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4/19/04 - STAYING THE COURSE IN IRAQ - 2004-04-19

President George W. Bush says the U.S. objective in Iraq is “limited -- and it is firm. We seek an independent, free, and secure Iraq.” The U.S. will stay the course until that objective has been met.

The recent violence, says President Bush, is the result of efforts by remnants of the Saddam Hussein regime, Islamic militants, and followers of radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr to run the U.S.-led coalition out of Iraq and destroy the aspirations of the Iraqi people:

"The violence we have seen is a power grab by these extreme and ruthless elements. It's not a civil war. It's not a popular uprising. Most of Iraq is relatively stable. Most Iraqis by far reject violence and oppose dictatorship. In forums where Iraqis have met to discuss their political future, and in all the proceedings of the Iraqi Governing Council, Iraqis have expressed clear commitments. They want strong protections for individual rights; they want their independence; and they want their freedom."

“As a proud and independent people,” says Mr. Bush, “Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation -- and neither does America.” That is why the plan to turn the government over to the people will stay on track. On June 30th, the Transitional Administrative Law, with a strong bill of rights, will go into effect. Elections for a national assembly will be held by January 2005. Those elected to the assembly will draft a permanent constitution to present to Iraqi voters in October 2005.

President Bush said that “Iraq will either be a peaceful, democratic country, or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror, and a threat to America and to the world”:

“The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable. Every friend of America and Iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder as a new tyranny arose. Every enemy of America and the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence, and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers.”

President Bush says the U.S. and its allies have the means and the will to prevail in Iraq. “Iraq will be a free, independent country, and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it. We serve the cause of liberty,” says Mr. Bush, “and that is, always and everywhere, a cause worth serving.”