THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release June 28, 2004
REMARKS BY PRESIDENT BUSH
AND PRIME MINISTER BLAIR
ON TRANSFER OF IRAQI SOVEREIGNTY
4:55 P.M. (Local)
PRESIDENT BUSH: Good afternoon. Earlier
today, 15 months after the liberation of Iraq, and two days
ahead of schedule, the world witnessed the arrival of a
free and sovereign Iraqi government. Iraqi officials informed
us that they are ready to assume power, and Prime Minister
Allawi believes that making this transition now is best
for his country. After decades of brutal rule by a terror
regime, the Iraqi people have their country back.
This is a day of great hope for Iraqis,
and a day that terrorist enemies hoped never to see. The
terrorists are doing all they can to stop the rise of a
free Iraq. But their bombs and attacks have not prevented
Iraqi sovereignty, and they will not prevent Iraqi democracy.
Iraqi sovereignty is a tribute to
the will of the Iraqi people and the courage of Iraqi leaders.
This day also marks a proud moral achievement
for members of our coalition. We pledged to end a dangerous
regime, to free the oppressed, and to restore sovereignty.
We have kept our word.
Fifteen months ago, Saddam's regime was
an enemy of America and the civilized world; today Iraq's
government is an ally of both. Fifteen months ago, Iraq
was a state sponsor of terrorism; today Iraq's leaders,
with our support, are systematically fighting terrorists
across their country.
Fifteen months ago, we faced the threat of a dictator with
a history of using weapons of mass destruction; today the
dictator is a threat to no one from the cell he now occupies.
Fifteen months ago, the regime in Baghdad was the most aggressive
in the Middle East, and a constant source of fear and alarm
for Iraq's neighbors; today Iraq threatens no other country
and its democratic progress will be an example to the broader
Middle East. Fifteen months ago, Iraq was ruled by a regime
that brutalized and tortured its own people, murdered hundreds
of thousands, and buried them in mass graves. Today Iraqis
live under a government that strives for justice, upholds
the rule of law, and defends the dignity of every citizen.
Iraq today still has many challenges to
overcome -- we recognize that. But it is a world away from
the tormented, exhausted and isolated country we found last
year. Now the transfer of sovereignty begins a new phase
in Iraq's progress toward full democracy. Together, with
the Iraqi government, we're moving forward on every element
of our five-part plan for Iraqi self-government.
Iraq's interim government has gained broad
international support, and has been endorsed by the U.N.
Security Council. The United States and our coalition partners
are helping prepare Iraqis for the defense of their own
country, and we appreciate NATO's decision to approve Prime
Minister Allawi's request for assistance in training Iraqi
security forces -- in training the Iraqi security forces.
We're helping Iraqis rebuild their country's infrastructure,
and Iraq will move -- continue moving toward free elections,
with important assistance from the United Nations.
All this progress is being attacked by
foreign terrorists and by thugs from the fallen regime.
The terrorists know they face defeat unless they break the
spirit and commitment of the civilized world. The civilized
world will not be frightened or intimidated. And Iraq's
new leaders have made their position clear: Prime Minister
Allawi recently said that "the insurgents are trying
to destroy our country, and we're not going to allow this."The
struggle is, first and foremost, an Iraqi struggle. The
Prime Minister said of his people, "We're prepared
to fight, and if necessary, die for these objectives."
America, Great Britain, our coalition respect that spirit
and the Iraqi people will not stand alone.
The United States military and our coalition
partners have made a clear, specific and continuing mission
in Iraq. As we train Iraqi security forces, we'll help those
forces to find and destroy the killers. We'll protect infrastructure
from the attacks. We'll provide security for the upcoming
elections. Operating in a sovereign nation, our military
will act in close consultation with the Iraqi government.
Yet coalition forces will remain under coalition command.
Iraq's Prime Minister and President have told me that their
goal is to eventually take full responsibility for the security
of their country. And America wants Iraqi forces to take
that role. Our military will stay as long as the stability
of Iraq requires, and only as long as their presence is
needed and requested by the Iraqi government.
