By: E&P Staff
When President Bush held a joint news conference today with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, a reporter asked him to explain further his Tuesday remarks that he felt he could have done a better job explaining the need for war on Iraq more than five years ago. It gave him an oppportunity to declare that, no, he didn’t feel bad about actually going to war.
“I don’t regret it at all,” he said.
From the transcript, here is the exchange. He was also asked about the troubled security pact with Iraq.
Q Mr. President, on the way to Europe, you gave a very interesting interview for The Times newspaper in which you basically said that you regret your war rhetoric. Now I’m wondering, do you actually just regret your war rhetoric, or do you regret having gone to war with Iraq?
PRESIDENT BUSH: I don’t regret it at all. Removing Saddam Hussein made the world a safer place. And yes, I told the guy — the guy said, now what could you do over? First of all, you don’t get to do things over in my line of work. But I could have used better rhetoric to indicate that one, we tried to exhaust the diplomacy in Iraq; two, that I don’t like war. But, no, the decision to remove Saddam Hussein was the right decision.
Q Speaking of Iraq, there are increasing controversy in Iraq over the security agreement that’s being negotiated. Some top Iraqi officials are calling for a dramatic reduction in the U.S. presence. Does this concern you that the direction of those negotiations are going in?
PRESIDENT BUSH: First of all, I think we’ll end up with a strategic agreement with Iraq. You know, it’s all kinds of noise in their system and our system. What eventually will win out is the truth. For example, you read stories perhaps in your newspaper that the U.S. is planning all kinds of permanent bases in Iraq. That’s an erroneous story. The Iraqis know — will learn it’s erroneous, too. We’re there at the invitation of the sovereign government of Iraq. And I strongly support the agreement because I think it helps send a clear message to the people of Iraq that, you know, that security you’re now seeing will continue. And one of the lessons of Iraq is, is that in order for a democracy to develop or in order for an economy to develop, there has to be a measure of security, which is now happening. So I think we’ll get the agreement done.
And as I said clearly in past speeches, this will not involve permanent bases, nor will it bind any future President to troop levels. You know, as to — look, Eggen, you can find any voice you want in the Iraqi political scene and quote them, which is interesting, isn’t it, because in the past you could only find one voice, and now you can find a myriad of voices. It’s a vibrant democracy; people are debating. There’s all kinds of press in the Iraqi scene, of course to the benefit of the Iraqi society.
And I deal with Prime Minister Maliki. He appreciates our presence there, and he understands that we’re returning on success; as the situation merits, and the situation improves, we’re bringing our troops home. And I’m pleased with the progress. I don’t know whether or not it’s — the progress has made it here to Germany or not yet, but the progress in Iraq is substantial, and it’s going to help change the Middle East for the better. And I love the idea of having — giving people a chance to live in a free society. The blessings of freedom are — shouldn’t be just a regional blessing; I believe freedom is universal and I believe freedom yields peace.