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Transcript: When will the war in Iraq end?


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Sen. John Kerry and President Bush debate foreign policy issues Thursday night.
TRANSCRIPT
Full transcript of the September 30, 2004 presidential debates. 
• Question 6 -- When should troops come home? 
• Question 11 -- When will the war in Iraq end? 
• Question 15 -- Why not send troops to Sudan? 
• Question 18 -- Did Bush misjudge Putin? 
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CORAL GABLES, Florida (CNN) -- The following is a partial transcript of the debate between President Bush and Sen. John Kerry held Thursday night at the University of Miami. The topic of the debate is foreign affairs, and the moderator is Jim Lehrer of PBS:

LEHRER: Speaking of your plan, new question, Senator Kerry. Two minutes.

Can you give us specifics, in terms of a scenario, time lines, et cetera, for ending major U.S. military involvement in Iraq?

KERRY: The time line that I've set out -- and again, I want to correct the president, because he's misled again this evening on what I've said. I didn't say I would bring troops out in six months. I said, if we do the things that I've set out and we are successful, we could begin to draw the troops down in six months.

And I think a critical component of success in Iraq is being able to convince the Iraqis and the Arab world that the United States doesn't have long-term designs on it.

As I understand it, we're building some 14 military bases there now, and some people say they've got a rather permanent concept to them.

When you guard the oil ministry, but you don't guard the nuclear facilities, the message to a lot of people is maybe, "Wow, maybe they're interested in our oil."

Now, the problem is that they didn't think these things through properly. And these are the things you have to think through.

What I want to do is change the dynamics on the ground. And you have to do that by beginning to not back off of the Fallujahs and other places, and send the wrong message to the terrorists. You have to close the borders.

You've got to show you're serious in that regard. But you've also got to show that you are prepared to bring the rest of the world in and share the stakes.

I will make a flat statement: The United States of America has no long-term designs on staying in Iraq.

And our goal in my administration would be to get all of the troops out of there with a minimal amount you need for training and logistics as we do in some other countries in the world after a war to be able to sustain the peace.

But that's how we're going to win the peace, by rapidly training the Iraqis themselves.

Even the administration has admitted they haven't done the training, because they came back to Congress a few weeks ago and asked for a complete reprogramming of the money.

Now what greater admission is there, 16 months afterwards. "Oops, we haven't done the job. We have to start to spend the money now. Will you guys give us permission to shift it over into training?"

LEHRER: Ninety seconds.

BUSH: There are 100,000 troops trained, police, guard, special units, border patrol. There's going to be 125,000 trained by the end of this year. Yes, we're getting the job done. It's hard work. Everybody knows it's hard work, because there's a determined enemy that's trying to defeat us.

Now, my opponent says he's going to try to change the dynamics on the ground. Well, Prime Minister Allawi was here. He is the leader of that country. He's a brave, brave man. When he came, after giving a speech to the Congress, my opponent questioned his credibility.

You can't change the dynamics on the ground if you've criticized the brave leader of Iraq.

One of his campaign people alleged that Prime Minister Allawi was like a puppet. That's no way to treat somebody who's courageous and brave, that is trying to lead his country forward.

The way to make sure that we succeed is to send consistent, sound messages to the Iraqi people that when we give our word, we will keep our word, that we stand with you, that we believe you want to be free. And I do.

I believe that 25 million people, the vast majority, long to have elections.

I reject this notion -- and I'm suggesting my opponent isn't -- I reject the notion that some say that if you're Muslim you can't free, you don't desire freedom. I disagree, strongly disagree with that.

LEHRER: Thirty seconds.

KERRY: I couldn't agree more that the Iraqis want to be free and that they could be free.

But I think the president, again, still hasn't shown how he's going to go about it the right way. He has more of the same.

Now, Prime Minister Allawi came here, and he said the terrorists are pouring over the border. That's Allawi's assessment.

The national intelligence assessment that was given to the president in July said, best-case scenario, more of the same of what we see today; worst-case scenario, civil war.

I can do better.

BUSH: Yes, let me...

LEHRER: Yes, 30 seconds.

BUSH: The reason why Prime Minister Allawi said they're coming across the border is because he recognizes that this is a central part of the war on terror. They're fighting us because they're fighting freedom.

They understand that a free Afghanistan or a free Iraq will be a major defeat for them.

And those are the stakes.

And that's why it is essential we not leave. That's why it's essential we hold the line. That's why it's essential we win. And we will. Under my leadership we're going to win this war in Iraq.

Next question: Would Bush lead another pre-emptive war?


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