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President Bush Meets With Iraq's Prime Minister at White House; Suicide Attack on Marine Convoy in Falluja

Aired June 24, 2005 - 10:59   ET


DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: Well, he is a man who many say will be the spiritual successor to Billy Graham.

RICK WARREN, AUTHOR, "PURPOSE-DRIVEN LIFE": You don't have to be perfect to be used by god. You just have to be available, you have to be willing.


KAGAN: The offer of "The Purpose-Driven Life" joins me to talk about Billy Graham's crusade this weekend in New York City.

And President Bush and Iraq's prime minister speak to reporters from the White House. We'll bring that to you live as the second hour of CNN LIVE TODAY begins right now.

We're going to start with a look at what's happening ""Now in the News."

The prime minister of Iraq is at the White House this morning. He is meeting with President Bush against a backdrop of continuing violence in Iraq and slumping support among Americans for the war. We'll have live coverage of a news conference by the two leaders. That's expected to begin in about 25 minutes.

A U.S. military official tells CNN as many as six Marines were killed in a suicide attack on a convoy near Falluja, and women are among the casualties. A Marine statement confirms two Marines were killed, three Marines and a sailor are listed as duty status, whereabouts unknown. In other words, missing. That means their bodies have not been recovered or identified.

Back here in the U.S., a fire at a drugstore in suburban Atlanta as forced the evacuation of a nearby daycare center. No injuries have been record in the fire in Cobb County. Workers and children of the daycare center were evacuated as a precaution. We'll continue to follow this developing story.

To Aruba. The father of a Dutch teen held in the Natalee Holloway case is in custody himself, facing more questions today. Authorities arrested Judge Paul Van Der Sloot yesterday. Prosecutors say there is reasonable suspicion that he knows something about Holloway's disappearance. She' is the Alabama teen who has been missing since May 30. A California woman whose son who was mauled to death by the family's pit bull is now facing charges. Maureen Faibish is scheduled to be arraigned next week. She's charged with felony child endangerment. Her 12-year-old son Nicholas was attacked on June 3 after she left the house to run errands.

And now is offering a whole new way to get the headlines. Just log on to our Web site and click on "Watch" to check out the most popular stories, everything from politics and sports to entertainment. It's free on

Good morning once again to you. It's just after 8:00 a.m. in Phoenix, Arizona; 11:00 a.m. in Washington, D.C.; and 7:00 p.m. in Baghdad. From CNN Center in Atlanta, I'm Daryn Kagan.

We're going to start this hour with Iraq, an issue that is the central focus at the White House this hour. Right now, President Bush is meeting with the Iraqi prime minister in the Oval Office. The two leaders have a couple of major topics to talk about. One, the work that is being done to train Iraqi security forces. And two, establishing the Iraqi government and constitution.

The two leaders are expected to hold a news conference in about 25 minutes. We'll bring that to you live when it happens.

First, though, we're going to take you live to Iraq, where there has been a deadly suicide attack on a Marine convoy in Falluja. Our Jennifer Eccleston has that story -- Jennifer.

JENNIFER ECCLESTON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Daryn. Well, a suicide car bomber struck a convoy carrying Marines in the town of Falluja outside of Baghdad. That happened Thursday night.

Now, the U.S. military confirms that two Marines were killed. Three other Marines and a sailor are believed to be dead, but they have not yet been identified.

Now, the details are sketchy, but we understand that some of the dead are female Marines, and they were all assigned to the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force. So this -- of course this serves as a backdrop to the meeting you had mentioned between President Bush and the Iraqi interim transitional prime minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari. Their agenda includes discussions on work being done to train Iraqi security forces, a precursor before bringing U.S. troops home, of course, as well as efforts to draft a constitution and rebuild a nation still racked by a very violent insurgency.

Now, some of the major challenges for the prime minister, improving the day-to-day lives of Iraqis, building confidence of Iraqis in their government. First and foremost, providing security, curtailing the violence that plagues four provinces in this country, including here in the capital.

Now, while the Iraqis understand that they need the American troop presence here to help fight the insurgents and to train Iraqi forces, no one likes to live under occupation. But they know that it's the Iraqis that are ultimately responsible for creating a stable environment whereby people can go about their daily lives without constantly looking over their shoulder for bombs and mortars.

And another challenge, improving the battered infrastructure here, improving the standard of living for millions who are without sufficient electricity, without proper sanitation, without water, without clean drinking water. The general hardship of daily life, the numerous privations, are not inspiring the Iraqi people to take claims from their government and from the U.S. that life is, indeed, better now.

So what it all boils down to, Daryn, are tangible results for the Iraqi people through the end of insurgent attacks, through the return of basic services, and also the creation of a democratically elected government which is accountable to the Iraqi people -- Daryn.

