CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
President Bush Addresses Nation, World
Aired September 7, 2003 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is a CNN SPECIAL EVENT. The Presidential Address.
Four months after the President declared an end to major combat, Iraq remains a dangerous and costly mission. Is the public support declining? Will Congress stay the course? Will US allies around the world sign on to help rebuild Iraq? And as the September 11 anniversary approaches, is the US winning the war on terrorism?
Ahead during CNN's live coverage, with Paula Zahn and Aaron Brown in Washington. And CNN correspondents around the world. As the President prepares to deliver his address to the American people.
AARON BROWN, CNN ANCHOR: The White House on a late summer night seen from our vantage point across Lafayette Park. We're just about a half an hour or so, President Bush will speak to the country about Iraq. It is an important night for the president, and for the nation.
Good evening everyone from Washington. We welcome our viewers around the world as well, I'm Aaron Brown.
PAULA ZAHN, CNN ANCHOR: Hello everyone and I'm Paula Zahn. Good to have you all with us this evening. It has been a 130 days since President Bush's last national address. You will remember he gave that address from the flight deck of the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln.
In it he declared an end to the major combat operations in Iraq. Senior White House Correspondent John King joins us from the White House. John, I understand you had the opportunity to look at a couple exerpts from the speech. What can we expect to hear tonight?
JOHN KING, SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well Paula, the setting tonight perhaps as important as the substance. When we hear from the President 30 minutes from now it will be here at the White House in the cabinet room. A very serious and a sober setting.
He will not be standing under a giant banner that says mission accomplished. It will not be the festive atmosphere we saw four months ago. Instead, the President will address the American people and tell them in his view, as the two-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks approaches, that Iraq is now the central front in the war on terrorism. And Mr. Bush will make the case that it is worth nearly $90 billion. $90 billion in spending next year from the US taxpayers to pay for the military operations and the reconstruction in Iraq.
This speech comes at the urging of many members of Congress just back in Washington. Republicans worried the President is beginning to lose the support of the American people on this issue. Many critics, of course, wonder why Mr. Bush went to war in Iraq to begin with. Still no weapons of mass destruction found. No announcements on that front.
But Mr. Bush will say that he began a war on terrorism against al Qaeda two years ago, and from exerts of the President's speech he will say this, quote, "Iraq is now the central front. Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there. And there they must be defeated. This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do whatever is necessary. We will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our nation more secure."
So the President trying to rerally, if you will, the support of the American people here at home. He also wants support of countries around the world, especially troops from them, to help back up and reinforce the US troops in Iraq.
Paula hard to understate this moment for the President. They view this here at the White House as a critical speech. The big headline, $87 billion, the President says, this will cost next year.
ZAHN: Finally John, give us a better understanding of the timing of this weekend. You talk a little bit about the White House responding to some of the Presidents declining poll numbers.
KING: Administration officials say the President actually decided back in late August to do this speech. This date was picked over the weekend. But the administration is trying to say this is a routine update to the American people. This speech is anything but routine.
ZAHN: John thanks so much. We'll see you a bit later on this evening.
BROWN: John thank you. Next, to Iraq where the situation is complicated in so many ways, but simple in just one. For all the shortcomings, the chaos and the rest, Iraqis can now watch an American President's speak without being told on pain of prison or worse, what to think about that speech.
CNN's Nic Robertson joins us now from Baghdad.
Nic, good evening to you, Iraqi's in many ways are an undecided people about the Americans. What do they want to hear tonight?
NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: They want to hear that they are going to get improved security. They will be hoping that any money that the President can get to spend in Iraq will be -- will bring them the security that they want, that they say they've been needing since the US forces arrived.
Their sense of that lack of security was never more shaken than in the month of August, the attack on the UN Headquarters, killing more than 20 people. Killing the head of the U.N. mission here towards the end of August. The attack in Najaf, the holy city south of Baghdad, killing an important leader, an important religious leader.
The people of Iraq have looked at those events. For them that means that the United States, at this time, cannot bring them security. They say that it brings them uncertainty at this time.
The brother of that slain religious leader who is on the governing counsel here this weekend said that he hoped Iraqi's could unite, could not be defeated by the enemies that would try to split them. And he called for more security to head the new interim foregn minister here this weekend, said that he thought Iraq was now becoming a magnet for terrorism.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Many of the terrorists organizations see Iraq as the most fertile ground to settle their scores with the coalition. And they are coming into Iraq through various entry points, you see, in significant numbers.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTSON: Well indeed, those border entry points are much concern to US troops. More are being deployed to the border. That will greatly help the Iraqi people believe that they may get more security. I was at one of those borders recently. They are still very porous. More troops are being applied there. That is what the Iraqis want to see. We'll hope this money the President may get will be spent on -- Aaron.
BROWN: Nic, very briefly, there have been these high profile attacks that you mentioned, but day-to-day in a city like Baghdad, is it a dangerous place for Iraqis to do their lives?
ROBERTSON: In the center of Iraq it still is a dangerous place for many of Iraqis. Certainly perhaps in the north and the Kurdish regions much safer. In the south, perhaps a little safer than Baghdad. But it's what's in the back of people's minds. Aaron, people here still, I told you, haven't been out for a night out since before the war here. That's how it's affected their lives. And that's the way they interpret the situation here.
BROWN: Nic, thank you. Nic Robertson is in Baghdad -- Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks Aaron. The President's address is timed as the US appeals for more international help in Iraq. Christiane Amanpour is in London. She joins us now with perspectives on what the Europeans and US allies want to hear this evening. Good evening Christiana.
CHRISTIANE AMONPOUR, CNN CORRESPONDENT, LONDON: Paula good evening. And of course for the last several months as we've watched this sort of anarchy and chaos unfold in Iraq, there's been quite a lot of comment over here criticizing the Bush Administration. Not only here, but in the rest of the world as well.
Basically saying that US invaded a country, took a country that did not engage in that kind of terrorism, and made it into a terrorist state. Now they're looking at this new draft resolution that the US is circulating around the United Nations. And there are a lot of questions that the usual suspects, if you like, France, Germany, Russia have.
They want to know when the US is going to hand over the sovereignity to the Iraqis. They want a firm timetable on the end of the occupation. Countries such as Pakistan, Turkey, India, countries that perhaps the US would like to see troops from go into Iraq, are also holding out because they need the legitimacy of a UN resolution.
But things are not quite there yet. It's probably many weeks before a resolution is hammered out. But what in short the Europeans want to see on Iraq is some kind of much broader sharing of the responsibility. The Bush administration disparaged the UN, now is having to change course and go to the UN. And now they are trying to get what they can out of this change of course -- Paula.
ZAHN: Christiane, you mentioned France, Germany, and Russia. Do you suspect those countries will, in the end, back this latest proposed resolution that's being debated?
AMANPOUR: Well I think they're very concerned not to have the kind of acrimony that characterized the diplomacy, or the lack of diplomacy before the war. So there aren't the kinds of really heated emotional debates going on in the public view right now. And they're all, I think, much more determined to try to resolve this diplomatically.
But still, there are a lot of questions. France and Germany say they're not just going to go along now, but they do want to get some serious issues they have resolved, they say, before deciding whether or not to contribute troops and sign onto this new resolution if it happens.
ZAHN: Christiane reporting from London tonight. Thanks so much -- Aaron.
BROWN: Well we've talked a bit already on the notion that the president has a number of audiences to reach tonight. But only one of those audiences is being shot at and killed or wounded on an almost daily basis. Were it not the case, it's safe to say, the President wouldn't be speaking tonight before the country.
So we turn now to the Pentagon. Our Senior Pentagon Correspondent Jamie McIntyre. Jamie, the Pentagon has resisted the notion of more American troops there, but they clearly want more troops there.
JAMIE MCINTYRE, SENIOR PENTAGON CORRESPONDEDNT: That's right. And the US troops there want more troops there. I mean, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, just in the last couple of days, visited US troops in Iraq to get a first hand look at what was going on there. But I doubt he got really an earful of some of the real concerns of the soldiers.
From traveling with high officials in the region, I can tell you that it's not a forum for frank exchange of views. But if you hang out with US troops for any length of time, they'll eventually tell you some of their concerns. And basically what they want to hear from President Bush is the exit strategy. Not just for the United States, but their personal exit strategy. How long are they going to have to be there?
The most difficult part of serving in Iraq these days, for US soldiers and marines, and other US troops on the ground, is the uncertainty. The uncertainty of knowing if they're going to be shot at each day, and the uncertainty of knowing exactly how long they're going to be there and the stress that that puts on them at home.
And of course just last week, congressional budget office took a look at the numbers and said it's going to be very difficult for the US to sustain this level of troops without making some big sacrifices, like longer tours of duty, or sending more reserves in.
So what the troops really want to hear is that there's relief in sight. And then they tell us that they understand the mission there and it's importance. And that they can perform that mission, but they'd like to know when they are going to be going home.
BROWN: Jamie, on the first point there, they are likely to be disappointed. We don't expect the President to talk about deployment schedules. Just take 30 seconds if you can and explain why the Pentagon would like to see the force internationalized more than it is now.
MCINTYRE: Well the Pentagon insists that the most important part is to get the Iraqi's in control of stuff. And that's what they where they say they're putting most of their emphasis. But then multinational forces from other countries can also just simply relieve the burden on the United States particularly in areas where it's not as tense. And that would just simply free up more troops, and give US commanders more flexibility.
BROWN: Jamie, thank you. Our Senior Pentagon Correspondent, Jamie McIntyre tonight over on Capitol Hill not far from where we are now. Where much of the prompting for tonight's address came from supporters of the President. Members of his own party.
CNN Congressional correspondent Jonathan Karl has the watch tonight. John, what do they want to hear over there?
JONATHAN CARL, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well Republican lawmakers heard from their constituents over the summer Aaron, that they were concerned about the mounting death toll in Iraq, and about the continued high cost of the war and reconstruction effort in Iraq.
So it was Republicans who went to the White House, Republican Congressional leaders, and told the President that they will do whatever he needs them to do to give him the support in Iraq, but they need him to go to the people to make the case directly to the American people about why it is worth continued loss of American lives, and American dollars.
Now this $87 billion figure that you heard John King report a short while ago is considerably higher than many leaders up here in Congress expected to hear. $87 billion, remember, is more than the entire federal budget for a year on education. It's a lot of money, and it comes on top of the $79 billion that Congress allocated for Iraq back in April.
So it's a lot of money, but the Republicans are saying that's fine, but the President has to come out and tell the American people why it's important to do that much.
Now as you know, much of the pressure here has also been coming from Democrats. Hostile fire from Democrats. Democratic congressional candidates have been most impassioned on the issue of Iraq. The presidential candidates in their most recent debate came out. Their strongest lines were criticizing the President on Iraq.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This President is a miserable failure on foreign policy and on the economy, and has got to be replaced.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This President is going to have to go back to the very people he humiliated...
UNIDENTIFIED PARTICIPANT: This President had no plan.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He failed in his diplomacy.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This administration let down our troops.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That is one of the fundamental problems with this administration. It will not recognize that there are consequences to your action.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KARL: But despite all the sound and fury, the President will probably get almost exactly what he asks for from Congress in terms of money for Iraq. But before they give him that money, Aaron, they are going to demand specifics about how the money is going to be spent and they're also going to asking for an exit strategy -- Aaron.
BROWN: John thank you. Jonathan Karl on Capitol Hill tonight. Thank you -- Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks Aaron, 2004 presidential race is casting a very long shadow over tonight's address. Wolf Blitzer and Bill Schneider join us to take a look at the political pressures on the President tonight.
We go first to Wolf in Washington. Hi Wolf. I know you've been out there talking to a lot of people here in this city. What is it they think the President has to do tonight?
WOLF BLITZER, CNN CORRESPONDENT: One thing the President has to do tonight, Paula, is come across as leveling with the American people. Democrats and even many Republican insiders are telling me the President can't simply be seen as spinning. They say the American people want to know the brutal truth right now, how long will US troops remain in Iraq, how much the mission will cost and where are those weapons of mass destruction.
Going into the speech, his well disciplined as aids have steadfastly refused to admit mistakes in post war planning. Indeed, when I interviewed the National Security Advisor Dr. Condoleeza Rice earlier today, this was as far as she would go.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CONDOLEEZA RICE, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: Obviously there were things that were not foreseen. They have now -- are now being addressed. But I would just remind people, when you're dealing with a society like Saddam Hussein's, you are not going to know very munch about it.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: And two additional notes Paula, I'm told by key insiders, one critical reason the President decided to speak out tonight was to reassure that Republican base of supporters, some of whom were directly urging him to address the American people at this critical moment. He can't of course afford to lose they're support, especially going into a reelection campaign.
Second, given the uproar of those sixteen controversial words in his State of the Union Address, on enriched uranium in Iraq, I'm told that every word in tonights speech has been thoroughly vetted, and then vetted once again -- Paula.
ZAHN: I would imagine that would be the case. Wofl thanks so much, if you wouldn't mind standing by we're going to get back to you in a couple minutes.
Right now though, we're going to look more specifically at the timing of tonight's speech. As well as some of the current public opinion on Iraq and the US economy.
Senior Political Analyst, Bill Schneider joins us from Los Angeles tonight. Bill welcome. There was a new CNN time poll out this week. How do you think the President's public support is holding up in those polls?
BILL SCHNEIDER, SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST, CNN: Well you know Paula, the news to the President frankly is not good. Our latest poll shows that President Bush has a 52 percent job approval rating. That's down from 55 percent in July, and 63 percent in May. Fifty-two percent is the lowest job rating this President has gotten since he took office.
His rating is getting perilously close to 50 percent. And below that, he's in trouble for reelection.
ZAHN: Bill tell us a little bit more about what the trigger point is in these polls. What number was the White House the most concerned about?
SCHNEIDER: Well they're certainly concerned about the numbers on the economy because the economy more than Iraq appears to be the public's number one concern, and it's the economy that seems to be dragging down the President's ratings.
There is concern about Iraq, but it's partly related to the economy. The US as we heard, is spending more than $1 billion a week in Iraq. And a lot of Americans are asking why is the US spending all of that money in Iraq when the US needs that money here at home? Why are we rebuilding Iraq's infrastructure, when the infrastructure here in the United States is crumbling?
Remember last month's big blackout in New York. When asked whether the war in Iraq is worth the cost in both lives and money, the public is split, 49 percent say it is, 43 percent say it's not. Our poll shows the public is perfectly willing to let other countries share the decision-making, and the oil profits, and the reconstruction contracts in Iraq, as long as they share the cost.
So the Iraq issue is being driven, in part, by the public's big concern, and that's the economy -- Paula.
ZAHN: Thanks so much Bill.
Let's go back to Wolf now for a minute. Wolf, at the top of the hour, John King was saying that this speech was something that the White House has had in mind since the end of August. And yet, as Bill has just reported, these poll numbers would suggest that they played a key part in the timing here. Give us a broad view of that right now.
BLITZER: There is no doubt that the President knows he has to address the American public right now. There's no doubt he looks at the poll numbers. His key political advisors, as Bill Schneider just pointed out, must see that steady decline. He also knows right now there's a critical moment, not only in Iraq, but Afghanistan as well -- as well as the Israeli Palestinian so-called road map to peace that doesn't seem to be going anywhere right now.
This whole area of the Middle East was supposed to calm down after a decisive US military victory in Iraq. But, it looks at least right now, like it's going in the other direction and the President not only has to reassure a very jittery American public, he has to reassure Arabs, and Israelis and others in the Middle East that he has a steady course right now and he knows what he's doing.
ZAHN: Wolf there's been so much discussion of how much pressure is being put on the United States to steer this road map. How exposed do you think the Bush Administration feels on this one right now?
BLITZER: Pretty exposed right now, because it looks like an awful mess. I've been covering the Middle East for almost three decades, and the tensions right now, the animosity, the fear on both sides, is so intense, that it looks like the whole thing could clearly collapse and then the aftermath of the President meeting with the former Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas, the current Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon just a few weeks ago in Jordan. All of that looks like ancient history right now.
That crisis seriously has a potential of simply getting way out of control.
ZAHN: Wolf thanks so much. See you a little bit later on this evening -- Aaron.
BROWN: Thank you. The President speaks now in less than 15 minutes. Our preview of that speech and the reason behind it continues in a moment. We'll take a break first. This is CNN.
ZAHN: And welcome back. The nation's capital on a mild September night. Inside the White House, President Bush just a few minutes away from his prime time address to the nation. He is scheduled to begin speaking around the bottom of the hour, and talk for about 17 minutes. We'll continue here until about that time, and then, at the top of the hour we'll hand things over to a very special addition of "LARRY KING LIVE" -- Aaron.
BROWN: We're joined now by Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel. Senator Hagel is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has long expressed unease with the Administration's policy in Iraq, both before the war, and in this uneasy peace afterward. Senator, it's good to have you with us today.
SEN. CHUCK HAGEL, (R) NEBRASKA: Thank you.
BROWN: Senator McCain, your colleague said today, referring to Iraq, it is our war, we started it, we need to finish it, we need more troops and time is not on our side. Do you agree with that?
HAGEL: Well, I do agree with it. But I would add that this, we will not get out of the Middle East, certainly not out of Iraq successfully without a very focused, defined, international involvement. And that I hope is something that the President is going to talk about very directly tonight.
BROWN: The President's expected to say this is an opportunity for the international community, and the responsibility of the international community. Short of command over American troops which, I think most people would say is not negotiable, what's on the table? What's is the United States willing to offer do you suspect?
HAGEL: Well we are going to have to include many nations here in the responsibility of building Iraq. And I said building Iraq verses rebuilding Iraq because we are in fact building Iraq.
And we cannot do it alone. We can't sustain that awesome task. We can't sustain it through money, through funds, through troops, because not only are we now focused completely in Iraq, just as Senator McCain said, but we have Afghanistan, the Middle East, other parts of the world are very crucial and critical to our war on terrorism.
A large global effort is going to require a large global relationship with all of our international partners. And that means yes, the United Nations, and yes many countries involved. And they must share in the responsibility of building Iraq.
BROWN: Senator, when the Administration was trying to get support for the war, it talked about Iraq after the war as almost self-sufficient in terms of rebuilding. $50 billion to $100 billion in oil revenue within two to three years. Clearly that's not the case now. Does the President have to acknowledge some failures here in the planning for the post-war Iraq?
HAGEL: Well I don't know if we need to go back and cover that ground Aaron. The fact is we did not do a very good job in planning for a post-Saddam Iraq. I think that fact has been established.
But we are where we are. We need to move forward. This is very critical to the future stability of the Middle East. That's war on terrorism, that's America's future. That's the world's future. We need to move forward tonight. I hope the President talks about that. I hope he talks very specifically, as I said, about getting others involved.
Obviously he's going to talk to the American people directly about the cost. What it's going to take to sustain. Not just to -- not just in money, but in terms of our troops this effort. This is a large effort. We've never been involved in anything quite like this before. This is complicated, dangerous, and very uncertain.
BROWN: Is it premature to talk about an exit strategy?
HAGEL: Well I don't think you go into these things, Aaron, thinking about a neat clean cleavage out and even a timeframe as to when you can get out. But here is the focus, the focus must be getting the Iraqi people in a position as quickly as we can, for self- governance and independence. That cannot be accomplished, in my opinion, without a very significant involvement of our international partners.
That's what we should be focused on. Get America out of there as quickly as we can. The President has said that's his objective. I don't know if that happens in a year, or two years, or three years. But we should focus on that.
But he is going to have to talk about this in the context of an exit strategy, in terms of our troop rotation schedules. How he's going to put these other troops in there to replace some of our troops. And again, that leads us back to the same place, and that's international help and support.
BROWN: Senator Hagel, it's good to have you with us.
HAGEL: Thank you.
BROWN: We'll talk to you after the President's speech as well. Senator Chuck Hagel, Republican Senator of Nebraska, thank you -- Paula.
ZAHN: The President's speech expected to begin in a few minutes. It's certainly at the White House, it usually runs on time. We're going to take a quick break, and bring that speech to you live. We'll be right back.
ZAHN: Welcome back. We're just minutes away from the President addressing the nation tonight on the US mission in Iraq. We're going to quickly go back to John King, who's going to share with us more of the headlines of this speech.
John you mentioned at the top of the hour, the President's going to request an additional $87 billion. Can you share with us more of what kind of tone we can expect to hear in this speech?
KING: It's a very serious, sober tone Paula. The President talks about Iraq as a central front in the war on terrorism. He says whatever it takes in terms of money, in terms of the length of deployment.
Senator Hagel was just saying the President has to give some sense of when those troops will come home. We are told he will not, because the White House cannot answer that question. The President essentially making the case that two years ago this week America was attacked. He says Iraq is now central to the battle going on. And the President says for all the doubts the American people might have about the rising death toll, and the rising price tag, he has no choice, but to continue on.
BROWN: John, a presidential speech is often the beginning of a campaign to sell a policy. Administration officials standing out across the country, making speeches, doing talks, interviews and the rest. Is that what this is? The beginning of something?
KING: The beginning in the sense that as John Karl noted, when the Administration goes up to Congress, look for skeptical questions, not just from the Democrats, but from the Republicans as well.
Bill Schneider had that polling at the top of the program. Many in Washington are beginning to say like father like son; the President wins the war, but then loses the support of the American people. They insist here at the White House, that will not happen.
One thing this president knows, as the country reflects today on September 11, that is the moment at which they came to trust this President. Remember the divided electorate, this president took office under great controversy. It was two years ago, this week, they came to trust George W. Bush. Mr. Bush is hoping he can retap that reservoir -- Paula.
ZAHN: John, we're going to break away, and then quickly look at that empty podium that the President will be approaching shortly where he will be addressing the nation from the Cabinet Room, a very important place where he often hold cabinet meetings.
Let's talk a little bit more about this so-called sales pitch, and the broad view of just how important tonight really is in the overall scheme of things.
KING: Well here in this country, he needs to make the case. We must spend tens of billions more in the year to come. And the around the world the President will say I know many of you did not agree with me when I went to war in Iraq, but I need your help now. The future of the world is at stake.
Here in the Cabinet Room now, The President of the United States, on a very big night.
GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good evening. I have asked for this time to keep you informed of America's actions in the war on terror.
Nearly two years ago, following deadly attacks on our country, we began a systematic campaign against terrorism. These months have been a time of new responsibilities, and sacrifice, and national resolve, and great progress.
America and a broad coalition acted first in Afghanistan by destroying the training camps of terror and removing the regime that harbored al Qaeda. In a series of raids and actions around the world, nearly two-thirds of al Qaeda's known leaders have been captured or killed, and we continue on al Qaeda's trail.
We have exposed terrorist front groups, seized terrorist accounts, taken new measures to protect our homeland and uncovered sleeper cells inside the United States.
And we acted in Iraq, where the former regime sponsored terror, possessed and used weapons of mass destruction, and for 12 years defied the clear demands of the United Nations Security Council.
Our coalition enforced these international demands in one of the swiftest and most humane military campaigns in history.
For a generation leading up to September the 11th, 2001, terrorists and their radical allies attacked innocent people in the Middle East and beyond, without facing a sustained and serious response. The terrorists became convinced that free nations were decadent and weak. And they grew bolder, believing that history was on their side.
Since America put out the fires of September 11th, and mourned our dead, and went to war, history has taken a different turn. We have carried the fight to the enemy. We are rolling back the terrorist threat to civilization, not on the fringes of its influence, but at the heart of its power.
This work continues. In Iraq, we are helping the long-suffering people of that country to build a decent and democratic society at the center of the Middle East. Together we are transforming a place of torture chambers and mass graves into a nation of laws and free institutions. This undertaking is difficult and costly, yet worthy of our country and critical to our security.
The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan and beyond would be a grave setback for international terrorism. The terrorists thrive on the support of tyrants and the resentments of oppressed peoples. When tyrants fall and resentment gives way to hope, men and women in every culture reject the ideologies of terror and turn to the pursuits of peace. Everywhere that freedom takes hold, terror will retreat.
Our enemies understand this. They know that a free Iraq will be free of them, free of assassins and torturers and secret police.
They know that as democracy rises in Iraq, all of their hateful ambitions will fall like the statues of the former dictator.
And that is why, five months after we liberated Iraq, a collection of killers is desperately trying to undermine Iraq's progress and throw the country into chaos.
Some of the attackers are members of the old Saddam regime who fled the battlefield and now fight in the shadows. Some of the attackers are foreign terrorists, who have come to Iraq to pursue their war on America and other free nations.
We cannot be certain to what extent these groups work together. We do know they have a common goal, reclaiming Iraq for tyranny.
Most, but not all, of these killers operate in one area of the country. The attacks you have heard and read about in the last few weeks have occurred predominantly in the central region of Iraq, between Baghdad and Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's former stronghold.
The north of Iraq is generally stable and is moving forward with reconstruction and self-government. The same trends are evident in the south, despite recent attacks by terrorist groups.
Though their attacks are localized, the terrorists and Saddam loyalists have done great harm.
They have ambushed American and British service members who stand for freedom and order. They have killed civilian aid workers of the United Nations who represent the compassion and generosity of the world. They have bombed the Jordanian embassy, the symbol of a peaceful Arab country. And last week they murdered a respected cleric and over a hundred Muslims at prayer, bombing a holy shrine and a symbol of Islam's peaceful teachings. This violence is directed not only against our coalition, but against anyone in Iraq who stands for decency and freedom and progress.
There is more at work in these attacks than blind rage. The terrorists have a strategic goal. They want us to leave Iraq before our work is done. They want to shake the will of the civilized world.
In the past, the terrorists have cited the examples of Beirut and Somalia, claiming that if you inflict harm on Americans, we will run from a challenge. In this, they are mistaken.
Two years ago, I told the Congress and the country that the war on terror would be a lengthy war, a different kind of war fought on many fronts in many places. Iraq is now the central front.
Enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand there, and there they must be defeated.
This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom and to make our own nation more secure.
America has done this kind of work before. Following World War II, we lifted up the defeated nations of Japan and Germany and stood with them as they built representative governments.
We committed years and resources to this cause. And that effort has been repaid many times over in three generations of friendship and peace.
America today accepts the challenge of helping Iraq in the same spirit, for their sake and our own.
Our strategy in Iraq has three objectives: destroying the terrorists, enlisting the support of other nations for a free Iraq and helping Iraqis assume responsibility for their own defense and their own future.
First, we are taking direct action against the terrorists in the Iraqi theater, which is the surest way to prevent future attacks on coalition forces and the Iraqi people.
We are staying on the offensive, with a series of precise strikes against enemy targets increasingly guided by intelligence given to us by Iraqi citizens.
Since the end of major combat operations, we have conducted raids, seizing many caches of enemy weapons and massive amounts of ammunition, and we have captured or killed hundreds of Saddam loyalists and terrorists.
So far, of the 55 most wanted former Iraqi leaders, 42 are dead or in custody. We are sending a clear message: Anyone who seeks to harm our soldiers can know that our soldiers are hunting for them. Second, we are committed to expanding international cooperation in the reconstruction and security of Iraq, just as we are in Afghanistan.
Our military commanders in Iraq advise me that the current number of American troops, nearly 130,000, is appropriate to their mission. They are joined by over 20,000 service members from 29 other countries.
Two multinational divisions, led by the British and the Poles, are serving alongside our forces. And in order to share the burden more broadly, our commanders have requested a third multinational division to serve in Iraq.
Some countries have requested an explicit authorization of the United Nations Security Council before committing troops to Iraq. I have directed Secretary of State Colin Powell to introduce a new Security Council resolution which would authorize the creation of a multinational force in Iraq to be led by America.
I recognize that not all our friends agreed with our decision to enforce the Security Council resolutions and remove Saddam Hussein from power, yet we cannot let past differences interfere with present duties.
Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized world.
Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity, and the responsibility, to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation.
Third, we are encouraging the orderly transfer of sovereignty and authority to the Iraqi people. Our coalition came to Iraq as liberators and we will depart as liberators.
Right now Iraq has its own Governing Council, comprised of 25 leaders representing Iraq's diverse people. The Governing Council recently appointed cabinet ministers to run government departments. Already more than 90 percent of towns and cities have functioning local governments which are restoring basic services.
We are helping to train civil defense forces to keep order and an Iraqi police service to enforce the law, a facilities protection service, Iraqi border guards to help secure the borders and a new Iraqi army.
In all these roles, there are now some 60,000 Iraqi citizens under arms, defending the security of their own country. And we are accelerating the training of more.
Iraq is ready to take the next steps toward self-government. The Security Council resolution we introduce will encourage Iraq's Governing Council to submit a plan and a timetable for the drafting of a constitution and for free elections. From the outset, I have expressed confidence in the ability of the Iraqi people to govern themselves. Now they must rise to the responsibilities of a free people and secure the blessings of their own liberty.
Our strategy in Iraq will require new resources. We have conducted a thorough assessment of our military and reconstruction needs in Iraq, and also in Afghanistan. I will soon submit to Congress a request for $87 billion. The request will cover ongoing military and intelligence operations in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, which we expect will cost $66 billion dollars over the next year.
This budget request will also support our commitment to helping the Iraqi and Afghan people rebuild their own nations after decades of oppression and mismanagement.
We will provide funds to help them improve security. And we will help them to restore basic services, such as electricity and water, and to build new schools, roads and medical clinics.
This effort is essential to the stability of those nations, and therefore to our own security. Now and in the future, we will support our troops and we will keep our word to the more than 50 million people of Afghanistan and Iraq.
Later this month, Secretary Powell will meet with representatives of many nations to discuss their financial contributions to the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
Next month, he will hold a similar funding conference for the reconstruction of Iraq. Europe, Japan, and states in the Middle East all will benefit from the success of freedom in these two countries, and they should contribute to that success.
The people of Iraq are emerging from a long trial. For them, there will be no going back to the days of the dictator, to the miseries of humiliation he inflicted on that good country. for the Middle East and the world, there will be no going back to the days of fear when a brutal and aggressive tyrant possessed terrible weapons. And for America, there will be no going back to the era before September 11, 2001, to false comfort in a dangerous world.
We have learned that terrorist attacks are not caused by the use of strength.
They are invited by the perception of weakness. And the surest way to avoid attacks on our own people is to engage the enemy where he lives and plans.
We are fighting that enemy in Iraq and Afghanistan today so that we do not meet him again on our own streets, in our own cities.
The heaviest burdens in our war on terror fall, as always, on the men and women of our armed forces and our intelligence services. They have removed gathering threats to America and our friends, and this nation takes great pride in their incredible achievements.
We are grateful for their skill and courage, and for their acts of decency, which have shown America's character to the world.
We honor the sacrifice of their families, and we mourn every American who has died so bravely, so far from home.
The Americans who assume great risks overseas understand the great cause they are in. Not long ago I received a letter from a captain in the Third Infantry Division in Baghdad. He wrote about his pride in serving a just cause and about the deep desire of Iraqis for liberty.
"I see it," he said, "in the eyes of a hungry people every day here. They are starved for freedom and opportunity."
And he concluded, "I just thought you'd like a note from the 'front lines of freedom.'"
And I want each of them to know: Your country thanks you, and your country supports you.
Fellow citizens, we have been tested these past 24 months, and the dangers have not passed. Yet Americans are responding with courage and confidence. We accept the duties of our generation. We are active and resolute in our own defense. We are serving in freedom's cause, and that is the cause of all mankind.
Thank you. And may God continue to bless America.
BROWN: Just four days before the second anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. The President updates the nation on the war on terror, saying the country will do what is necessary and spend what is necessary to complete the task started two years ago, specifically Afghanistan and Iraq.
John King, our Senior White House correspondent, John, -- David Gergen, the old presidential advisor, said to us on Friday night that one of the things the President needed to do here was buy some time from the American people. That they need some time for a policy to take shape in Iraq. Did this speech do that?
KING: Well that will be the question Aaron. Nothing at all new in this speech except the budget number, $87 billion. The President says he will ask for Congress to pay for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next year. No timetable for bringing home US troops. No announcement of any evidence of weapons of mass destruction. No announcement on the whereabouts perhaps of Saddam Hussein.
The President as you noted, four days before the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, essentially going back to the American people, making the case, this is central to the war on terrorism that began that fateful day. His message essentially to the American people is trust me.
Mr. Bush also acknowledging the debate around the world. Acknowledging many before this war did not support him around the world. Now the President says, he needs their help.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world. And opposing them must be the cost of the civilized world. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity and the responsibility to assure a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and Democratic nation.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
KING: And so Aaron, the President trying to win new friends, and new help from around the world. And I think David Gergen put it just about right, he's trying to win some support from the American people that buys him some time at a time when many Republicans just back in Washington say the country's getting a little nervous. The President is trying to make the case that in time Iraq will be a deacon of hope in the Middle East.
With the pictures, the rising death toll, he had to make this statement tonight.
BROWN: John thank you. Our Senior White House Correspondent John King. Just moments now after the President's speech -- Paula.
ZAHN: Of course the question tonight is did the Iraqi citizens hear, what they wanted to hear in tonight's address. We're going to go back to Baghdad, and Nic Robertson. I can't imagine that many of them heard this address since it's in the middle of the night there, but the President certainly expressing confidence that the Iraqi people are capable of governing themselves.
What else did you hear that you think might stand out to Iraqis?
ROBERTSON: Well certainly the Iraqi people are going to listen to the issue about terrorism, and how terrorism has been associated with Iraq. And many of them will say well look, Iraq wasn't --there wasn't alQaeda here in Iraq, there weren't terrorists here before the United States forces came here. They had been drawn in by the forces here.
Now talking to Iraqi politicians recently, they've told me that the work underway to increase the border guard here. Some 600 in the Northeast of Iraq to patrol some 500 miles of territory. Those Iraqis already trained by US forces to do that. One politician told me they need 10 times that number in that region.
A lot of work to be done. A lot of Iraqis will be saying look, the responsibility here for attracting all this trouble in on us now lies fairly and squarely at the feet of the US forces here -- Paula.
ZAHN: Nic thanks for the update -- Aaron.
BROWN: And let's go to Wolf. Wolf you in the preview of the Presidents speech talked about the people you've been talking to said they wanted from the President among other things candor. Did the President say enough in that vein, do you think, to satisfy his critics?
BLITZER: Probably not to satisfy his critics. There's no doubt that the people on the Democratic side like Howard Dean, presidential candidates and others in congress are going to remain very, very critical of the President. I'm sure he didn't satisfy the critics, but the President was pretty blunt, especially on the financial terms.
And just to give this some context, the $87 billion he's seeking for next year, a huge sum of money, go back to the first Gulf War which cost the coalition about $70 billion or so, $60-70 billion in total, almost all of that with the exception of about 4 or $5 billion came from the Japanese, the Europeans, the oil rich Arab nations. The US taxpayers wound up paying relatively small, a very modest part of this.
So far almost all of the expenditures in Iraq have come from the US treasury. Almost all expected to come, even though the President says he's convening a donors conference in the next several weeks, don't look for these other countries to start chipping in, unless they get a significant piece of the pie themselves, including a lot of responsibility.
BROWN: Just for context, I know that you know this, that Gulf War I was a military operation. When the President talks about $87 billion and it may get to be more than that, he's talking about essentially about rebuilding an entire country, bridges, roads, oil, electric, water, the whole thing.
BLITZER: He's talking about that, and a lot of people think that $87 billion is a relatively modest estimate. It could go way up.
BROWN: Well thank you Wolf Blitzer in Washington with us tonight, Paula.
ZAHN: We're back with Senator Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, who has been watching the address along with us.
Welcome back, sir.
HAGEL: Thank you.
ZAHN: First of all, you talked with Aaron at the top of the hour saying that we will not get out of Iraq successfully unless there is focused international involvement.
Are you satisfied with what you heard from the president tonight along that front?
HAGEL: Paula, I think he said three things that were very important tonight, that he focused on more than he has before.
One, he connected our involvement in Iraq, Afghanistan and the Middle East. He's really not done that in the past.
Second, he specifically focused on a new U.N. resolution, getting our allies involved, talking about that involvement.
And third, he put a premium as well on the long-term nature once again.
But here's where the questions, I think, will come. To your question, our U.N. involvement, our allies' involvement, what would be their responsibilities? How much economic, political responsibilities would they have in return for their troops, in return for their involvement?
Second, he didn't talk about our rotating our troops out or when we might see some of that happen.
And the point I made with Aaron at the top of the hour was the fact that this is a long-term effort. This is complicated. It is dangerous and difficult and uncertain. And we are going to need the imprimatur of all nations of the world involved as soon as we can in order to move the Iraqis into a position where they can govern themselves.
And that, I think, will precipitate a quicker exit of America and American troops from Iraq.
ZAHN: Senator Hagel, you may be quite surprised that we anointed you a Democrat a little bit early on through our graphic. That was a slight mistake that was on the screen, I think, for about seven seconds.
You are a Republican, aren't you still?
HAGEL: Yes. Thank you, yes.
ZAHN: Thank you so much.
ZAHN: We're joined now by a Democratic colleague now, Senator Joe Biden. Welcome, sir. Good to have you with us this evening.
SEN. JOSEPH BIDEN (D), DELAWARE: Hi, Paula. He's a great Republican, by the way.
ZAHN: I think people probably don't understand the nature of your relationship, colleagues that go way, way back there.
Let's talk a little bit about one thing noticeably absent from this speech, and that was a direct reference to any ongoing search for weapons of mass destruction. Were you disappointed by that?
BIDEN: No, I'm not, because the truth of the matter is that we're almost beyond that. Whether we were right to go in or not on weapons of mass destruction, things are so out of kilter now that we have to internationalize this, we have to secure Iraq for our own safety's sake, and I think the president put the right emphasis in leveling with the American people. It's going to cost tens of billions of dollars and require well over 100,000 troops for some time. And the big thing he did, Paula, he finally rejected the advice of the neoconservatives, Mr. Cheney and Rumsfeld and others, and he's going to the United Nations, which was inevitable.
I wish we had done it earlier, but I give him credit for doing it now. Now I hope our French and German and other allies step up to the ball and are as magnanimous in acknowledging what we have to do now as the president was.
ZAHN: Senator Biden, do you think Congress is going to come up with the $87 billion the president's asking for?
BIDEN: I think it absolutely has to come up with it. We have no choice. We may have to consider doing something -- now, look, I think the American people are ready to sacrifice to win, and I think if we went back to the American people and said, "Look, the very wealthiest among us, we're going to postpone your tax cut for a year or two to pay for this," I think they would embrace it.
I think they would do it. I don't know whether that's the way we're going to do it. But we're either going to make the deficit close to $600 billion, or we're not going to spend this money, and we have no choice.
We must -- we must -- keep this commitment in Iraq. It's going to be hard. I will support him, I will support spending that money, and I hope we decide that there's other ways to pay for it, as well as just adding to the deficit.
ZAHN: Well, we appreciate your joining us very much here this evening, Senator Biden.
BIDEN: Thank you very much, Paula. I appreciate it.
ZAHN: Delighted to have you all here with us this evening.
Tonight we heard from the son, tomorrow we hear from the father in an exclusive interview, former President George Herbert Walker Bush gives us a candid interview about his hopes for Iraq. And how he thinks his son is handling the pressure. That's tomorrow night at 8:00 Eastern, on the debut of my new program, "PAULA ZAHN NOW."
Where will you be at 8:00 tomorrow Aaron?
BROWN: I'll be sitting at the keyboard writing news, where I am almost every night at 8:00. It will be great. I know some of the planning that's gone into it, and we're very excited about that. And Anderson's program that proceeds it, it will be a terrific night.
The -- it is interesting to me that we are four days out from the second anniversary of September 11. The President's speech certainly underscores all of that. And how different so many things seem in the country two years later.
ZAHN: We wanted to thank you all for joining us for our special coverage of this very important speech tonight. I'm Paula Zahn, we need to leave it there.
BROWN: And I'm Aaron Brown. Our coverage of the President's speech and the reaction continues all evening here on CNN, 10:00 Eastern Time, Wolf Blitzer hosts a special edition of "CNN SUNDAY NIGHT." And up next, our coverage continues with "LARRY KING LIVE."
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