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:: Tuesday, 13 April 2004 ::

Dubya firms up 30 June for the handover to Iraq authority.

He is doing his talking thing before his press conference thing. Firming up the date is good and he has also reinforced the election for no later than January 2005.

I approve of this. I am with Kaus (see Sunday 11 Apr post).

Hmm. I am getting impressed. I'll try to parse:

Now is the time and Iraq is the place in which the enemies of the civilised world are attacking the forces of civilized world. A roadside bomb in Baghdad serves the same purpose as bombs on trains in Madrid, as bombs in a nightclub in Bali, as slitting the throat of a reporter. Terror. Famatical ideology. They seek to persecute women, kill Jews.

Over the last couple decades we have seen that any concession to these people only invites more terror.

For the first time the civilized world is uniting to fight terror. Terrorists have lost an ally in Baghdad.

In this conflict there is no safe alternative to resolute action. If we are not resolute, killers will be invigorated.

Okay, so now questions:
How do you answer the Vietnam comparison?
It is a false analogy and it sends the wrong message to our troops. It is a hard effort. It has been a year and it feels a long time for troops and families but it is is not that long a time really and there is progress. This is a big deal. It will change that whole region and the world wih it. To talk about Vietnam is to look to the past to work out how to decide now. I don't make decisions that way.

Do you need more troops and how long will you stay?
We will stay as long as necessary and if Snachez asks for more troops he can have them. Once we pass sovereignty we will need to stay to secure the joint. And we need to train the Iraqi troops. Some of them have worked brilliantly and others have not eprformed well at all and we need to work out why they did not perform.

How do you answer your critics who ask where the WMD are, who feel they have been misled into the war?
I made assessments. I have had to review our thinking at the time. We knew his history. We knew he was a threat to his neigbours, he coddled terrorists, he funded suiciders, he was a threat to America and we went to the UN, you might recall. I went and I said, if you will not do something America will. And having said that we had to be prepared to follow it up. So we had to be prepared for the action. Everybody had the same intelligence on WMD. Everybody.

Do you feel personally responsible for September 11, 2001?
I did not have the sense of outrage before Sept 11. On that day I was angry and sad. I grieve for the families. I do. Hindsight is easy and I do wish other things had happened - Homeland Security and Patriot Act for example - and I regret that we were not on a war footing and yet the enemy was at war with us. The lesson is that we must deal with gathering threats. That is part of the reason we have dealt with Iraq the way we have.

You never admit a mistake - is it a fair thing to say? Whether WMD, post-war planning in Iraq or Sept 11.
We were not on a war footing. We knew Bin Laden had designs but not us and not the previous administration imagined or knew that planes would be flown in to buildings.

The Aug 6 2001 memo re Bin Laden - did it trigger reactions in the administrations?
I asked for the briefing because there had been a lot of intelligence that was troubling over seas, I had been focussed on Genoa G8 conference and I needed to get a focus on domestic safety. I did not think there was anything new in Bin Laden's interest in the UN, we knew that already. What was interesting was the FBI field investigations. Had there been a threat that we could respond to we would have acted. I have been asked, do I think about it, of course I do, of course I wonder if there was anything we could have done to prevent Sept 11. We did not get warning of it.

Richard Clarke apologised unequivocally for failing Americans on Sept 11. Will you make an apology?
The person responsible for Sept 11 is Bin Laden. He is responsible. We would have moved heaven and earth to prevent Sept 11 if we could have.

US troops and British troops are in Iraq but the other largest contingent is contractors, hired gunds. Your opponents criticise this as a fake coalition. How do you respond?
I do not believe we should decry the efforts of folks who are engaged in improving Iraq. Berlusconi understands that, the Polish guy [oops did not catch it], Blair gets it, Koizumi gets it. I was talking to Koizumi and it dawned on me as we spoke that we would not be talking about Iraq if Japan had not had folks staying the course to rebuild Japan. Iraq is important, critical. Some folks believe that if you are brown skinned and Muslim then you cannot run a civilized society and I reject that.

You have been accused of letting the Sept 11 threat mature too far and of not letting the Iraq threat mature far enough, how do you respond? How can you justify any other pre-emptive question?
Had the US acted unilaterally in dealing with Afghanistan the mood of the world simply would not have tolerated it. Plus it would have been hard because Pakistan was not yet on board. Sept 11 was a shock and changed everything. We had thought oursleves safe because we were protected by seas. But that is not correct. To the second part of the quesiton, we have had some successes and maybe military action, which is always a last resport anyway, will not be so necessary. Libya has come clean. By the way they found 30 tonnes of mustard gas at a turkey farm and we only found it cos it was disclosed to us. We use everything, diplomacy and military. We are at war. Iraq is part of the war on terror. It is not the war on terror. It is a theatre in the war on terror.

This is an election year. What if you do not win?
I plan to win. Democracy is the key and I believe the people will agree with me but we are free and the fighters, lost loved ones, are engaged in a war. The campaign will allow us to address these arguments better for why I should be re-elected but right now we are dealing with Iraq.

What is your biggest regret post Sept 11, and what have you learned from it?
This is a difficult question. I don't wanna say I have not made mistakes. I am confident I have done. But I guess I am not so quick on my feet coming up with one now.

What is the status of the intelligence services, the American MI-5?
I have not made any decision yet. But we have to understand this is a war so I will address the matters as they come up. But we have to understand this first and foremost. We are at war. War. With people who kills at a moment's notice. They do not care. Freedom is not this country's gift to the world. It is the Almighty's gift to every person in the world. We do have an obligation to take freedom to the world, to feed folks, to assist with AIDS. We can win the war on terror and we will do.

NPR guy - with public support for you on Iraq plummetting do you feel you are ineffective communicator, do you feel you have failed in any way to win confidence?
This is what elections are for, it is for the voters to decide. If I tried to finetune my message based on polls I would not be very true. I hope today you have a sense on my conviction about this. My campaign is something I look forward to. But this is a big question - what is the purpose of American power. But I will say this - one thing you can say about me, when I say something. I mean it.


There you are.

On song and not taking a step back.

:: WB 6:34 pm [link+] ::

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