KAGAN: Jennifer Eccleston in Baghdad. Thank you.

Our own Jane Arraf is embedded with a Marine Corps unit engaged in an anti-insurgency operation. She's in western Iraq. She's going to join us now by videophone -- Jane.

JANE ARRAF, CNN SR. BAGHDAD CORRESPONDENT: Daryn, I don't know if you can hear me, but if you can, we are near the Syrian border with the Marines, where they have been on the front lines. But the thing about the front lines in this insurgency, in this war, is that they keep shifting.

They're fighting what we hear from General Abizaid is an increasing number of foreign fighters, very close to the Syrian border here. Indications are that they keep coming across.

In fact, in fighting over the weekend in the city of Karabilah, there were nine passports seized from several Arab countries. A common denominator, they all went through Damascus.

And, in fact, in this part of the border, Daryn, there are 60 kilometers just in this area of operation for this battalion. There's not a singer border policeman. The border is that porous -- Daryn.

KAGAN: So Jane, you are in western Iraq right now, but I know you've spent a lot of time in the Falluja area. First of all, can you tell us about the state of the insurgency in that area where this attack has taken place?

ARRAF: This whole area, Daryn, Al Anbar province, it stretches from Falluja all the way up to the Syrian border, and it's perhaps one of the most volatile. It's a Sunni Majority.

Falluja, of course, where we were for that battle, is a city that's held up as one of the examples of the difficulties of fighting this sort of war. Marines and the Army went in last November, and we were with them when they essentially leveled parts of that city.

We've gone back since, and what they're trying to do is have controlled entry to the city so that people can begin to rebuild their lives. But this obviously, the car bomb that we just heard about it, is obviously a very powerful suicide car bomb to have killed and wounded that many people. It's the first one in a long time in Falluja, which has been relatively peaceful, but relatively peaceful simply because it seems the Marines have been controlling access very strictly to the city.

KAGAN: And then, Jane, we're getting this early word that a number of the victims could be women Marines. What kind of service are women doing for the Marines so close to the battle lines?

ARRAF: As you know, women aren't supposed to be on the front lines in Iraq in the Marines or in the Army, but, in fact, they are. Fewer of them with the Marines. And while the Pentagon says that the indications are that females were among the victims of this huge suicide bomb, early indications -- and it's just that -- early indications are that they might have been part of the female search team.

One of the things that they're finding here, Daryn, is that they don't have women who can deal with that part of the insurgency and that part of the danger. In fact, in this area, we are told that several weeks ago one Marine was killed by a woman in a house who simply opened fire on him.

Now, she was killed in return, but when we go into houses with the Marines and with the Army, there is almost never a female along who can search women to see if they have weapons on them. It's something that they're grappling with in this ever-changing insurgency and the ever-changing tactics of the insurgents and the foreign fighters -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And then, of course, something that you're seeing with all of these assignments where you're embedded, there really is no such thing that can define the front line in this current conflict as opposed to past conflicts?

ARRAF: That's absolutely true. And that deals with and relates to women as well.

There are quite a few women in transportation companies, for instance. And you would think they might be safely on bases, but they're not. They're in convoys, taking the same risks as the male soldiers and Marines.

The biggest risk here at the moment are those roadside bombs, the improvised explosive devices. They're getting increasingly sophisticated and increasingly powerful. And there seems to be an almost never-ending supply of suicide bombers, all of them said to be foreign fighters still coming through here. Women, of course, face the same risks on the roads and in the air as the men do here -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And that's our Jane Arraf reporting live via videophone from western Iraq, near the Syrian border. Jane, thank you.

Vice President Dick Cheney says that he believes Iraq will eventually be an enormous success story. He gave an exclusive interview to our Wolf Blitzer. In that, the vice president said the U.S. will defeat the insurgency, and he warned there will likely be more bloodshed in the months ahead.


RICHARD CHENEY, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think the months immediately ahead will be difficult months. I think there will be a lot of violence, a lot of bloodshed, because I think the terrorists will do everything they can to try to disrupt that process and that flow of -- that's well under way. But I think it is well under way.

I think it is going to be accomplished, that we will, in fact, succeed in getting a democracy established in Iraq. And I think when we do that will be the end of the insurgency.


KAGAN: We'll have a couple of chances to hear the president's views on Iraq. First, next week, Mr. Bush is set to deliver a prime- time address to the nation Tuesday night at 8:00 Eastern. He'll be speaking from Fort Bragg, North Carolina. We'll carry that live here on CNN.

He also is holding a news conference with the Iraqi prime minister in the next few minutes. You're going to see that live her on CNN.

Today Wolf sits down for a one-on-one exclusive interview with Iraq's prime minister, al-Jaafari. It's going to air on Sunday on "LATE EDITION." That's at noon Eastern, 9:00 Pacific.

Other news today.

