By: E&P Staff
When Stars and Stripes nabbed anexclusive interview with President Bush on July 4 — aboard Air Force One — it devoted most of the questions to ones submitted by service members.
One, put to the commander-in-chief by the newspaper’s Jeff Schogol: Has he attended even one funeral for a fallen soldier from Iraq? No, he replied. ?Because which funeral do you go to? In my judgment, I think if I go to one I should go to all. How do you honor one person but not another?? he said.
A soldier now serving in Iraq asked how many times he would have to return to the war zone in the next five years. Bush said he did not know. ?The conditions on the ground will determine our troop levels, and one of the main conditions on the ground is the capacity for the Iraqis to take the fight to the enemy, and therefore it is very difficult for me to predict with certainty how many times this particular person would be sent back to Iraq,? Bush said, in the article published on Wednesday.
Another soldier asked if Army rotations in Iraq could be shortened from one year to six months. Bush: Not likely. A question about special benefits for troops who had served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan brought pretty much the same response, with Bush explaining that he had already boosted normal benefits.
The newspaper’s reporter put forth his own query: Would the president accept a timetable for a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq in return for a cease-fire by insurgents?
Bush called the question hypothetical. Reminded by Schogol that the media had reported just such an offer from Sunni insurgents, Bush answered, ?I?m not sure they have or haven?t. ? I will tell you that whatever decisions I make will be made upon the recommendations of commanders and and with one thing in my mind: Can we win??
Bush was also asked if the strategy of putting relatively few U.S. troops in Afghanistan had backfired, with the Taliban reviving. He replied: ?The strategy all along was to help internationalize the effort, and NATO troops are now moving into where the Taliban thinks that they may be able to make a foothold, or gain a foothold.”
Related E&P column by Greg Mitchell:
Blood on Our Hands: One month after pundits and editorialists, following the lead of the president, declared (yet again) new hope in Iraq, the death toll is soaring and alleged atrocities mount. Who, now, will dare speak up?