Today, at the moment sovereignty was transferred,
the mission of the Coalition Provisional Authority came
to an end. Ambassador Jerry Bremer has been tireless and
dedicated, and he returns home, with the thanks of his country.
Thousands of American civilians have labored for progress
in Iraq under difficult and sometimes dangerous conditions.
They also have our gratitude.
From the first hours of Operation Iraqi
Freedom and to this very hour, in their battles against
the terrorists, America's men and women in uniform have
been unrelenting in the performance of their duty. They've
had staunch allies, like Great Britain, at their side. We
asked a lot of our military, and there's still much hard
work ahead. We're grateful for the sacrifice of all who've
served. We honor the memory of all who've died. The courage
of our military
has brought us to this hopeful day, and the continued service
of our military assures the success of our cause.
In Iraq, we're serving the cause of liberty,
and liberty is always worth fighting for. In Iraq, we're
serving the cause of peace, by promoting progress and hope
in the Middle East, and as the alternative to stagnation
and hatred and violence for export. In Iraq, we're serving
the cause of our own security, striking the terrorists where
we find them, instead of waiting for them to strike us at
For all these reasons, we accepted a difficult
task in Iraq. And for all these reasons, we will finish
that task.Mr.Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: Thank you, Mr. President.
Today is, obviously, an important staging
post on the journey of the people of Iraq towards a new
future, one in which democracy replaces dictatorship; in
which freedom replaces repression; and of which all the
people of Iraq can look forward to the possibility and the
hope of an Iraq that genuinely guarantees a future for people
from whatever part of Iraq they come.
I think it's just worth reflecting for
a moment on what we now have before us, because today, of
course, is extremely important. It's the transfer of real
and full sovereignty to the people and the government of
Iraq. From now on, the coalition changes. We are there in
support of the Iraqi government and
the Iraqi people.
And what you have very clearly, therefore,
is on one side you have the Iraqi government, the Iraqi
people, the international community, that has now spoken
through the United Nations, who want a free, stable, pluralist,
democratic Iraq; and on the other hand, you have some of
the former Saddam supporters, you have outside terrorists,
you have fanatics and extremists of one sort or another
who want to stop the possibility of that new Iraq happening.
And, of course, it's going to carry on
being difficult and dangerous. There was the tragic loss
of a British soldier today, and many American servicemen
have died. Many Iraqi civilians have died. Many of those
who are joining up to the new Iraqi security services have
died, have given their lives. But they've all given their
lives in the cause of trying to provide a different and
better future for the people of Iraq.
And I think what is interesting about this
situation is that, for those people who are there in Iraq
causing this death and destruction, they have a very, very
clear and simple objective. And the objective is not just
to destabilize Iraq, to produce chaos, to produce bloodshed,
to try and prevent democracy; the strategy of these terrorists
is to try and prevent Iraq becoming a symbol of hope not
just for the Iraqi people, but, actually, for that region
and the wider world.
And that is why, in a very real sense,
because al Qaeda and other terrorists groups are actually
there in Iraq now, what is happening in Iraq, the battle
in Iraq, the battle for Iraq and its future, if you like,
is, in a genuine sense, the front line of the battle against
terrorism and the new security threat that we face.
And that security threat is what has dominated
our discussion here at the NATO summit. And that security
threat, which is about this new and poisonous and evil form
of extremism, linked to a perversion of the true faith of
Islam, and repressive, unstable states that proliferate
in and deal in chemical, biological, nuclear weapons --
that security threat is the threat of our times.
And the reason why it is so important that
NATO fulfills its functions, in respect of Afghanistan and
Iraq, is that in both those countries, the same struggle
for democracy and freedom is going on. And you can see in
Afghanistan -- yes, of course, there are still tremendous
difficulties -- but two-and-a-half million refugees have
returned there, girls are now allowed to go to school --
several million of them at school were banned from school
under the Taliban -- economic growth rates of 30 percent
last year, 20 percent this year.
What is the struggle? The struggle in Afghanistan
is the struggle between the majority of Afghans, four million
of whom have already registered to vote,
against Taliban elements, al Qaeda elements, people who
want to drag the country backwards, who want to turn it
back into a failed and repressive state.
And so that's why it's right for NATO to
step up to the mark today and say, we are going to extend
the role of the security force. It's quite right for us
to say, as the U.K., we will make a contribution in putting
the ARK force forward in 2006 to allow NATO to continue
with its responsibilities. It's why it's right for us to
look at the measures we need urgently in order to give the
protection for the Afghans as they approach their September
And in respect to Iraq, exactly the same
issues arise. As I say, there again, you have people trying
to get towards freedom and democracy, and people
trying to stop them. And so our job's got to be, again,
as an international community, to give them help. And that's
why it's important that NATO helps with the training of
the Iraqi security forces.
And everybody knows that, ultimately, we
can be there in support, but as the Iraqis themselves will
tell you, they know that, ultimately, their task, their
responsibility is to make their country safe. And they want
us to help. So that's what we're going to do -- help with
the training and equipping of the Iraqi security forces.
Just one final point I want to make. I
thought we had an interesting set of discussions this morning
and at lunch today. But there was a very powerful speech
that was made by the President of Latvia at our lunch today,
when we were discussing the question of what NATO should
do to help Afghanistan and Iraq. And I think it's sometimes
a very useful reminder for some of the newest democracies
in our world to tell us, from a standpoint of immense moral
force, just what democracy means to people who have faced
repression for so many years. And she made a very powerful
intervention that reminded us, and reminded me, certainly,
again, of what it is we are here to do. We know the security
threat we face. We know the ultimate answer to it is not
just force of arms and security measures; it is ultimately
the values of democracy and freedom and justice and the
rule of law. And that's what we're trying to do.
And for NATO, after the end of the Cold
War, after all the changes that have happened, I think it
has its role today. It is to support that process of transition
and change the world over, because, ultimately, our best
guarantee of security lies in the values that are not values
that are American or British or Western values, but the
values of humanity.
PRESIDENT BUSH: We'll answer a couple of
questions. Dick, you got a question?
Q I do, Mr. President.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Why don't you ask it?
Q Mr. President, Iraq's new Prime Minister
has talked in recent days about the possibility of imposing
marital law there as a way of restoring security. Is that
something that you think a new, emerging government should
do, and particularly with the use of U.S. forces, who would
have to be instrumental in doing it?
PRESIDENT BUSH: You know, Prime Minister
Allawi has fought tyranny. He's a guy that stood up to Saddam
Hussein. He's a patriot. And every conversation I've had
with him has been one the recognizes human liberty, human
rights. I mean, he's a man who is willing to risk his life
for a democratic future for Iraq.
Having said that, he may take tough security
measures to deal with Zarqawi. But he may have to. Zarqawi
is the guy who beheads people on TV. He's
the person that orders suiciders to kill women and children.
And so, Prime Minister Allawi, as the head of a sovereign
government, may decide he's going to have to take some tough
measures to deal with a brutal, cold-blooded killer. And
our job is to help the Iraqis stand up forces that are able
to deal with these thugs.
And it's tough, there's no question about
it. Look, they can't whip our militaries. They can't whip
our militaries. What they can do is get on your TV screens
and stand in front of your TV cameras and cut somebody's
head off, in order to try to cause us to cringe and retreat.
That's their strongest weapon.
And we just -- and as Prime Minister Allawi has said publicly
many times, he will not cower in the face of such brutal
murder. And neither will we. Neither will we.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I think you've got
to distinguish very carefully between two separate things.
The first is, undoubtedly, the new Iraqi government will
want to take tough security measures. They have to. They've
got a situation where they've got these terrorists who are
prepared to kill any number of innocent people. And remember,
the innocent Iraqis who are dying in Iraq today are dying
because of these terrorist acts.
On the other hand, I know perfectly well
from the discussions I've had, not just with the Prime Minister,
but with the other Iraqi ministers, their purpose is to
take tough security measures, but in order to guarantee
freedom for people, not to take it away. So they're not
going to be wanting to introduce martial law that takes
away the basic freedoms of the people. On the contrary.
They will be wanting to take tough security measures, and
we will want
to help train their forces able to guard and get after the
people doing this killing. But it's not going to be about
taking away people's freedoms. It's going to be about allowing
those freedoms to happen.
Q Andrew Martin, BBC. Could I ask both
leaders, following on from that, do we, in some sense, then,
give the new Iraqi administration carte blanche to go after
these people? The Iraqi Defense Minister was talking this
morning about hunting down and eliminating the insurgents.
And if I could also just ask, do you now regard Germany,
and in particular, France, as shoulder-to-shoulder alongside
you, after the difficult times you've had with them over
the past 18 months?
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: On the first point,
I don't think there's any question of the Iraqis -- no Iraqi
minister has said this to me, of wanting to hunt people
down in the sense of kill people without a proper trial
and end up taking away people's basic liberties. They don't
want that at all. But you've got to understand what they're
faced with there. They're faced with a group of people who
will kill any number of people and who will do the most
terrible acts of barbarity, and why? In order to stop them
getting a democratic and stable country.
As I keep saying to people, there are lots
of things that we thought might happen as a result of the
conflict in Iraq. I mean, we were confident of military
victory. But there were lots of things that we thought might
happen. We thought there might be a humanitarian crisis,
and we made a lot of provisions for that. We thought that
maybe -- and we were told this by many people, many so-called
experts who said, well, the Iraqis, they'll want a theological
state, they won't want a proper democracy. These issues
have actually either been dealt with or resolved themselves.
What we've got is a very simple problem
to describe, and a complicated problem to overcome. We have
groups of terrorists and insurgents who will use suicide
bombs, who do not care in the least about killing innocent
people, who will do whatever it takes to stop the country
functioning properly.Now, in those circumstances, I don't
blame at all the Iraqi ministers -- any of us would be doing
this, as politicians in the same situation -- of wanting
to get after those people and hunt them down. But they're
not getting after them, hunting them down in defiance of
basic freedoms, but in order to help basic freedoms. And
so I don't think we should set this new thing away that
somehow the new Iraqi government wants to -- somehow wants
to put aside democracy and freedom and all the rest of it.
The reason they're trying to stop the terrorists is so that
democracy and freedom can flourish in Iraq.
Secondly, in relation to France and Germany,
look, I mean, there's no point in thinking -- we haven't
overcome the disagreement there was about whether the conflict
was justified -- I mean, there's no point in us standing
here and saying, all the previous disagreements have disappeared.
They haven't. On the other hand, what is important is you've
got a United Nations resolution that has blessed the new
government in Iraq, and you've got a situation in which
we have accepted today that there is a good and sound NATO
role -- which is actually the only role we ever sought for
NATO -- of training and helping to train the Iraqis so that
they can do their own security work, which is the request
that they have made to us. And in that sense, I think the
international community has come together. And I welcome
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, my sense is, is that
there's a hope that we succeed with all the nations sitting
around the table. Everybody understands the stakes. And
the stakes are high, particularly for those of us who recognize
that the long-term defeat of terror will happen when freedom
takes hold in the broader Middle East. It's a long-term
solution.And if you really think about what's happened since
September 11th, there's been some amazing progress. Pakistan
has now joined the battle against al Qaeda. President Musharraf
has made a concerted decision to go after al Qaeda, which
hides in remote regions of his country, on the Afghanistan
border. Libya has declared and produced its weapons programs
that we're now destroying. You know, Turkey is solid. There's
a solid democracy here in the broader Middle East, which
is a great example. Afghanistan, which was a terrorist haven
-- this is where the terrorists plotted and trained to come
and kill, not only in America, but elsewhere -- is now heading
Who ever thought Afghanistan was going
to have elections? Three years ago you said, gosh, you think
Afghanistan is going to have elections, I probably would
have said, no. And so is Iraq, Iraq is headed towards elections,
too. It's substantial change in a quick period of time.