Crews are making progress against western wildfires that have burned thousands of acres in California, Nevada and Arizona. The largest blaze is in the Tonto National Forest, about 25 miles from downtown Phoenix. It has consumed 46,000 acres and burned at least 10 structures. Fire officials say the flames are moving away from populated areas and threatened communities. An evacuation order covering 200 home was lifted late yesterday.

The weather a big factor when trying to fight a fire. Rob Marciano is here to take a look at that weather, plus across the country.


KAGAN: He has been called America's pastor, but the Reverend Billy Graham has touched lives around the world. Now he's set to begin what could be his final crusade. We're going to take a look at his message and his mission and whether anyone can take his place. We're going to get some insight from Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose-Driven Life." Plus, President Bush and Iraq's prime minister are set to speak to reporters in about 15 minutes. We'll bring that to you live when it happens.

Stay with us.


KAGAN: In today's focus on your spirit, the lasting legacy of a powerful preacher. The Reverend Billy Graham has been traveling the world, spreading the gospel for decades. But he says the crusade that begins in New York tonight will be his last in the U.S., and possible ever. Graham told CNN's Soledad O'Brien on why he says he'll steer clear of hot-button political issues during his sermons.


REV. BILLY GRAHAM, EVANGELIST: When I talk about those issues, it divides the audience. And I want the audience to divide only on the cross of Christ and what Jesus can do for them, and not some other issue.

And I found that many people are happy that I'm doing what I'm doing, because in the earlier years of my ministry I talked on about every subject that was in the news at that time.

SOLEDAD O'BRIEN, CNN ANCHOR: And that was successful, and people loved it.

GRAHAM: Well, it was and it wasn't. But since then I've spent a lot of time in England, in Scotland, in Wales, and with prime ministers and people in that part of the world, and I've learned that I don't have the answers to everything.


KAGAN: "PEOPLE IN THE NEWS" traces Graham's journey from his own conversion to worldwide prominence. That's this Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Eastern right here on CNN.

Reverend Graham's life and ministry have had a tremendous impact on the growth of Christianity and on spirituality in general. Joining us from New York to talk more about that, Rick Warren. You're going to recognize him, the author of the best-selling book "The Purpose- Driven Life" and founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California.

Pastor, good morning.

WARREN: Good morning. How are you?

KAGAN: I'm doing great. And I bet you're excited for this weekend because you're taking part of in this crusade.

WARREN: I am. My hero is wrapping up a great ministry, and with his integrity intact and his passion still there. KAGAN: And what will you be doing?

WARREN: I'm going to be there praying, supporting, everything I can do behind the scenes to make this day Billy's day, this weekend in the strategic city of New York. I think that it's not by accident that he's here. There's so many influential people here that I believe he can touch, and really people of all ages, that the good news is going to be brought again into the heart of this wonderful city.

KAGAN: But what about New York City? You could ask a lot of people, where would you least expect Billy Graham to make his last crusade? Some people might expect this city. Why do you think it is the perfect place for this event?

WARREN: I think Billy has always gone where people least expect it. People didn't expect him to go to Moscow. People didn't expect him to go to Poland, or people didn't expect him to go to China. He's been there four times. He's been in North Korea.

I mean, he's literally been all around the world. And so why not end it in a place where the message might have the greatest opportunity to be heard by the most number of people?

KAGAN: As somebody who reaches so many people, what have you learned from Reverend Graham?

WARREN: Well, I couldn't -- you know, you got a half an hour? I could tell you just constant the things that I've learned from Billy Graham.

He has been a mentor and a model to me. I think out of the 20th century, of the three great Christian leaders of the 30th century, they were Pope John II, Bill Bright, the founder of Campus Crusade, and Billy Graham. And, of course, Billy Graham, everyone would consider him to be the greatest preacher probably in the history of Christianity.

And -- but there were a lot of things Billy taught us besides preaching. He was a great organizational genius. He believed in building a team, and the team that served with him now over 60 years of Cliff Barrows (ph) and George Beverly Shea (ph) and T.W. Wilson (ph) and Grady Wilson, and so many of the other team members that have been with him 50, and even 60 years are a model.

Maintain your integrity, keep the message simple, always center on Jesus Christ. Don't get distracted by political issues or, you know, popularity issues. Just keep your focus.

He's a wonderful guy. You know, he was always gracious to every critic, loves everybody, and yet never lost his focus. And I think that's a model, not just for every minister like myself, but it's a model for every person.

You know, don't let critics keep you from focusing on what god tells you to do. He has certainly fulfilled his purpose. KAGAN: Rick Warren, I know it's going to be a huge weekend for you, and we appreciate you taking time for us here this morning.

WARREN: Thank you.

KAGAN: Rick Warren, the author of "The Purpose-Driven Life."

Thank you.

WARREN: God bless you.

