Moving forward together towards victory in Iraq, and for Iraq

The following is an approximation of the speech that I hope the President gives on Wednesday night

By AcademicElephant Posted in | Comments (0) / Email this page » / Leave a comment »

My fellow Americans:

I speak to you tonight on a topic of urgent importance to our nation: The progress of our ongoing mission in Iraq. Five years after the attacks of September 11th, and three and a half years after the toppling of Saddam Hussein, many citizens have questions about our progress, such as "Why are we still in Iraq?" "What do we hope to achieve?" Even "Are we at war?" And if we are, "Can we win?" Such questions are understandable, given the unfamiliar nature of the conflict that was thrust on us in 2001, and as we move into the new year I would like to take this opportunity to answer them.

Read on...

-We remain in Iraq because our mission in that country is more than a conventional military one. Our goal has been not only to topple Saddam Hussein, but also to establish in his place a constitutional democracy in the middle east. This two-fold mission was designed to remove a regime that posed an immanent danger to the United States, and to begin to change the culture that attacked us on 9/11 from oppression, bigotry and tyranny to opportunity, tolerance and freedom. Our plan thus has been to target not only the individual enemies that threaten us, but also the mindset that produces them. This is a herculean--some might even say daunting--task. But to my mind, even such a challenge is less daunting than the prospect of playing defense in this fight and responding to threats after they materialize. For if we do nothing, the attacks would keep coming. Even with the best intelligence in the world, we would eventually miss something as we did in 2001. This "something" could have even more devastating effects than 9/11 and could lead to a global conflict the likes of which humanity has never known, with costs in lives and dollars that would exponentially dwarf our current expenditures. If we can prevent this from happening by taking action like that we have taken in Iraq, then we will have done great good not only for our nation, but for the world. So that is why we are still in Iraq. We have toppled the dictator, and now we are focusing on the second part of our mission.

-Which brings me to the second question. "What do we hope to achieve?" We hope to achieve a free and stable Iraq that can sustain itself through the respect of all its citizens for its constitution and its laws. Such a nation would be a partner for peace for the US in the region, and serve as an exemplar to countries with repressive regimes or embattled democracies that are susceptible to the incursions of the Islamic militants that attacked us on 9/11. Democratization is a noble goal, and an achievable one, but it will not be quick, and it will not be easy. Some say it is not happening fast enough, and as an American I agree with them. It's not happening in a New York minute. But we must remember that Iraq was savagely brutalized by Saddam for decades, and these wounds will take time to heal. Given what the Iraqis have endured, their transition from tyranny to democracy has been remarkable and I am proud to stand with them and help with the next steps. Make no mistake, we, and the Iraqis, are making progress. I have concluded that in order to perpetuate and to accelerate that progress, we need to adjust to some developing conditions on the ground. Now that they have established a government, it is time for Iraqis to make the difficult collective decisions that will benefit them as a nation, not as individual ethnic groups.

Those who fear such progress, the proponents of tyranny, are fighting us and fighting the Iraqis. The most dramatic demonstration of their rage came almost a year ago when militants blew up the Golden Mosque at Samarra. Over the intervening months, it has become clear that this evil act inaugurated a new phase in the history of post-Saddam Iraq marked by escalating divisive sectarian violence. During this period we should be proud that the nascent Iraqi government held its ground, and that our soldiers have continued to assist in dramatic progress throughout Iraq outside of Baghdad. Those who blew up the mosque hoped that 2007 would bring an impotent government in shambles that they could easily dismantle or control, a lawless countryside, and America in retreat. They have achieved none of those goals. But they are dividing the Iraqi people and perpetuating unacceptable levels of violence in the capital. If they are allowed to continue, they will threaten the future of the free Iraq for which we strive. So as we move forward, I have crafted a new, two-part strategy to confront this challenge:

1) We will send approximately 10,000 additional troops to Iraq this year. In accordance with our commanders on the ground, I believe that a substantially larger occupying force would be both an insult to Iraqi sovereignty and a detriment to Iraqi independence, but these troops will have a specific mission that will achieve the opposite effect. The majority will go to Baghdad, where they will join two brigades of new Iraqi troops as proposed by Prime Minister al-Maliki earlier this week, and engage in an intensive initiative to secure the city through a network of new outposts designed to maintain security once an area is cleared. They will participate in joint patrols as the US troops will embed with Iraqi units. Even more importantly, in a new program Iraqi soldiers will begin to embed with American units. These efforts will double our ability to train the Iraqi Security Forces by both instruction and example. The balance of the additional troops will be sent to the al-Anbar province to assist in security there. This boost in numbers is designed to be a temporary measure that will give the Iraqis the additional time they need to stand up.

But these troops will not be in Iraq only to train. They will also be there to fight--and I have confirmed with Prime Minister al-Maliki that the gloves are coming off in terms of the armed militias that are carrying out violent attacks in Baghdad. We have given these bands of thugs a year to disarm and reintegrate into Iraqi society, and all we have gotten in return are unconvincing promises of compliance, while their renegade actions have proven over and over that they are not interested in helping to develop a peaceful and prosperous Iraq. I have concluded that these are not hearts and minds we can win. It is time to cut the head off this snake, and along with the Iraqi troops in Baghdad, we will hunt down and eliminate perpetrators of violence. It is beholden on the Prime Minister to make good on the promises he has made this week, and to demonstrate that his government is fully engaged in this mission. Should he fail to do so, he risks losing the confidence of the people he was elected to lead, as well as that of Iraq's allies.

2) We will take new, non-military steps to assist the vast majority of Iraqis who want to live in a sovereign country where they, too, are entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is a simple fact that most Iraqis do not want to descend into chaos--and so most of the country wants to move--indeed is moving--towards stability. This fact is Iraq's greatest strength, and we must help them exploit it. All Iraqis should be encouraged to participate in local as well as national elections, and so to engage directly in their government. When terrorists blow up supply centers with materials designated for reconstruction projects, Iraqis need to know that these are not attacks on the "occupation" forces, as the terrorists would have it--they are attacks on their country's future. And Iraqis must be vested in that future, politically and economically. I am therefore tasking [Insert name of elder statesman with strong knowledge of economics and the region of your choice here] with spearheading a new economic reconstruction initiative that will be under the purview of the Department of Defense, but will have the input of the Treasury Department as well, and I thank Secretary Gates and Secretary Paulson for agreeing to work together with their Iraqi counterparts on this unique joint initiative.

Our first goal will be, following the lead of the Iraqi government and with the assistance of the World Bank, to establish a viable central banking system in Iraq, the lack of which is crippling economic progress. Once this system is in place, the Iraqi government needs to finalize the hydrocarbon law that will allow for the equitable distribution of the profits from Iraq's substantial natural resources to all her citizens. We will also both accelerate and change the focus of our efforts to assist in the rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure. Given our resources and skills, the US could just go in and rebuild individual systems that were so long neglected under Saddam. But that sort of intervention is not what Iraq needs. Iraq needs to rebuild herself--and so by making the reconstruction more hands-on, more local if you will, we will give Iraqis ownership of this process. I believe that if you've spent a day building a generator that will provide light for your family, and being paid to do so, you are less likely to spend the evening making a bomb to blow it up and so ending your employment and leaving your family in the dark. So we will make the rebuilding of Iraq an Iraqi project--and the Iraqi government must ensure that reconstuction efforts reach all Iraqis.

In addition, we will assist the encouraging economic growth in Iraq--despite the violence in Baghdad, the Iraqi dinar, now freely traded, is showing impressive signs of strength, indicating that there are investors who are eager to put their money into Iraq. New businesses are cropping up all over the country. By funneling targeted economic resources to these entrepreneurs, we will enable them to to hire more workers and expand their businesses, thus improving the quality of life for all Iraqis. I will also encourage Congress craft legislation to give tax incentives that encourage the flow of private American capital into Iraq, so that our citizens have an opportunity to contribute to and participate in the increasing prosperity of the new country. Such exchange would be a venue for our servicemen and women who have finished their tours in Iraq to use the skills and cultural knowledge they have gained to continue their mission in the private sector while they build their own futures.

I believe that with these initiatives in place, 2007 can be a year of dramatic progress for Iraq as the rate of return for the terrorists in that country dwindles, while for us it increases--and that the beginning of 2008 will find us in a very different place.

-Finally, I would like to address tonight the larger questions "Are we at war?" And if so, "Can we win?" I know it is tempting as we enter 2007 to see the attacks of 2001 as an isolated incident. After all, we haven't been attacked since. The wounds of that terrible day are healing with time--perhaps the clearest indicator of our rapid recovery is the fact that just over five years after terrorists attacked our financial nerve center in lower Manhattan, our stock market is in record territory. We are prosperous. And many may think that since we have not been attacked again, we are safe. It is comforting to think so--and to complacently turn away from the difficult task in Iraq to other matters.

This perceived safety is illusory. We are at war. 9/11 was not an aberration. It was part of an ongoing pattern of escalating attacks that have been encouraged and financed by rogue regimes like that of Saddam Hussein. While we have kept them from our shores for a period, Islamic militants remain on the move around the globe, probing for weakness and opportunity. We cannot negotiate with them, for we have nothing that they want. They do not want to see us surrender; they want to see us and our allies, in their own repeated words, "wiped off the map." And we need to see them clearly. Wishing that they were otherwise will not make them so. This conflict is not simply a cultural divide that greater understanding on our part will bridge. These viscious and tyrannical fanatics have no culture. They plot to murder and torture their way to a new caliphate based on oppression and intolerance. We, and our way of life, have no place in the world order they envision. They are evil, and we must fight them or relinquish that way of life--indeed our own lives. We have therefore engaged the enemy militarily and culturally in Iraq, where together, we can defeat them. Winning in Iraq will not mean the end of the war, but it will be a great victory, and will sow the seeds for the broader shift towards democracy and tolerance that will eventually spell their demise.

The crucial word here is together. Together, as a nation, we are an unstoppable force. With your support I am confident that the strategy I have outlined tonight will move us towards our goal in Iraq and so closer to our ultimate victory against our terrible foe. But divided we, like the Iraqis, are vulnerable--and that is a vulnerability our enemy seeks to exploit. For me, this war is not a partisan issue. I want to fight for all Americans, not just those who share my political views, because no one will be spared by this enemy due to their party affiliation. We are all equally at risk.

So let us confront that risk together, and win together. It is true we face dangerous challenges in Iraq. The road has been difficult because, as the enemy understands, the stakes are very high, and they are not going to just give us this important victory. They are making us pay in both blood and treasure, and be assured I am mindful of the sacrifice they have exacted. But despite their best efforts, important, historic progress has been made in Iraq. We can move forward towards our goal because of the grueling and heroic work that has been done by so many of our fellow citizens, military and civilian alike, over the last four years. In January, 2003 a murderous dictator sat in a palace in Baghdad plotting against us. Today, Iraq has a constitutional government that is our partner. That is a foundation on which we and the Iraqis can build.

Over the coming weeks, along with the additional troops and the implementors of the economic initiatives, I will dispatch new commanders to the region. I welcome home the warriors and diplomats who laid the foundation of the new Iraq, and I am pleased and proud that several of them have agreed to continue their service in more senior positions. I am also excited about the potential of our new team, which will bring fresh perspective and renewed energy to this phase of the war. I look forward to having you all make their aquaintance in what I hope will be expeditious and courteous congressional confirmation hearings. You, too, will be proud to have them at your service. Tonight, I ask all Americans to support them in their efforts to make a free and secure future for our nation. Let us move forward together towards victory in Iraq, and for Iraq.

May God continue to bless our United States of America.

Good night.

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