thank you for your kind words. Thank you for your leadership, and thank you for your friendship. Mr. Speaker; Mr. Prime Minister; Senator Sessions from the great state of Alabama, who is with us; Mark Leland, my friend from a long period of time. I want to thank the Rector of this important university. Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your warm welcome. I'm delighted to be back in Riga.
I appreciate the Latvian Transatlantic Organization, the Commission of Strategic Analysis, and the German Marshall Fund of the United States for organizing this important conference. This is my third visit to the Baltics as the President of the United States, and it's my second visit to this beautiful city. I just can't stay away. I'm thrilled and honored to be back here, and I bring the greetings and good wishes of the American people.
Not far from where we meet today stands Riga's Freedom Monument. It was erected in 1935, during this country's brief period of independence between the two world wars. During the dark years of Soviet occupation, the simple act of laying flowers at the foot of this monument was considered a crime by Communist authorities. In 1989, the monument was the scene of one of the most remarkable protests in the history of freedom. Hundreds of thousands of people stood together and formed a human chain that stretched nearly 400 miles across the Baltics -- from Tallinn in the north, through downtown Riga, and into the heart of Vilnius. By joining hands, the people of this region showed their unity and their determination to live in freedom -- and it made clear to the Soviet authorities that the Baltic peoples would accept nothing less than complete independence.
It took more years of struggle, but today the Baltic nations have taken their rightful place in the community of free nations, and Latvia is a host for an important NATO Summit -- the first time our Alliance has met in one of the "captive nations" annexed by the Soviet Union. This is a proud day for the people of Latvia, and all the Baltic states -- and on behalf of the American people, I thank you for your hospitality, your friendship, and the courage you are showing in the NATO Alliance.
As members of NATO, you are a vital part of the most effective multilateral organization in the world, and the most important military alliance in history. As NATO allies, you will never again stand alone in defense of your freedom and you'll never be occupied by a foreign power.
Each of the Baltic countries is meeting its obligations to strengthen NATO by bringing new energy and vitality and clarity of purpose to the Alliance. Your love of liberty has made NATO stronger -- and with your help, our Alliance is rising to meet the great challenges and responsibilities of this young century, by making NATO the world's most effective united force for freedom.
One of the great responsibilities of this Alliance is to strengthen and expand the circle of freedom here in Europe. In the nearly six decades since NATO's founding, Europe has experienced an unprecedented expansion of liberty. A continent that was once divided by an ugly wall is now united in freedom. Yet the work of uniting Europe is not fully complete. Many nations that threw off the shackles of tyranny are still working to build the free institutions that are the foundation of successful democracies. NATO is encouraging these nations on the path to reform -- and as governments make hard decisions for their people, they will be welcomed into the institutions of the Euro-Atlantic community.
After I took office in 2001, I declared that the United States believes in NATO membership for all of Europe's democracies that seek it -- and are ready to share the responsibilities that NATO brings. The following year in Prague, we invited seven nations to join our Alliance -- Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Romania, Bulgaria, Slovakia, and Slovenia. Here in Riga, allies will make clear that the door to NATO membership remains open, and at our next summit in 2008, we hope to issue additional invitations to nations that are ready for membership.
Today, Croatia, Macedonia, and Albania are all participating in NATO's Membership Action Plan, and the United States supports their aspirations to join the Atlantic Alliance. Georgia is seeking NATO membership, as well, and as it continues on the path of reform, we will continue to support Georgia's desire to become a NATO ally. We are also supporting the leaders of Ukraine, as they work to curb corruption, promote the rule of law, and serve the cause of peace. Our position is clear: As democracy takes hold in Ukraine and its leaders pursue vital reforms, NATO membership will be open to the Ukrainian people if they choose it.
We're also working with Russia through the NATO-Russia Council. We recognize that Russia is a vital and important country, and that it's in our interests to increase our cooperation with Russia in areas such as countering terrorism, and preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction. By building ties between Russia and this Alliance, we will strengthen our common security and we will advance the cause of peace.
As we help the new democracies of Europe join the institutions of Europe, we must not forget those who still languish in tyranny. Just across the border from here lies the nation of Belarus -- a place where peaceful protesters are beaten and opposition leaders are "disappeared" by the agents of a cruel regime. The existence of such oppression in our midst offends the conscience of Europe, and it offends the conscience of America. We have a message for the people of Belarus: The vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace includes you -- and we stand with you in your struggle for freedom.
Another great responsibility of this Alliance is to transform for new challenges. When NATO was formed in 1949, its principal mission was to protect Europe from a Soviet tank invasion. Today, the Soviet threat is gone. And under the able leadership of the Secretary General, NATO is transforming from a static alliance focused on the defense of Europe, into an expedentiary* [sic] alliance ready to deploy outside of Europe in the defense of freedom. This is a vital mission.
Over the past six years, we've taken decisive action to transform our capabilities in the Alliance. We created a new NATO transformation command, to ensure that our Alliance is always preparing for the threats of the future. We created a new NATO battalion to counter the threats of enemies armed with weapons of mass destruction. We created a new NATO Response Force, to ensure that our Alliance can deploy rapidly and effectively.
Here in Riga, we're taking new steps to build on this progress. At this summit, we will launch a NATO Special Operations Forces Initiative that will strengthen the ability of special operations personnel from NATO nations to work together on the battlefield. We will announce a new Strategic Airlift Initiative that will ensure that participating NATO members have a dedicated fleet of C-17 aircraft at their disposal. We will launch the Riga Global Partnership Initiative that will allow NATO to conduct joint training and joint exercises and common defense planning with nations like Japan and Australia -- countries that share NATO's values and want to work with our Alliance in the cause of peace. We will launch a new NATO Training Cooperation Initiative that will allow military forces in the Middle East to receive NATO training in counter-terrorism and counter-proliferation and peace support operations. And as we take these steps, every NATO nation must take the defensive -- must make the defensive investments necessary to give NATO the capabilities it needs, so that our Alliance is ready for any challenge that may emerge in the decades to come.
The most basic responsibility of this Alliance is to defend our people against the threats of a new century. We're in a long struggle against terrorists and extremists who follow a hateful ideology and seek to establish a totalitarian empire from Spain to Indonesia. We fight against the extremists who desire safe havens and are willing to kill innocents anywhere to achieve their objectives.
NATO has recognized this threat. And three years ago, NATO took an unprecedented step when it sent allied forces to defend a young democracy more than 3,000 miles from Europe. Since taking command of the International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, NATO has expanded it from a small force that was operating only in Kabul into a robust force that conducts security operations in all of Afghanistan. NATO is helping to train the Afghan National Army. The Alliance is operating 25 Provincial Reconstruction Teams that are helping the central government extend its reach into distant regions of that country. At this moment, all 26 NATO allies, and 11 partner nations are contributing forces to NATO's mission in Afghanistan. They're serving with courage and they are doing the vital work necessary to help this young democracy secure the peace.
We saw the effectiveness of NATO forces this summer, when NATO took charge of security operations in Southern Afghanistan from the United States. The Taliban radicals who are trying to pull down Afghanistan's democracy and regain power saw the transfer from American to NATO control as a window of opportunity to test the will of the Alliance. So the Taliban massed a large fighting force near Kandahar to face the NATO troops head on. It was a mistake. Together with the Afghan National Army, NATO forces from Canada and Denmark and the Netherlands and Britain and Australia and the United States engaged the enemy -- with operational support from Romanian, Portuguese, and Estonian forces. According to NATO commanders, allied forces fought bravely and inflicted great damage on the Taliban.
General David Richards, the British commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan, puts it this way: "There were doubts about NATO and our ability to conduct demanding security operations. There are no questions about our ability now. We've killed many hundreds of Taliban, and it has removed any doubt in anybody's mind that NATO can do what we were sent here to do."
Taliban and al Qaeda fighters, and drug traffickers and criminal elements and local warlords remain active and committed to destroying democracy in Afghanistan. Defeating them will require the full commitment of our Alliance. For NATO to succeed, its commanders on the ground must have the resources and flexibility they need to do their jobs. The Alliance was founded on a clear principle: an attack on one is an attack on all. That principle holds true whether the attack is on our home soil, or on our forces deployed on a NATO mission abroad. Today Afghanistan is NATO's most important military operation, and by standing together in Afghanistan, we'll protect our people, defend our freedom, and send a clear message to the extremists the forces of freedom and decency will prevail.
Every ally can take pride in the transformation that NATO is making possible for the people of Afghanistan. Because of our efforts, Afghanistan has gone from a totalitarian nightmare to a free nation, with an elected president, a democratic constitution, and brave soldiers and police fighting for their country.
Over 4.6 million Afghan refugees have come home. It's one of the largest return movements in history. The Afghan economy has tripled in size over the past five years. About two million girls are now in school, compared to zero under the Taliban -- and 85 women were elected or appointed to the Afghan National Assembly. A nation that was once a terrorist sanctuary has been transformed into an ally in the war on terror, led by a brave President, Hamid Karzai. Our work in Afghanistan is bringing freedom to the Afghan people, it is bringing security to the Euro-Atlantic community, and it's bringing pride to the NATO Alliance.
NATO allies are also making vital contributions to the struggle for freedom in Iraq. At this moment, a dozen NATO allies, including every one of the Baltic nations, are contributing forces to the coalition in Iraq. And 18 NATO countries plus Ukraine are contributing forces to the NATO Training Mission that is helping develop the next generation of leaders for the Iraqi Security Forces. To date, NATO has trained nearly 3,000 Iraqi personnel, including nearly 2,000 officers and civilian defense officials trained inside Iraq, plus an additional 800 Iraqis trained outside the country. NATO has also helped Iraqis stand up a new military academy near Baghdad, so Iraqis can develop their own military leaders in the years to come. And NATO has contributed $128 million in military equipment to the Iraqi military, including 77 Hungarian T-72 battle tanks. By helping to equip the Iraqi Security Forces and train the next group of Iraqi military leaders, NATO is helping the Iraqi people in the difficult work of securing their country and their freedom.
Tomorrow, I'm going to travel to Jordan where I will meet with the Prime Minister of Iraq. We will discuss the situation on the ground in his country, our ongoing efforts to transfer more responsibility to the Iraqi Security Forces, and the responsibility of other nations in the region to support the security and stability of Iraq. We'll continue to be flexible, and we'll make the changes necessary to succeed. But there's one thing I'm not going to do: I'm not going to pull our troops off the battlefield before the mission is complete.
The battles in Iraq and Afghanistan are part of a struggle between moderation and extremism that is unfolding across the broader Middle East. Our enemy follows a hateful ideology that rejects fundamental freedoms like the freedom to speak, to assemble, or to worship God in the way you see fit. It opposes the rights for women. Their goal is to overthrow governments and to impose their totalitarian rule on millions. They have a strategy to achieve these aims. They seek to convince America and our allies that we cannot defeat them, and that our only hope is to withdraw and abandon an entire region to their domination. The war on terror we fight today is more than a military conflict; it is the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century. And in this struggle, we can accept nothing less than victory for our children and our grandchildren.
We see this struggle in Lebanon, where last week gunmen assassinated that country's Industry Minister, Pierre Gemayel, a prominent leader of the movement that secured Lebanon's independence last year. His murder showed once again the viciousness of those who are trying to destabilize Lebanon's young democracy. We see this struggle in Syria, where the regime allows Iranian weapons to pass through its territory into Lebanon, and provides weapons and political support to Hezbollah. We see this struggle in Iran, where a reactionary regime subjugates its proud people, arrests free trade union leaders, and uses Iran's resources to fund the spread of terror and pursue nuclear weapons. We see this struggle in the Palestinian Territories, where extremists are working to stop moderate leaders from making progress toward the vision of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.
In each of these places, extremists are using terror to stop the spread of freedom. Some are Shia extremists, others are Sunni extremists -- but they represent different faces of the same threat. And if they succeed in undermining fragile democracies, and drive the forces of freedom out of the region, they will have an open field to pursue their goals. Each strain of violent Islamic radicalism would be emboldened in its efforts to gain control of states and establish new safe havens. The extremists would use oil resources to fuel their radical agenda, and to punish industrialized nations, and pursue weapons of mass destruction. Armed with nuclear weapons, they could blackmail the free world, spread their ideologies of hate, and raise a mortal threat to Europe, America, and the entire civilized world.
If we allow the extremists to do this, then 50 years from now history will look back on our time with unforgiving clarity, and demand to know why we did not act. Our Alliance has a responsibility to act. We must lift up and support the moderates and reformers who are working for change across the broader Middle East. We must bring hope to millions by strengthening young democracies from Kabul to Baghdad, to Beirut. And we must advance freedom as the great alternative to tyranny and terror.
I know some in my country, and some here in Europe, are pessimistic about the prospects of democracy and peace in the Middle East. Some doubt whether the people of that region are ready for freedom, or want it badly enough, or have the courage to overcome the forces of totalitarian extremism. I understand these doubts, but I do not share them. I believe in the universality of freedom. I believe that the people of the Middle East want their liberty. I'm impressed by the courage I see in the people across the region who are fighting for their liberty.
We see this courage in the eight million Afghans who defied terrorist threats and went to the polls to choose their leaders. We see this courage in the nearly 12 million Iraqis who refused to let the car bombers and assassins stop them from voting for the free future of their country. We see this courage in the more than one million Lebanese who voted for a free and sovereign government to rule their land. And we see this courage in citizens from Damascus to Tehran, who, like the citizens of Riga before them, keep the flame of liberty burning deep within their hearts, knowing that one day its light will shine throughout their nations.
There was a time, not so long ago, when many doubted that liberty could succeed in Europe. Here in the Baltics, many can still recall the early years of the Cold War, when freedom's victory was not so obvious or assured. In 1944, the Soviet Red Army reoccupied Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, plunging this region into nearly five decades of communist rule. In 1947, communist forces were threatening Greece and Turkey, the reconstruction of Germany was faltering, and mass starvation was setting in across Europe. In 1948, Czechoslovakia fell to communism, France and Italy were threatened by the same fate, and Berlin was blockaded on the orders of Josef Stalin. In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded a nuclear weapon -- and weeks later, communist forces took control in China. And in the summer of 1950, seven North Korean divisions poured across the border into South Korea, marking the start of the first direct military clash of the Cold War. All of this took place in the six years following World War II.
Yet today, six decades later, the Cold War is over, the Soviet Union is no more, and the NATO Alliance is meeting in the capital of a free Latvia. Europe no longer produces armed ideologies that threaten other nations with aggression and conquest and occupation. And a continent that was for generations a source of instability and global war has become a source of stability and peace. Freedom in Europe has brought peace to Europe, and freedom has brought the power to bring peace to the broader Middle East.
Soon after I took office, I spoke to students at Warsaw University. I told them America had learned the lessons of history. I said, "No more Munichs, and no more Yaltas." I was speaking at the time about Europe, but the lessons of Yalta apply equally across the world. The question facing our nations today is this: Will we turn the fate of millions over to totalitarian extremists, and allow the enemy to impose their hateful ideology across the Middle East? Or will we stand with the forces of freedom in that part of the world, and defend the moderate majority who want a future of peace?
My country has made its choice, and so has the NATO Alliance. We refuse to give in to a pessimism that consigns millions across the Middle East to endless oppression. We understand that, ultimately, the only path to lasting peace is through the rise of lasting free societies.
Here in the Baltic region, many understand that freedom is universal and worth the struggle. During the second world war, a young girl here in Riga escaped with her family from the advancing Red Army. She fled westward, moving first to a refugee camp in Germany, and then later to Morocco, where she and her family settled for five-and-a-half years. Spending her teenage years in a Muslim nation, this Latvian girl came to understand a fundamental truth about humanity: Moms and dads in the Muslim world want the same things for their children as moms and dads here in Riga -- a future of peace, a chance to live in freedom, and the opportunity to build a better life.
Today, that Latvian girl is the leader of a free country -- the Iron Lady of the Baltics, the President of Latvia. (Applause.) And the lessons she learned growing up in Casablanca guide her as she leads her nation in this world. Here is how she put it earlier this year, in an address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress: "We know the value of freedom and feel compassion for those who are still deprived of it. Every nation on Earth is entitled to freedom," your President said. She said, "We must share the dream that some day there won't be a tyranny left anywhere in the world. We must work for this future, all of us, large and small, together."
Like your President, I believe this dream is within reach, and through the NATO Alliance, nations large and small are working together to achieve it.
We thank the people of Latvia for your contributions to NATO, and for the powerful example you set for liberty. I appreciate your hospitality at this summit. America is proud to call you friends and allies in the cause of peace and freedom. May God bless you, and may God continue to bless America. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
Quote. "Time is passing. Yet, for the United States of America, there will be no forgetting September the 11th. We will remember every rescuer who died in honor. We will remember every family that lives in grief. We will remember the fire and ash, the last phone calls, the funerals of the children." 43rd President George W. Bush
Quote. " Freedom is the essence of our nation. To be sure, ours is not a perfect nation. But even with our troubles, we remain the beacon of hope for oppressed peoples everywhere." President Reagan
Quote." I did not have sexual relations with that women!" President Clinton
Quote." Depends on the word is, is! "President Clinton
Quote. "Walk Softly but Carry a Big Stick." President Teddy Roosevelt
Quote."If I were two faced, would I wear this one!"Preident Lincoln
Quote."I don't like it when a friend gets criticized. I'm loyal to my friends." 43rd President Bush. Commenting about his friend, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales.
Quote."Success has many fathers. Failure is an orphan".President Kennedy
More Quotes will be added later! Stay Tuned.
President Ronald Reagan, 40th President. He did the right thing in 1986, which helped Fuel the economy in the 21st Century. Doing the right thing counts!
Born 02/06/1911 in Tampico, Il. to parents Nellie Wilson & John Edward Reagan. Had one brother, Neil Reagan. When Ronald Reagan was 9 years old, he moved to Dixon, Illinois. At 15 years old, he became a lifeguard at Lowell Park. Saved 77 lifes in 7 summers as a lifeguard. Graduated H.S. in 1928, where he was the president of the student body. He played football in H.S.. After graduating high school he enrolled and attended EUREKA College. His major was Economics and Sociology.
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List of Potential Presidential Candidates
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