And I think everybody sitting around the table is hopeful
that democracy will serve as an agent of change in this
part of the world.
In terms of hunting them down, look, I
think the Iraqis understand what we know, that the best
way to defend yourself is to go on the offense and find
the killers before they kill. I presume that's what he was
saying. I haven't asked him his language. I sometimes use
that language myself. And I've used it
because my most solemn duty is to defend my country, is
to defend it from people that obviously are willing to (snaps
his fingers) kill innocent life just like that.
And my position is, is the best way to
defend yourself is to find the few, the few -- and I believe
that's what he's saying, that we're going to find those
few before they continue to bomb whoever happens to be in
their way. And we'll support him, we'll help him.Let's see
-- Jim.Q We were reminded by the anniversary of D-Day that
60 years ago it took an active invasion to end the occupation
of France and other European nations. Now, in Iraq, the
coalition has gladly and willingly returned sovereignty
to the Iraqis. And I wonder, is there any sign that this
has changed the views of your more skeptical NATO brethren?
Any evidence that the critics are now persuaded to the view
that you both argued, that it was, in fact, a liberation,
or, at this point, does it matter to each of you what the
PRESIDENT BUSH: Yes, it matters to me what
you say. I mean, it matters to me what -- (laughter) --
sorry. (Laughter.) Just a little humor. (Laughter.) Yes,
it matters. It matters because it is important for nations
that are blessed by freedom to come together to help nations
that are struggling to be free. And that's why it matters.
The more people participating in the process, the better
off it is. The more reconstruction there is, the more people
willing to help with the education of children, the more
people willing to help rebuild hospitals, the more people
willing to be -- to help to rebuild this destroyed infrastructure,
infrastructure destroyed by the Taliban or by Saddam Hussein,
the better off the world will be.And so, yes, the more people
who say, this is worth while, the more likely it is 50 million
people are going to realize the blessings that we have.
And the world will be better off for it. And the examples
of free societies in their neighborhoods are going to make
a huge difference in the lives of others.
Listen, there are people inside of Iran
who are watching what's happening -- young, vibrant, professional
people who want to be free. And they're wondering whether
or not they'll have that opportunity. And I think a free
Iraq and a free Afghanistan are going to set such a vibrant,
bright example for
others. And so, yes, it matters. And I think people are
beginning to see that we were, in fact, liberators, and
that we're not only going to liberate, we'll follow through,
no matter how tough it gets on the ground.
PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I think, speaking
as someone with a largely uncritical media -- (laughter)
-- I think that, sure -- I'm not sure that we will have
persuaded all our critics, no. But I think that -- I think
it's just worth emphasizing the degree to which our own
strategy has evolved post-September the 11th. Sometimes
people talk about this issue to do with international terrorism
today as if somehow it was because of what we have done
in Afghanistan or Iraq that this terrorist threat exists.
This terrorist threat was building up there for a long time.
September the 11th did, and should have, changed our thinking.
And the way our strategy has evolved is that I think we
know now that it is important not simply to go in and get
after the Taliban in Afghanistan, but also to say, no, we're
going to do something else. We're also going to give that
country democracy and freedom, because that is actually
part of the battle against terrorism, as well.And that's
why it's important to see this as a whole picture. The fact
is, if Iraq becomes a stable and democratic country -- and
I'm not underestimating for a single instant the difficulties
in doing that, incidentally -- but if it does, that is a
huge blow to the propaganda and to the effort of the extremists.
That's, in fact, why sometimes I think they have a clearer
idea of how important it is to stop us, than sometimes the
Western world has of why it's so important that we get there
with Iraq and with the Iraqi people.
