Saturday, May 27, 2006 at 12:17 PM
…And then there were two – left barely standing – in the Coalition of the Willing to invade Iraq.
President George W. Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair held talks on Thursday at the White House. Here are the main points of their joint news conference courtesy of Forbes.
MISTAKES IN IRAQ
‘I think the biggest mistake that’s happened so far, at least from our country’s involvement, is Abu Ghraib. We’ve been paying for that for a long period of time.’
‘The decision to remove Saddam Hussein was right. But not everything since liberation has turned out the way we had expected or hoped. We’ve learned from our mistakes, adjusted our methods and built on our successes. From changing the way we train the Iraqi security forces to rethinking the way we do reconstruction.’
‘I think that probably in retrospect, though at the time it was very difficult to argue this, we could have done de-Baathification in a more differentiated way than we did. ‘
…I think it’s easy to go back over mistakes that we may have made. But the biggest reason why Iraq has been difficult is the determination by our opponents to defeat us. And I don’t think we should be surprised at that.’
PUBLIC ATTITUDE TO WAR IN IRAQ
‘No question it’s created consternation here in America. When you see innocent people die day in and day out, it affects the mentality of our country.’
‘I know the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was deeply divisive for the international community. And there’s no point in rehearsing those arguments over and over again.
‘But whatever people’s views about the wisdom of that decision, now that there is a democratic government in Iraq, elected by its people, and now they are confronted with those whose mission it is to destroy the hope of democracy, then our sense of mission should be equal to that.’
WITHDRAWAL OF TROOPS FROM IRAQ
‘It’s important for the American people to know that politics isn’t going to make the decision as to the size of our force level.
‘…I set the objective, a country that can sustain itself and govern itself, and we’re making progress on all fronts, but to how many troops we have there will depend upon the generals and their commanders saying, ‘This is what we need to do to do the job, Mr. President,’ and that’s the way it will be so long as I’m standing here as commander in chief, which is two and a half more years.
‘I think it’s possible for the Iraqi security forces to take control, progressively, in the country…But when the (Iraqi) prime minister talked about an objective timetable, what he meant was a timetable governed by conditions on the ground.’
‘The Iranians walked away from the table. They made the decision, and the choice is theirs. ‘
…We’ve got to continue to work to convince them that we’re serious, that if they want to be isolated from the world, we will work to achieve that.’
‘They must understand that the word of the international community is sure and is clear, and that is that the obligations that are upon them have got to be adhered to.’
‘I know a man of resolve and vision and courage…My attitude is I want him to be here so long as I’m the president.’
‘The amazing thing about dealing with Prime Minister Blair is, never once has he said to me on the phone, ‘We better change our tactics because of the political opinion polls,’ You know?’
[Alas, Blair could not bring himself to say any kind words about Bush....]
BUSH REGRETS TOUGH TALK ON IRAQ
‘Saying, ‘Bring it on,’ kind of tough talk, you know, that sent the wrong signal to people. I learned some lessons about expressing myself maybe a little in a more sophisticated manner…I think in certain parts of the world it was misinterpreted and so I learned from that.’
DEMOCRACY IN IRAQ
‘They have gone out and voted despite terrorism, despite bloodshed, despite literally the prospect of death for exercising their democratic right.
So they have kept faith with the very democratic values that we say we believe in. And the people trying to wrest that democracy from them are opposed to absolutely everything we stand for and everything the Iraqi people stand for.’
NOTE: Bush and Blair must have resented the fact that their effort to put the best spin on the state of affairs in Iraq (and make final pleas in support of their legacies) was overshadowed by international media reports quoting their most pugnacious critic, British MP George Galloway, singing the praises of Fidel Castro and condemning them as follows:
…Tony Blair should be in jail right next to George Bush….Those two are drowning in an ocean of lies, in a wave of bloodshed [and] it would be morally justified for an assassin to target Blair for supporting the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq.