Text of Bush's Press Conference

  1. for those that missed it and for discussion:


    text of bush's press conference[font=verdana,sans-serif][font=verdana,sans-serif]email this storyapr 13, 9:26 pm (et)

    text of president bush's press conference at the white house on tuesday, april 13, 2004, as transcribed by emediamillworks inc.:

    bush: good evening.

    before i take your questions, let me speak with the american people about the situation in iraq.

    this has been tough weeks in that country. coalition forces have encountered serious violence in some areas of iraq. our military commanders report that this violence is being instigated by three groups. some remnants of saddam hussein's regime, along with islamic militants, have attacked coalition forces in the city of fallujah. terrorists from other countries have infiltrated iraq to incite and organize attacks.

    if ((typeof tag336_2) == 'function') {tag336_2();} in the south of iraq, coalition forces face riots and attacks that are being incited by a radical cleric named al-sadr. he has assembled some of his supporters into an illegal militia and publicly supported the terrorist groups hamas and hezbollah.

    al-sadr's methods of violence and intimidation are widely repudiated by other iraqi shia. he's been indicted by iraqi authorities for the murder of a prominent shia cleric.

    although these instigations of violence come from different factions, they share common goals. they want to run us out of iraq and destroy the democratic hopes of the iraqi people.

    the violence we have seen is a power grab by these extreme and ruthless elements. it's not a civil war. it's not a popular uprising. most of iraq is relatively stable. most iraqis by far reject violence and oppose dictatorship.

    in forums where iraqis have met to discuss their political future, and in all the proceedings of the iraqi governing council, iraqis have expressed clear commitments. they want strong protections for individual rights. they want their independence. and they want their freedom.

    america's commitment to freedom in iraq is consistent with our ideals and required by our interests. iraq will either be a peaceful, democratic country or it will again be a source of violence, a haven for terror and a threat to america and to the world.

    by helping secure a free iraq, americans serving in that country are protecting their fellow citizens. our nation is grateful to them all and to their families that face hardship and long separation.

    this weekend, at a fort hood hospital, i presented a purple heart to some of our wounded, had the honor of thanking them on behalf of all americans.

    other men and women have paid an even greater cost. our nation honors the memory of those who have been killed, and we pray that their families will find god's comfort in the midst of their grief.

    as i have said to those who have lost loved ones, we will finish the work of the fallen.

    america's armed forces are performing brilliantly, with all the skill and honor we expect of them. we're constantly reviewing their needs. troop strength now and in the future is determined by the situation on the ground. if additional forces are needed, i will send them. if additional resources are needed, we will provide them.

    the people of our country are united behind our men and women in uniform, and this government will do all that is necessary to assure the success of their historic mission.

    one central commitment of that mission is the transfer of the sovereignty back to the iraqi people. we have set a deadline of june 30th. it is important that we meet that deadline.

    as a proud, independent people, iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation, and neither does america. we're not an imperial power, as nations such as japan and germany can attest. we're a liberating power, as nations in europe and asia can attest as well.

    america's objective in iraq is limited, and it is firm. we seek an independent, free and secure iraq.

    were the coalition to step back from the june 30th pledge, many iraqis would question our intentions and feel their hopes betrayed. and those in iraq who trade in hatred and conspiracy theories would find a larger audience and gain a stronger hand.

    we will not step back from our pledge. on june 30th, iraqi sovereignty will be placed in iraqi hands.

    sovereignty involves more than a date and a ceremony. it requires iraqis to assume responsibility for their own future.

    iraqi authorities are now confronting the security challenge of the last several weeks.

    in fallujah, coalition forces have suspended offensive operations, allowing members of the iraqi governing council and local leaders to work on the restoration of central authority in that city. these leaders are communicating with the insurgents to ensure an orderly turnover of that city to iraqi forces, so that the resumption of military action does not become necessary.

    they are also insisting that those who killed and mutilated four american contract workers be handed over for trial and punishment.

    in addition, members of the governing council are seeking to resolve the situation in the south. al-sadr must answer the charges against him and disband his illegal militia.

    our coalition is standing with responsible iraqi leaders as they establish growing authority in their country. the transition to sovereignty requires that we demonstrate confidence in iraqis. and we have that confidence. many iraqi leaders are showing great personal courage, and their example will bring out the same quality in others.

    the transition to sovereignty also requires an atmosphere of security, and our coalition is working to provide that security.

    we will continue taking the greatest care to prevent harm to innocent civilians, yet we will not permit the spread of chaos and violence. i have directed our military commanders to make every preparation to use decisive force if necessary to maintain order and to protect our troops.

    the nation of iraq is moving toward self-rule, and iraqis and americans will see evidence in the months to come. on june 30th, when the flag of a free iraq is raised, iraqi officials will assume full responsibility for the ministries of government. on that day, the transitional administrative law, including a bill of rights that is unprecedented in the arab world, will take full effect.

    the united states and all the nations of our coalition will establish normal diplomatic relations with the iraqi government. an american embassy will open, and an american ambassador will be posted.

    according to the schedule already approved by the governing council, iraq will hold elections for a national assembly no later than next january. that assembly will draft a new permanent constitution, which will be presented to the iraqi people in a national referendum held in october of next year.

    iraqis will then elect a permanent government by december 15, 2005 - an event that will mark the completion of iraq's transition from dictatorship to freedom.

    other nations and international institutions are stepping up to their responsibilities in building a free and secure iraq. we're working closely with the united nations envoy, lakhdar brahimi, and with iraqis to determine the exact form of the government that will receive sovereignty on june 30th.

    the united nations election assistance team, headed by karina perelli, is in iraq developing plans for next january's election. nato is providing support for the polish-led, multinational division in iraq. and 17 of nato's 26 members are contributing forces to maintain security.

    secretary of state powell and secretary of state rumsfeld and a number of nato defense and foreign ministers are exploring a more formal role for nato, such as turning the polish-led division into a nato operation and giving nato specific responsibilities for border control.

    iraqis' neighbors also have responsibilities to make their region more stable. so i'm sending deputy secretary of state armitage to the middle east to discuss with these nations our common interest in a free and independent iraq, and how they can help achieve this goal.

    as we've made clear all along, our commitment to the success and security of iraq will not end on june 30th. on july 1st and beyond, our reconstruction assistance will continue and our military commitment will continue.

    having helped iraqis establish a new government, coalition military forces will help iraqis to protect their government from external aggression and internal subversion.

    the success of free government in iraq is vital for many reasons:

    a free iraq is vital because 25 million iraqis have as much right to live in freedom as we do.

    a free iraq will stand as an example to reformers across the middle east.

    a free iraq will show that america is on the side of muslims who wish to live in peace, as we've already shown in kuwait and kosovo, bosnia and afghanistan.

    a free iraq will confirm to a watching world that america's word, once given, can be relied upon, even in the toughest times.

    above all, the defeat of violence and terror in iraq is vital to the defeat of violence and terror elsewhere and vital, therefore, to the safety of the american people.

    now is the time, and iraq is the place, in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world. we must not waver.

    the violence we are seeing in iraq is familiar. the terrorists who take hostages or plants a roadside bomb near baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in madrid, and murders children on buses in jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in bali and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a jew.

    we've seen the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 marines in beirut, the first attack on the world trade center, in the destruction of two embassies in africa, in the attack on the uss cole, and in the merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and children on september the 11th, 2001.

    none of these acts is the work of a religion. all are the work of a fanatical political ideology. the servants of this ideology seek tyranny in the middle east and beyond. they seek to oppress and persecute women.

    bush: they seek the death of jews and christians and every muslim who desires peace over theocratic terror. they seek to intimidate america into panic and retreat, and to set free nations against each other. and they seek weapons of mass destruction, to blackmail and murder on a massive scale.

    over the last several decades, we've seen that any concession or retreat on our part will only embolden this enemy and invite more bloodshed. and the enemy has seen, over the last 31 months, that we will no longer live in denial or seek to appease them.

    for the first time, the civilized world has provided a concerted response to the ideology of terror - a series of powerful, effective blows.

    the terrorists have lost the shelter of the taliban and the training camps in afghanistan. they have lost safe havens in pakistan. they lost an ally in baghdad. and libya has turned its back on terror.

    they've lost many leaders in an unrelenting international manhunt. and perhaps more frightening to these men and their movement, the terrorists are seeing the advance of freedom and reform in the greater middle east.

    a desperate enemy is also a dangerous enemy. and our work may become more difficult before it is finished. no one can predict all the hazards that lie ahead or the cost that they will bring.

    yet, in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action. the consequences of failure in iraq would be unthinkable.

    every friend of america in iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder, as a new tyranny arose. every enemy of america in the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence, and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers.

    we will succeed in iraq. we're carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change. iraq will be a free, independent country, and america and the middle east will be safer because of it.

    our coalition has the means and the will to prevail. we serve the cause of liberty, and that is always and everywhere a cause worth serving.

    bush: now i'll be glad to take your questions. i will start with you.

    question: thank you, mr. president.

    mr. president, april is turning into the deadliest month in iraq since the fall of baghdad, and some people are comparing iraq to vietnam and talking about a quagmire. polls show that support for your policy is declining and that fewer than half of americans now support it.

    what does that say to you? and how do you answer the vietnam comparison?

    bush: i think the analogy is false. i also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy.

    look, this is hard work. it's hard to advance freedom in a country that has been strangled by tyranny. and yet we must stay the course because the end result is in our nation's interest.

    a secure and free iraq is an historic opportunity to change the world and make america more secure. a free iraq in the midst of the middle east will have incredible change.

    it's hard. freedom is not easy to achieve. i mean, we had a little trouble in our own country achieving freedom.

    and we've been there a year. i know that seems like a long time. it seems like a long time to the loved ones whose troops have been overseas. but when you think about where the country has come from, it's a relatively short period of time.

    and we're making progress. there's no question it's been a tough, tough series of weeks for the american people. it's been really tough for the families. i understand that. it's been tough on this administration. but we're doing the right thing.

    and as to whether or not i made decisions based upon polls, i don't. i just don't make decisions that way. i fully understand the consequences of what we're doing. we're changing the world, and the world will be better off and america will be more secure as a result of the actions we're taking.

    question: thank you, mr. president. what's your best prediction on how long u.s. troops will have to be in iraq? and it sounds like you will have to add some troops. is that a fair assessment?

    bush: well, first of all, that's up to general abizaid, and he's clearly indicating that he may want more troops. it's coming up through the chain of command. and if that's what he wants, that's what he gets.

    generally, we've had about a 115,000 troops in iraq. there's 135,000 now as a result of the changeover from one division to the next.

    if he wants to keep troops there to help, i'm more than willing to say, yes, general abizaid.

    i talk to general abizaid quite frequently. i'm constantly asking him does he have what he needs, whether it be in troop strength or in equipment. he and general sanchez talk all the time. and if he makes the recommendation, he'll get it.

    in terms of how long we'll be there, as long as necessary, and not one day more. the iraqi people need us there to help with security. they need us there to fight off these, you know, violent few, who are doing everything they can to resist the advance of freedom. and i mentioned who they are.

    and as i mentioned in my opening remarks, our commanders on the ground have got the authorities necessary to deal with violence, and will - will in firm fashion.

    and that's what by far the vast majority of the iraqis want. they want security so they can advance toward a free society.

    once we transfer sovereignty, we'll enter into a security agreement with the government to which we pass sovereignty, the entity to which we pass sovereignty. and we'll need to be there for a while.

    we'll also need to continue training the iraqi troops. i was disappointed in the performance of some of the troops. some of the units performed brilliantly. some of them didn't. and we need to find out why. if they're lacking in equipment, we'll get them equipment. if there needs to be more intense training, we'll get more intense training.

    but eventually, iraq's security is going to be handled by the iraqi people themselves.

    oh, let's see here. terry.

    question: mr. president, before the war, you and members of your administration made several claims about iraq: that u.s. troops would be greeted as liberators with sweets and flowers; that iraqi oil revenue would pay for most of the reconstruction; and that iraq not only had weapons of mass destruction but, as secretary of defense rumsfeld said, we know where they are.

    how do you explain to americans how you got that so wrong? and how do you answer your opponents who say that you took this nation to war on the basis of what have turned out to be a series of false premises?

    bush: well, let me step back and review my thinking prior to going into iraq.

    first, the lesson of september the 11th is that when this nation sees a threat, a gathering threat, we got to deal with it. we can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm. every threat we must take seriously.

    saddam hussein was a threat. he was a threat because he had used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. he was a threat because he coddled terrorists. he was a threat because he funded suiciders. he was a threat to the region. he was a threat to the united states.

    that's the assessment that i made from the intelligence, the assessment that congress made from the intelligence. that's the exact same assessment that the united nations security council made with the intelligence.

    i went to the u.n., as you might recall, and said, either you take care of him, or we will. any time an american president says, if you don't, we will, we better be prepared to. and i was prepared to.

    bush: i thought it was important for the united nations security council that when it says something, it means something for the sake of security in the world.

    see, the war on terror had changed the calculations. we needed to work with people. people needed to come together to work. and therefore, empty words would embolden the actions of those who are willing to kill indiscriminately.

    the united nations passed a security council resolution unanimously that said, disarm or face serious consequences. and he refused to disarm.

    i thought it was very interesting that charlie duelfer, who just came back - he's the head of the iraqi survey group - reported some interesting findings from his recent tour there. and one of the things was, he was amazed at how deceptive the iraqis had been toward unmovic and unscom, deceptive in hiding things.

    we knew they were hiding things. a country that hides something is a country that is afraid of getting caught, and that was part of our calculation. charlie confirmed that.

    he also confirmed that saddam had the ability to produce biological and chemical weapons. in other words, he was a danger. and he had long-range missiles that were undeclared to the united nations. he was a danger. and so we dealt with him.

    and what else was part the question? oh, oil revenues.

    well, the oil revenues, they're bigger than we thought they would be at this point in time. i mean, one year after the liberation of iraq, the revenues of the oil stream is pretty darn significant.

    one of the things i was concerned about, prior to going into iraq, was that the oil fields would be destroyed, but they weren't. they're now up and running. and that money is - it will benefit the iraqi people. it's their oil, and they'll use it to reconstruct the country.

    finally, the attitude of the iraqis toward the american people - it's an interesting question. they're really pleased we got rid of saddam hussein, and you can understand why. this guy was a torturer, a killer, a maimer. there's mass graves.

    i mean, he was a horrible individual that really shocked the country in many ways, shocked it into a kind of a fear of making decisions toward liberty. that's what we've seen recently. some citizens are fearful of stepping up.

    and they were happy - they're not happy they're occupied. i wouldn't be happy if i were occupied either. they do want us there to help with security.

    and that's why this transfer of sovereignty is an important signal to send, and it's why it's also important for them to hear we will stand with them until they become a free country.

    elisabeth? excuse me.

    question: (off-mike), mr. president. to move to the 9-11 commission, you yourself have acknowledged that osama bin laden was not a central focus of the administration in the months before september 11th. i was not on point, you told the journalist bob woodward. i didn't feel that sense of urgency.

    two and a half years later, do you feel any sense of personal responsibility for september 11th?

    bush: let me put that quote to woodward in context, because he had asked me if i was - something about killing bin laden. that's what the question was.

    and i said, you know, compared to how i felt at the time, after the attack, i didn't have that - and i also went on to say, my blood wasn't boiling, i think is what the quote said.

    i didn't see - i mean, i didn't have that great sense of outrage that i felt on september the 11th. i was - on that day, i was angry and sad. angry that al-qaida - i thought at the time al-qaida, found out shortly thereafter it was al-qaida - had unleashed this attack. sad for those who lost their life.

    your question, do i feel - yes?

    question: personal responsibility for september 11th?

    bush: i feel incredibly grieved when i meet with family members, and i do quite frequently. i grieve for, you know, the incredible loss of life that they feel, the emptiness they feel.

    there are some things i wish we'd have done, when i look back. i mean, hindsight's easy. it's easy for a president to stand up and say, now that i know what happened, it would have been nice if there were certain things in place.

    for example, a homeland security department. and why - i say that because that provides the ability for our agencies to coordinate better and to work together better than it was before.

    i think the hearings will show that the patriot act is an important change in the law that will allow the fbi and the cia to better share information together.

    we were kind of stovepiped, i guess is a way to describe it. there was, you know, kind of departments that at times didn't communicate - because of law, in the fbi's case. and the other thing i look back on and realize is that we weren't on a war footing. the country was not on a war footing, and yet the enemy was at war with us. and it didn't take me long to put us on a war footing.

  2. 42 Comments

  3. by   Energizer Bunny
    Continued: (sorry, it didn't post it all for some reason)

    And we've been on a war ever since.

    The lessons of 9-11 - one lesson was we must deal with gathering threats, and that's part of the reason I dealt with Iraq the way I did.

    The other lesson is, is that this country must go on the offense and stay on the offense. In order to secure the country, we must do everything in our power to find these killers and bring them to justice before they hurt us again. I'm afraid they want to hurt us again. They're still there.

    They can be right one time; we got to be right 100 percent of the time in order to protect the country. It's a mighty task.

    But our government has changed since the 9-11 attacks. We're better equipped to respond. We're better at sharing intelligence. But we've still got a lot of work to do.


    QUESTION: Mr. President, I'd like to follow up on a couple of these questions that have been asked.

    One of the biggest criticisms of you is that whether it's WMD in Iraq, postwar planning in Iraq, or even the question of whether this administration did enough to ward off 9-11, you never admit a mistake. Is that a fair criticism, and do you believe that there were any errors in judgment that you made related to any of those topics I brought up?

    BUSH: Well, I think, as I mentioned, you know, the country wasn't on war footing, and yet we're at war.

    And that's just a reality, Dave. I mean, that was the situation that existed prior to 9-11, because the truth of the matter is most in the country never felt that we'd be vulnerable to an attack such as the one that Osama bin Laden unleashed on us.

    We knew he had designs on us. We knew he hated us. But there was nobody in our government, at least, and I don't think the prior government that could envision flying airplanes into buildings on such a massive scale.

    The people know where I stand, I mean, in terms of Iraq. I was very clear about what I believed. And, of course, I want to know why we haven't found a weapon yet. But I still know Saddam Hussein was a threat. And the world is better off without Saddam Hussein.

    I don't think anybody can - maybe people can argue that. I know the Iraqi people don't believe that, that they're better off with Saddam Hussein - would be better off with Saddam Hussein in power.

    I also know that there's an historic opportunity here to change the world. And it's very important for the loved ones of our troops to understand that the mission is an important, vital mission for the security of America and for the ability to change the world for the better.

    Let's see. Ed?

    QUESTION: Mr. President, good evening. I'd like to ask you about the August 6th PDB.

    BUSH: Sure.

    QUESTION: You've mentioned it at Fort Hood on Sunday. You pointed out that it did not warn of a hijacking of airplanes to crash into buildings, but that it warned of hijacking to obviously take hostages and to secure the release of extremists that are being held by the U.S.

    Did that trigger some specific actions on your part in the administration, since it dealt with potentially hundreds of lives and a blackmail attempt on the United States government?

    BUSH: And I asked for the briefing. And the reason I did is because there had been a lot of threat intelligence from overseas. And so, I - part of it had to do with the Genoa G-8 conference that I was going to attend. And I asked at that point in time, let's make sure we are paying attention here at home, as well. And that's what triggered the report.

    The report itself, I've characterized it as mainly history. And I think when you look at it, you'll see that it was talking about a '97 and '98 and '99.

    It was also an indication, as you mentioned, that bin Laden might want to hijack an airplane but, as you said, not to fly into a building, but perhaps to release a person in jail. In other words, he would serve it as a blackmail.

    And of course that concerns me. All those reports concern me. As a matter of fact, I was dealing with terrorism a lot as the president when George Tenet came in to brief me. I mean, that's where I got my information.

    I changed the way that the relationship between the president and the CIA director. And I wanted Tenet in the Oval Office all the time. And we had briefings about terrorist threats. This was a summary.

    Now, in the - what's called the PDB, there was a warning about bin Laden's desires on America. But, frankly, I didn't think there was anything new. I mean, major newspapers had talked about bin Laden's desires on hurting America.

    What was interesting in there was that there was a report that the FBI was conducting field investigations. And that was good news, that they were doing their job.

    The way my administration worked, Ed, was that I met with Tenet all the time. I obviously met with my principals a lot. We talked about threats that had emerged. We have a counterterrorism group meeting on a regular basis to analyze the threats that came in. Had there been a threat that required action by anybody in the government, I would have dealt with it.
  4. by   bukko
    I didn't read the part where he said "I drove this car straight off the cliff but I'm gonna step on the gas pedal even harder!"
  5. by   suzanne4
    I am starting to think that he is totally psychotic..........................
    He thinks that he is G-d and can tell any country what they have to do or not do. Is the world any safer because Saddam Hussein is behind bars and out of Iraq? I don't think so, and now he is talking about sending another 20,000 to Iraq over the next few months. He stated that everyone there had volunteered to be there. What was he smoking?
    :angryfire :angryfire :angryfire
  6. by   gwenith
    History repeating - vietnam.
  7. by   Energizer Bunny
    Quote from gwenith
    History repeating - vietnam.
    I agree, though not as many people dead, YET. Did you see what he said when asked about the comparison? "I think the analogy is false. I also happen to think that analogy sends the wrong message to our troops and sends the wrong message to the enemy."

    Frankly, I don't care what message it sends to the "enemy" at this point. The troops, by now, should know how we all feel about them and I am sure that some of them see the comparison as well. *sigh* It was just another night of disappointments, though I DO believe his is digging his own grave for the election.

    The problem is that he represents the US and I, for one, certainly don't want people in other countries to believe that all Americans agree with him or support his policies.
  8. by   Energizer Bunny
    Quote from suzanne4
    I am starting to think that he is totally psychotic..........................
    He thinks that he is G-d and can tell any country what they have to do or not do. Is the world any safer because Saddam Hussein is behind bars and out of Iraq? I don't think so, and now he is talking about sending another 20,000 to Iraq over the next few months. He stated that everyone there had volunteered to be there. What was he smoking?
    :angryfire :angryfire :angryfire
    You think like me I think. He really does think he is the ruler of the world, huh? I really felt like he was stepping on toes with some of the things he said.
  9. by   manna
    Thanks for posting this transcript - I missed the speech, couldn't get two screaming kids to settle down (we were at Grandma's house, need I say more?) :chuckle
  10. by   Elenaster
    Thanks for posting the transcript, Kim. I see that it's been edited to leave out all the "uh......uh......uh's....." and the stumbling over and mispronouncing words that he did.

    Same old rhetoric, same complete lack of accountability, same passing the buck. Not to mention the fact that his complete inability to articulate himself in any sort of cohesive manner is downright embarrassing.
  11. by   Energizer Bunny
    Quote from Elenaster
    Thanks for posting the transcript, Kim. I see that it's been edited to leave out all the "uh......uh......uh's....." and the stumbling over and mispronouncing words that he did.

    Same old rhetoric, same complete lack of accountability, same passing the buck. Not to mention the fact that his complete inability to articulate himself in any sort of cohesive manner is downright embarrassing.
    Yep, I agree on all counts. I was kind of upset they left out the uh uh's and other stumbling because those that missed the actual press conference can't see how badly he seems to have bungled it.
  12. by   warrior woman
    Quote from Elenaster
    Thanks for posting the transcript, Kim. I see that it's been edited to leave out all the "uh......uh......uh's....." and the stumbling over and mispronouncing words that he did.

    Same old rhetoric, same complete lack of accountability, same passing the buck. Not to mention the fact that his complete inability to articulate himself in any sort of cohesive manner is downright embarrassing.
    So true Elenaster. Even Reagan with the spectre of Alzheimer's hanging over him could communicate his thoughts better than this guy.
  13. by   bukko
    I found the reporters' questions more interesting than the answers. Especially that last guy from National Public Radio, who mentioned how Bush uses the same old phrases in each speech. Good to see the media people putting some tough queries to him, even though they did not penetrate Bush's skull. More of that might keep him honest by making him think how he'll have to defend his actions. Has anyone ever watched the British Parliament's question sessions on C-Span? Opposition M.P.s rip right into Tony Blair. We need that.
  14. by   Elenaster
    I've been looking for a good editorial to sum up the actual tone of the press conference and I thought this editorial was very accurate, at least from my perspective:

    April 13, 2004

    A Scary Performance, and a Signal for Slaughter

    George Bush's press conference on April 13 was a scary performance.

    Not because his second sentence was ungrammatical: "This has been tough weeks in that country."

    Not because he pronounced "instigated" as "instikated" in his fourth sentence.

    Not because he said Donald Rumsfeld was Secretary of State.

    Not because of his foolish comment that before 9/11 "we assumed oceans would protect us." (Ever since the Russians built their first ICBMs fifty years ago, the oceans haven't protected us.)

    Not because he said of the August 6 briefing, "Frankly, I didn't think it was anything new"!

    Not because he said that even if he had known beforehand that Iraq did not have WMD stockpiles, he still would have gone to war against Saddam Hussein.

    Not because he had no coherent answer as to why Dick Cheney must hold his hand when he testifies to the 9/11 commission.

    Not because he said that no one in his Administration had "any indication that bin Laden might hijack an airplane and run it into a building," when in fact, at the Genoa G-8 summit, there were precautions taken against incoming airplanes as missiles.

    And not because he repeatedly refused to take a shred of personal responsibility for allowing the 9/11 attacks to happen on his watch.

    No, his performance was scary because he plunged the United States deeper into a no-win war in Iraq.

    "We will finish the job of the fallen," he said.

    He gave only a pro forma nod toward the additional innocent Iraqis the United States may kill in the process.

    "We will continue taking the greatest care to prevent harm to innocent civilians; yet we will not permit the spread of chaos and violence," he said. "I have directed our military commanders to make every preparation to use decisive force, if necessary, to maintain order and to protect our troops."

    He reiterated this point later, saying, "Our commanders on the ground have got the authority necessary to deal with violence, and will--and will in firm fashion."

    Here is the President warning that U.S. troops, who have already killed more than 600 Iraqis in the last week, will have a free hand.

    That is a signal for slaughter.

    He also continued to underestimate the resistance the United States is facing in Iraq. He called it "a power grab by extremist and ruthless elements." He said, "It is not a civil war. It is not a popular uprising." And, astonishingly, he asserted, "Most of Iraq is relatively stable."

    That is not what many reporters have seen with their own eyes, and it is not what the TV screens are portraying.

    What's more, Bush's vow to unleash "decisive force" will only make things worse.

    He indicated that he will go after Moqtada al-Sadr, saying the cleric "must answer the charges against him and disband his illegal militia." This strongly suggests that Bush will order his troops to, as one senior commander said, "kill or capture" al-Sadr. And if that happens, all hell could break loose.

    In his Manichaean worldview, Bush lumped the Iraqi insurgents in with the terrorists of 9/11. They are all "enemies of civilization," he said, and they share "a fanatical political ideology."

    But many of those who are fighting against the U.S. occupation are not Al Qaeda members who want to destroy America and are not subscribers to the "ideology of terror." Rather, many are Iraqi nationalists who want to expel America from their own country because they have seen the brutality of the U.S. occupation.

    That's a huge difference, and Bush makes a terrible mistake by conflating the two.

    He also seems to have a static view of who the enemy is. He sees it as a finite group of innate murderers and evildoers. He thinks that all he needs to do is kill all the bad guys and victory is his.

    But he doesn't understand that his policy is creating new enemies by the thousands every single day.

    He warned that if the United States does not take "resolute action" and does not "stay the course" in Iraq, it will "recruit a new generation of killers."

    What he failed to grasp is that by maintaining the brutal occupation, he himself is recruiting that generation.

    And the more "firm" and "decisive" the U.S. military response, the more recruits Bush will be enlisting to fight against the United States.

    Interestingly, the first question Bush got was on the Vietnam comparison.

    But Bush did not want to hear anything about it. "The analogy is false," he said, without explaining why.

    He did, however, suggest that it was almost treasonous to raise the specter of Vietnam. "That analogy sends the wrong message to our troops and to the enemy," he said.

    (This is an echo of John Ashcroft's infamous statement that "those who scare peace-loving people with the phantoms of lost liberty" are giving "aid" and "ammunition" to America's enemies.)

    In previous remarks, Bush has made clear that he believes the lesson of Vietnam is two-fold: first, that the political leaders interfered with the generals, and second, that the United States did not use overwhelming force.

    If that is the lesson he applies here, the generals will run the war, and overwhelming force will be the order of the day.

    Expect more troops to be sent over soon, or to have their tours extended. Bush said if General Abizaid wants more troops, which he does, he'll get them.

    Bush also displayed again the full fervor of his messianic militarism.

    Several times he mentioned that the war offered a "historic opportunity to change the world."

    In one of his most emphatic moments, he said, "I also have this belief, strong belief, that freedom is not this country's gift to the world; freedom is the Almighty's gift to every man and woman in this world. And as the greatest power on the face of the Earth, we have an obligation to help the spread of freedom."

    This is Bush saying that he is doing God's work in Iraq. That is a particularly inappropriate claim to make, leaving aside the obvious leaping of the church/state wall. Given that Bush has chosen to wage war in an Islamic country, it is unlikely that there are many Iraqis who are anxious to hear Bush's theological justifications.

    Bush's rhetoric is proof once again that the government of the United States is in the hands of a crude and deluded leader, whose war policy in Iraq promises more disasters to come.

    "Our work may become more difficult before it is finished," he said.

    With Bush's approach, that is a guarantee.

    -- Matthew Rothschild