And so the Greater Middle East Initiative
and the idea of spreading democracy there, resolving the
Israeli-Palestinian issue on the basis of two states, both
democratic states -- because what we want for the Palestinians
is not just their own state, we want a democratic state
for them, where they have proper freedoms, as well.So I
think that you can see this as part of an evolving strategy,
where we realize we've got to be prepared to take tough
security measures and tough action where necessary, but
we know that that is not all that it's about. It's also
about trying to show that there is a value system there
that isn't related to any religion or one religion, one
civilization. It's about these basic values of humanity,
that wherever they're implemented and tried, you get greater
security. Because, basically, democracies -- well, they
have to fight sometimes when they have to defend themselves,
but they don't have the same aggressive intent that these
unstable or extreme or fanatical regimes do.
So part of what we're trying to do -- and,
yes, it's tough at the moment, and, of course, you get into
a situation where people will fight us very hard; that's
in the nature of any of these struggles that you undertake
-- but our honest belief is the world will be a safer place
if we're able to make this work. And I don't know whether
we've convinced people of this or not, but I do think --
the one thing that interests me is occasionally when people
who opposed our action in Iraq will say, the really important
thing now is to get those democratic elections. And I think
that's fantastic, but let's be clear: We wouldn't be talking
about democratic elections in Iraq if Saddam was still there.
Q A question for both of you. How do you
counter the impression you've created today that you couldn't
hand over the burden of Iraq quickly enough, and the way
that it was done is proof, is a symbol, if you like, of
a shambles in Iraq?PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: It's a little bit
tough there, Bill -- I mean, you know -- (laughter.)PRESIDENT
BUSH: Well, let me try it then. You know that last Friday
we handed over the final ministry to the Iraqi interim government.
In other words, we have been making a transfer of sovereignty
all along. And the -- actually, we've been contemplating
this move for a while. But the final decision was by Prime
Minister Allawi, and he thought it would strengthen his
hand. And so that's why the handover took place today, as
opposed to 48 hours later.
And so, not only is there full sovereignty
in the hands of the government, all the ministries have
been transferred and they're up and running. And I supported
the decision; I thought it was a smart thing to do, primarily
because the Prime Minister was ready for it.And it's a sign
of confidence. It's a sign that we're ready to go. And it's
a proud moment, it really is, for the Iraqi people. And,
frankly, I feel comfortable in making the decision, because
I feel comfortable about Prime Minister Allawi and President
al-Yawar. These are strong people. They're gutsy, they're
courageous. They're, as we say in Texas, stand-up guys.
You know, they'll lead. They'll lead their people to a better
day. And it's going to be very hard for them and very trying,
but they just -- they and the Iraqi people need to hear,
loud and clear, they'll have our friendship and our support,
no matter how tough it gets.PRIME MINISTER BLAIR: I think
it's worth just pointing out, as well -- I agree, obviously,
with what's just been said, but I think you've got somewhere
in the region of, is it 10 or 11 ministries that are already
effectively run by the Iraqis themselves. I mean, their
health and education ministries are already run by Iraqis.
But it's a sign of their confidence and their desire to
get on with it. They want to do it. They know that, in the
end, they've got to do it. They want that responsibility.
And I think one of the exciting things
about the last few weeks is that the Iraqi people, in the
sense through their Prime Minister and President, have indicated,
we want the responsibility. Now, we then stay and support,
however, and we're not walking out of this at all. We stay
and support them. And we'll stay for as long as it takes
to make sure that that support is there for them, so that
we help them to that freedom and democracy they want to
see. And it's a -- I think that, in a way, the relationship
between us and the Iraqi government has been -- it's a healthier,
better relationship, now that this is transfer of sovereignty
there, and where they really want the responsibility of
running their own country, but they know the practical fact
is, for the moment, until their own security forces are
built up properly, they need our support, and they have
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you all very much.END
5:29 P.M. (Local)