KAGAN: In a few minutes, President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al-Jaafari are expected to end their closed-door meeting at the White House. They're going to come out and have a news conference.

They've been discussing Iraq's security and insurgency. They will be addressing the press and taking questions. We'll go love to the White House as soon as that begins.


KAGAN: At this moment, Iraq's prime minister is talking about security and insurgency with President Bush at the White House. Ibrahim al-Jaafari visited wounded soldiers at Walter Reed Army Hospital on Thursday, and he offered his gratitude for the U.S. help in Iraq.


IBRAHIM AL-JAAFARI, INTERIM PRIME MINISTER OF IRAQ: In the name of my -- Iraqi people, I'd like to thank all the patients I've seen today, and for them to -- American people about the sacrifices for the democratic process.


KAGAN: Al-Jaafari also discussed troop withdrawal and tells "The Washington Post," "We would like to see the withdrawal of American forces as quickly as possible because the presence of any foreign troops on our land means there's a weakness that we cannot by ourselves control the security situation."

On Capitol Hill, House lawmakers take time to honor America's war dead. Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel and nine House colleagues are reading the names of those who gave their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. They include former NFL player Pat Tillman.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Specialist Patrick D. Tillman...


KAGAN: The names of the fallen troops are being read into the congressional record to officially honor their memory. There's some fallout from revelations about the Pentagon recruiting database. Privacy advocates are alarmed that the government is gathering personal information on students as young as 16 for possible military recruitment. The defense secretary says there is no need to be concerned.


DONALD RUMSFELD, DEFENSE SECRETARY: My understanding is that there has always been work done with respect to the recruiting base, and that's not new. There may be some new aspects to it because of additional technologies or things that are available, but we always worry about privacy issues.


KAGAN: The database was created two years ago. It was first publicly revealed, though, late last month under a provision of the Privacy Act.

Still waiting on President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister al- Jaafari. When their news conference begin at the White House, we will take you back there live. Right now a good time to get in a quick break.


KAGAN: We have received the two-minute warning. President Bush and Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari very soon coming into the White House to hold a news conference. They're expected to take questions from reporters, one of our best. David Ensor is following this event and he's standing by.

Good morning.


Well, sometimes at these news conferences a lot of subjects come up. But there are likely to be quite a few on Iraq at this time.

The meeting comes at what the White House spokesman is calling a critical time in Iraq. He's calling it a time of testing for the forces there. The polls show American support slipping somewhat for the war in Iraq, and the president has asked for network television time on Tuesday night to try and shore that up and convince the American people that it's not time to set a timeline for troops to leave, but time to stay in support of them.

At the summit here with Mr. al-Jaafari, they are also going to be discussing the training of troops, and, of course, the constitutional process that will be under way this summer in Iraq as Iraq tries to come up with a new constitution for a new country -- Daryn.

KAGAN: David, this comes at a time when we're hearing more and more voices raised in Congress, calling for, perhaps, a deadline about when American troops should be brought home.

ENSOR: That's right. And here at the White House, they're saying that they -- this is not the time for any kind of deadline, even though one or two Republicans have called for it. The White House is going to stand firm on that.

What you're going to hear is, on Tuesday night, the president trying to explain to the American people that there's going to be some tough -- tough going ahead, and they may even reach out so some of the Americans who oppose to the war in the first place, ask them to support the war now, to support the troops now and let them finish the job -- Daryn.

KAGAN: And as we're seeing the picture now. Actually, we'll be able to get the picture in a moment. The two leaders come around the corner, President Bush -- very well, let's go ahead and listen in to the news conference at the White House.

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Mr. Prime Minister, I am honored to welcome you to the White House.

As the leader of Iraq's first democratically elected government in more than 50 years, you're helping to lift your country from decades of fear and oppression.

The prime minister is a great Iraqi patriot. He's a friend of liberty. He's a strong partner for peace and freedom.

For more than two decades, he served the cause of Iraqi freedom in exile as a fierce opponent of Saddam Hussein's tyranny. Today, this medical doctor now serves his people as he works to build a new Iraq.

I told the prime minister that the American people share his democratic vision for Iraq. I told him of our nation's deep and abiding respect for Islam, for the people of Iraq, and for the potential of the nation that now belongs to them.

Today, we meet at a critical moment in the history of this proud nation. In just a few days, we will mark the first anniversary of the return of Iraq to its people. In the year since then, the Iraqis can take credit for some extraordinary achievements in the face of tremendous challenge.

BUSH: Seven months after resuming sovereignty over their nation, the Iraqi people defied the car bombers and assassins to hold their first free elections in a half century.

In April, the newly elected Transitional National Assembly formed a government and appointed Dr. Jaafari as the prime minister.

This month, after a spirited debate, the Iraqis reached an agreement to expand their constitutional drafting committee to include more Sunni Arabs, so that this important community also has a strong voice in shaping the future of their country.

The prime minister and I discussed the important work the Iraqis have before them in the months ahead.

This work includes drafting a permanent constitution for a free Iraq, submitting it to the Iraqi people for approval, and then holding new elections to choose a constitutional government.

BUSH: These are monumental tasks, yet at every step of the way so far the Iraqi people have met their strategic objectives, and the terrorists have failed to stop them.

I commend the prime minister and his fellow Iraqis for their hard work and courage. I'm confident the Iraqi people will continue to defy the skeptics as they assume greater responsibility for their security and build a new Iraq that represents their diversity.

The way ahead is not going to be easy. The killings and roadside bombings that we see underscore that freedom in Iraq is opposed by a violent and ruthless enemy with no regard for human life.

The enemy includes former members of Saddam Hussein's regime, the enemy includes criminal elements, and the enemy includes foreign terrorists.

The terrorists are fighting in Iraq because they know a free Iraq in the heart of the Middle East will deal a severe blow to an ideology that lives on oppression and fear.

BUSH: By securing Iraqi democracy, we'll make America and our friends and allies around the world safer.

The enemy's goal is to drive us out of Iraq before the Iraqis have established a secure, democratic government. They will not succeed.

Our goal is clear: a democratic and peaceful Iraq that represents all Iraqis.

Our troops will continue to train Iraqi security forces so these forces can defend their country and to protect their people from terror.

And as Iraqis become more capable in defending their nation, our troops will eventually return home with the honor they have earned.

As the Iraqi people stand up for their freedom, they know that the free world is now standing with them.

BUSH: Earlier this week, more than 80 countries and international organizations came together in Brussels to discuss how to help Iraq provide for its security and rebuild its country. And next month, donor countries will meet in Jordan to discuss Iraqi reconstruction.

I appreciate Prime Minister Jaafari's brave leadership. Prime Minister Jaafari is a bold man.

I've enjoyed my discussion with you, Mr. Prime Minister. He is a frank, open fellow who was willing to tell me what's on his mind. What is on his mind is peace and security for the people of Iraq. And what is on his mind is a democratic future that is hopeful.

I want to thank you for your courage. I want to thank you for your understanding about the nature of free societies.

BUSH: I want to thank you for helping Iraq become a beacon of freedom.

Prime Minister Jaafari's visit comes at an important time. I want to thank you for coming.


BUSH: Welcome.

JAAFARI: Thank you very much.

I want to thank the United States people for their courage and commitment against terrorism, and for democracy in our country.

I visited hospital in the (inaudible) and yesterday in Washington, D.C. There were Iraqis and Americans. They had suffered side by side in the war on a common enemy: terrorism.

They were fighting for the security of Iraq, but also of America. This is not the time to fall back.

JAAFARI: We owe it to those who have made sacrifices to continue toward the goals they fought. I see from up close what's happening in Iraq and I know we are making steady and substantial progress.

People said Saddam would not fall, and he did. They said the election would not happen, and they did. They say the constitution will not be written, but it will. And the political process has worked, and thousand thanks (ph), including the Sunni Arabs, will further undermine the terrorists.

They have joined the parliamentary committee and the government, and they will take part in the next elections.

(THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Another time, I would like to thank and commend Mr. President for his hospitality and his receiving me here, and for the subjects we discussed together.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And also he was frank and transparent, and he gave me very good feelings toward the people in Iraq.

I would also like to thank the American people for standing beside the Iraqi people, going through these difficult times. No doubt, our people will never forget those who stand beside Iraq, particularly at these terrible times.

We do appreciate the assistance given by America during the present period of time. In particular, there is a great achievement in Iraq. There is democracy in Iraq. And the people in Iraq defied terrorism and they refused to accept any constitutional association.

There is about 30 percent of women participating, and this is an example of democracy in Iraq and in the region, even in the whole world.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): There are six minister ladies in my government, and it is my intention to add one more woman to be deputy to the prime minister.

In the new Iraq, there is progress on more than one aspect, even against all the challenges we have, particularly in security.

Even though there is a lot of infiltration from the countries adjacent to Iraq moving from inside Iraq itself, but there is a will in Iraq to secure security. And so the bombing in Iraq has been reduced a lot.

And we are making great progress, and we depend on our security forces. Multinational forces also who work with us support us, but the responsibility in the front line is for the Iraqis, and everything is making progress, quantitatively and qualitatively.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We want to secure the love instead of hatred in our country; coexistence and cooperation in Iraq instead of cursing each other.

The whole people of Iraq would like to continue the democracy in Iraq and they will fight for achieving it.

So many people said that democracy will never stand in Iraq, said that elections will never be held in Iraq. And they said also that the government will never be established in Iraq. And they said there would be no constitution.

But everything will be there, and the whole world will see that changes in Iraq happened because of the great will of the people of Iraq and the countries that are assisting us.

We want fraternal relations with all the countries of the world and the adjacent countries, keeping our sovereignty against all infiltration from the borders of Iraq.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): We want goodness for all countries of the world, and wish you all the best for the American people.

Thank you very much.

BUSH: We'll answer a question from the American side and then one from the Iraqi side. Two a side, in other words.

QUESTION: On Iraq today, the vice president had described (OFF- MIKE) regarding the insurgency as being in its last throes. General Abizaid said there has been no significant change over the last six months. Your spokesman said you agreed with the vice president's assessment.

Can you help the American people understand these two different views that are coming forward, one from the administration, one from top commanders, when your spokesman tells us every day you get your information directly from those top commanders?

BUSH: I do get briefed by our top commanders, as does the vice president.

As a matter of fact, about two hours ago, General Abizaid briefed the vice president and myself and the secretary of defense about what is taking place on the ground.

And there's no question there's an enemy that still wants to shake our will and get us to leave.

BUSH: And they're willing to use any means necessary. They try to kill and they do kill innocent Iraqi people, women and children, because they know that the carnage that they reap will be on TV and they know that it bothers people to see death. And it does. It bothers me. It bothers American citizens. It bothers Iraqis. They're trying to shake our will, that's what they're trying to do.

And so, of course, we understand the nature of that enemy.

We also understand that there is reason to be optimistic about what's taking place. The very same commanders that say that these folks are terrible killers are also reminding us that we're making good progress.

On the one hand, you just heard the prime minister talk about a new democracy.

BUSH: Remember the killers tried to intimidate everybody so that they wouldn't vote. That was their tactic.

If you look back at the history of our involvement in Iraq, there was a lot of bombings and killings prior to the elections. What they were trying to do was say, "Let's shake the will of not only the Americans but the Iraqi citizens." But nevertheless, the Iraqi citizens wouldn't have their will shaken.

So we're optimistic. We're optimistic that more and more Iraqi troops are becoming better trained to fight the terrorists.

We're optimistic about the constitutional process. There is a political track that's moving forward in parallel with the security track.

No question about it's difficult. I mean, we hear it every day, of course. So do you. You report it every day. It's tough work and it's hard.

The hardest part of my job is to comfort the family members who've lost a loved one, which I intend to do when I go down to North Carolina on Tuesday. BUSH: But, nevertheless, progress is being made, and the defeat of the enemy -- and they will be defeated -- will be accelerated by the progress on the ground in Iraq. The establishment of a democratic state that listens to the hopes and aspirations of all the people in Iraq will lead to the defeat of this enemy.

And so that's what this administration believes, and we firmly believe it is going to happen.

Would you like to call on somebody from the Iraq press?


BUSH: Who would you like to call on? Better pick one.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): My first question is, Mr. Bush, we heard here that there are members of the Congress and the Senate, they are asking for a schedule for withdrawing your troops from Iraq. Have you discussed this with the government of Iraq or will it be left to the government to decide?

Mr. Jaafari, it was said in the streets of Iraq that the administration of America is pressuring your government through the visit of Ms. Condoleezza Rice in Iraq.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Is there a reaction to that with President Bush?

BUSH: Well, thank you. You've picked up a good American trick, which is to ask two questions.



There are not going to be any timetables. I have told this to the prime minister. We are there to complete a mission, and it's an important mission.

A democratic Iraq is in the interests of the United States and it's in the interests of laying the foundation for peace.

And if that's the mission, then why would you say to the enemy: "Here's a timetable. Just go ahead and wait us out."

It doesn't make any sense to have a timetable.

BUSH: You know, if you give a timetable, you're conceding too much to the enemy.

This is an enemy that will be defeated.

And so I'm not exactly sure who made that proposition, but you don't have to worry, Mr. Prime Minister, about timetables. And we want to work with you to continue to build up the Iraqi forces.

See, success will happen in Iraq when the political process moves forward like it is.

Again, I remind you all -- maybe four months ago -- anyway, beginning of the winter there was a lot of people here in the country that never thought the elections would go forward. They thought the enemy had the upper hand because of the death and destruction that we saw on our TV screens.

They said, "Well, can't possibly be elections. The Iraqi people don't want to be free. And, you know, the killers are going to stop the elections."

And sure enough, over 8 million people voted because they do want to be free.

BUSH: And so success will occur as this political process continues to move forward.

And we spent time talking about making sure that Sunnis were a part of the process, and I appreciate the prime minister's attitude.

We made sure we talked about making sure that people's points of view are represented, making sure that we stayed on -- the only timetable that I think is going to -- that I know is out there is the timetable that says, "Let's have the constitution written by a certain date and let's have it ratified by a certain date and let's have the election by a certain date."

That's the timetable. And we're going to stay on that timetable, and it's important for the Iraqi people to know we are.

And the second track is to have Iraqis take the fight to the enemy. And we're slowly but surely getting this training completed. And so we spent time today not only hearing about the conditions on the ground and the nature of the enemy from General Abizaid and General Casey, but we also talked about progress in the training mission.

BUSH: And we are making good progress when it comes to training Iraqis.

One of the interesting statistics as to whether or not the Iraqis want to join the fight is whether or not they're able to recruit Iraqis to join the army. And recruitment's high. In other words, Iraqis do want to be a part of the process.

And so part of the coalition's job is to give these Iraqi units the training necessary to be able to fight the terrorists.

That's our strategy. And it is working and it's going to work, for the good of the country.

And now he asked you a question...


BUSH: ... and it's very intelligent... (CROSSTALK)

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): As for the second question, on the visit of Ms. Rice, Condoleezza Rice, to Iraq, the general impression of that visit was a general review for the situation there.

It was a time for us that gave us support at (inaudible). And I think they played a great role -- the greater opportunity for the Iraqis as a big party.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And as for the program and the ministers that attended, they all spoke in the interest of Iraq. And we thanked her very much for the efforts she made. And I spoke about the preparation for her and what she can present her services to Iraq. And I believe she played a great role and will play a great role in (inaudible). And I hope the recommendations will reflect on the donor countries so that we get the interests to the Iraqi people particular for the services.

Thank you.

QUESTION: Declining public support for the mission in Iraq and the lack of progress on some of your domestic priorities has prompted suggestions that you're in something of a second-term slump. Do you worry...

BUSH: A quagmire perhaps.

QUESTION: You can choose the word, sir.

Do you worry at all about losing some of your ability to drive the agenda, both internationally and domestically?

QUESTION: And, Mr. Prime Minister, if I may, does the decline in American support for the mission in Iraq have any impact on your government and the people of your country?

BUSH: No, I appreciate the (inaudible).

Look, this is a time of testing, and it's a critical time. We're asking Congress to take on some big tasks domestically.

I fully understood when I went into the Social Security debate that there would be a lot of people that wished we hadn't brought it up. I knew that.

I mean, after all, there are some in Congress that would rather not take on the tough issue. Maybe they're afraid if you take on a tough issue, it'll make it harder to get reelected.

And so I'm not surprised that there is a, kind of, a reaction -- the do-nothing reaction in Congress toward Social Security. And I'm not surprised the American people are saying, "I wonder why nothing's getting done."

They see a problem, and they're wondering why people won't step up and solve the problem.

BUSH: So I'm not surprised about that people are balking at doing big things.

I do think we'll get an energy bill that'll be good, and show the American people finally we're willing to put an energy strategy in law that'll help us conserve more and diversify away from hydrocarbons and develop technologies that'll enable us to burn coal cleanly, for example.

Overseas, the idea of helping a country that had been devastated by a tyrant become a democracy is also a difficult chore, and it's hard work, particularly since there's an enemy that is willing to use suicide bombers to kill. It's hard to stop suicide bombers, and it's hard to stop these people that in many cases are being smuggled into Iraq from outside Iraq.

BUSH: It's hard to stop them. And yet, they're able to do incredible damage. They're damaging not only -- you know, they're obviously killing Americans, but they're killing a lot more Iraqis. And their whole attempt is to frighten the people of both our countries. That's what they're trying to do.

In other words, they figure if they can shake our will and, you know, affect public opinion, then politicians will give up on the mission.

I'm not giving up on the mission.

We're doing the right thing, which is to set the foundation for peace and freedom.

And I understand why the, you know, the Al Qaida network, for example, is so terrified about democracy, because democracy is the opposite of what they believe.

Their ideology is one of oppression and hate.

BUSH: Democracy is one that lifts up people and is based upon hope.

I think I've said, at this press conference here in the East Room, it's like following polls is like a dog chasing a tail. I'm not sure how that translates.

But my job is to set an agenda and to lead toward that agenda. And we're laying the foundation for peace around the world. Iraq is a part of the agenda. There's going to be -- there were elections in Lebanon.

We hope Egypt has free and open elections. My dream is that there be a Palestinian state living side-by-side in peace with Iraq.

I noticed our former ambassador to Afghanistan is with us, who's now going to be the ambassador to Iraq. Afghanistan is a hopeful story -- still difficult, because, again, there are terrorists there associated with the likes of -- or are part of the Al Qaida network that is interested in stopping the advance of democracy, because democracy will be a part of their defeat and demise.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you very much.

As for the question on the reduction of support, the Iraqi people had a specific request, which is toppling down Saddam Hussein for reason relating to their dignity and their politics.

And after Saddam Hussein was removed, through the different efforts -- international efforts and Iraqis -- this was achieved.

Right now we have another danger, which is terrorism, which is against not only the Iraqi people, but all the world -- countries of the world at any time doesn't have any particular land, but it works everywhere. Geography of terrorism is the human beings themselves, and those people who are doing it are the enemies of humanity.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Once they do it in Washington, once in Spain, once in Iraq.

So fighting terrorism and limiting their impact, and in order to keep the human dignity and civilization, requires that we all act together. It's not only the duty of Iraqi people, but other countries as well.

As you know, Iraq is rich in oil, in water, in cultivation and strategy (ph) and terrorism. But because of the exceptional circumstances of Iraq, now it has become a poor country. So we have to have the impact and the support from other countries.

The success of our Iraqi people is your own success. The people of Iraq are civilized and look forward to support from all other countries of the world. You have given us something more than money, you have given us a lot of your sons, your children that were killed beside our own children in Iraq.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Of course, when this is more precious than any other kind of support we receive, you have to be proud before your own people that you presented us for the maintenance of democracy in Iraq and to remove the dictatorship.

We do not forget those who stood beside us at hard times, and they are decided to go forward.

And there is a lot of difference between one month and another, between one week and another. Iraqi people are insistent on going along the path for their economy and their security, but we do need to help all other countries who help us to stand beside us.

Thank you.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Mr. Prime Minister, I am a presenter on radio in Iraq. My question is for you.

QUESTION (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): For more than two years we've gone through the change in Iraq, but the process of building was very slow. But our secure cities in Iraq, Samarra and Kurdistan, when will you begin the reconstruction in Iraq? When do we begin to establish the first basis of reconstruction? And you know that if you started reconstruction in Iraq it will mean that young people will have something to do and they will leave terrorist activities.

So that question is for Mr. Prime Minister.

There were discussions held with the President Bush. And the most important thing we discussed with him, we want to know about that. Thank you very much.

BUSH: Sometimes we don't tell you things, you know.


No, we discussed a lot of important things. We discussed democracy, we discussed having a constitution, and we discussed security. We discussed reconstruction. We are spending reconstruction money.

BUSH: But, you know, you need to ask that to the government. They're in charge. It's your government, not ours.

This is a government that's got the ministries in place, that spends the money.

We're willing to help -- and we have helped. And I want to thank the Congress and the American people for their generosity in helping Iraq rebuild. And we're spending money.

But remember, your question kind of made it seem like that we're in charge. We're not. You had elections. 8.5 million people voted. And this good man is now in charge of the government.

I don't want to be passing the buck, as we say. But we're more than willing to help reconstruction efforts -- but this is a sovereign government...

QUESTION: Thank you very much.

BUSH: ... with an elected prime minister -- by the people of Iraq. And so we want to look forward to working with the government.

Our role is to help. His role is to govern and lead.

BUSH: And we've got the money allocated. Obviously, it's important to get electricity to the Iraqi citizens, and clean water to the Iraqi citizens.

I was pleased to see the other day when I was reading that there's a lot of air traffic in and out of the airport now, quite a lot of air traffic. In other words, there's commerce beginning to develop.

We want to be helpful. But the responsibility rests with the people who the Iraqi people elected.

And that's you, Mr. Prime Minister.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): Thank you, Mr. President.

Of course there were many points discussed with the president, Mr. Bush, in our special meeting. And we talked about so many facts. It was the first meeting between us, so we talked directly about the democracy in Iraq and the constitution, the achievement of the constitution. And we decided to continue the case of security until everything is well established.

And at the same time, we felt that there is a Marshall project after the Second World War that contributed -- the U.S. contributed in that.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): And in the Truman government when they presented assistance to the German people, German people had selected Hitler in a democratic process that had a 98 percent result.

However, we are quite happy with this hospitality of the U.S. So Germany was able to -- the Iraqi people did not elect Saddam Hussein. In fact, they suffered a lot from Saddam Hussein, before he attacked the geographically adjacent countries.

He took their money before he took the money of Kuwait. He occupied Kuwait, in fact, as he did. And there is a lot indications to tell us that the Iraqi people are innocent of all that had happened.

They have to pay off so many debts, and we hope that all countries will stand beside us to correct this unexceptional situation. They did not commit any crimes against any people. They are peaceful.

JAAFARI (THROUGH TRANSLATOR): But it was Saddam Hussein who committed the crimes, and he brought about so many deaths and losses to the Iraqi people.

We look forward to the international community to stand beside us. And we believe that this is a humanitarian stance.

And we hope that Mr. Bush will try to redo a Marshall Plan, calling it the Bush plan, to help Iraq, to help the Iraqi people. And this would be a very wonderful step that they stand beside us.

BUSH: Good job. Thank you.

Thank you all.


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