»  National Review Online

September 14th, 2004

  Good Evening, Iraq!

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[The following address was delivered by George W. Bush to the people of Iraq on Monday, November 8th, 2004. It was broadcast on prime-time TV and radio with a running translation in Arabic. It was also printed, in English and Arabic, as a leaflet, which was then widely distributed in Iraq.]

People of Iraq! I am George W. Bush, President and also President-Elect of the United States of America. In last week's elections, the citizens of my country asked me to continue as Chief Executive of our federal government, according to our Constitution and laws, and I shall hold this position, God willing, until January of 2009, four years and two months from now.

An expeditionary force under U.S. leadership, and with U.S. troops forming its largest contingent, has been occupying your country for a year and a half. This state of affairs came about because, in the first place, the former government of Iraq, under the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein, was in defiance of numerous U.N. resolutions; and in the second place, the US government believed that Iraq, under Saddam, was a threat to our nation and her interests.

I am appearing before you tonight to tell you that the U.S. component of that expeditionary force will soon be withdrawn from your country. It is the judgment of the U.S. government that the principal aim of those U.N. resolutions — namely, that Iraq no longer be a threat to the peace of this region by the fact of possessing weapons of mass destruction — has been fulfilled. It now seems possible, in fact, that Iraq was no such threat even at the time our troops landed in your country. However, the Saddam dictatorship gave us every reason to believe otherwise, and we acted accordingly, with full justification. We do not, and never shall, apologize for our actions.

It is the further judgment of the U.S. government that Iraq no longer represents any threat to our country and her interests; or, at any rate, no threat that requires our continued presence in your country. Other nations in the Coalition must make their own judgments; but we believe your country will soon be free of foreign troops altogether.

No nation is happy to have its territory occupied by foreign armies. Certainly the U.S. never intended the current occupation to be of long duration. We are not an imperialist nation. Our own nation's origins were in a revolt against imperialism. Our entire history testifies to our deep belief in national independence and self-determination for all peoples. We occupied Iraq in our own interests, because we believed that the Saddam dictatorship was a threat to us, and to the international order. Many other nations agreed with us. We shall now prepare to leave, as we always intended to, because those threats no longer exist.

So much for the interests of the United States and the international community of civilized nations. What of the interests of the Iraqi people?

Having removed the government which held power in Iraq for more than twenty years, and which, by methods however shameful, kept order here, and having disarmed and disbanded that regime's armed forces, we have felt some obligation to help the Iraqi people recover their ability to defend themselves against enemies both within and without. We have therefore striven, with the co-operation of patriotic Iraqis, to re-train and re-equip necessary new forces, while in the meantime using, and often sacrificing, our own soldiers, sailors, and airmen to suppress the enemies of Iraq's independence and internal peace. The American people have also contributed very generously to help in the reconstruction of your public utilities and administration, and to restore your ability to extract and export oil, a principal pillar of your country's prosperity.

I do not believe anyone could say that we have stinted in these efforts to help restore Iraq's ability to function as an independent nation. If, following our withdrawal, Iraq proves unable so to function, I do not believe the U.S. could be fairly blamed, nor do I believe the American people will blame their government. We have done our best for Iraq.

There is, however, a limit to what we can do, and a limit to the patience of our own people. If Iraqis cherish their nation, they must themselves be willing to sacrifice for it. If Iraqis wish to be citizens of a peaceful and prosperous country, they must themselves work hard to those ends. Many Iraqis, of course, are so willing, and indeed many have sacrificed their lives to those ends in this past year and a half. However, Iraq will only be a single nation, and at peace, if the overwhelming majority of Iraqis sink their differences and join together in a spirit of patriotic solidarity to preserve this nation. If Iraqis are not willing to do that, then there is no hope for Iraq, either under occupation or free from it.

Iraqis must choose their own future. The number of possibilities from which you can choose is small, and the United States reserves the right, in our own interests, to foreclose some of them.

One.  You may become a prosperous modern nation, enjoying freedom under constitutional government. That is, and has always been, our hope for Iraq.

Two.  You may return to dictatorship under the rule of gangsters. While we hope you will not choose this path, we will accept such a choice calmly and without interference, provided that your new gangster-dictatorship is not hostile to the United States or our interests. A dictatorship that is hostile to us and our interests, we shall not tolerate. It will meet the same fate as Saddam Hussein's.

Three.  Your country may degenerate into chaos, with a prolonged civil war, and perhaps ultimate disintegration. So long as you restrict yourselves to assaulting each other's lives and property, this state of affairs will be acceptable to us, though we shall regret your choice. Should Iraq disintegrate, and separate nations arise in her place, under coherent governments, we shall urge international acceptance of those nations, as we have in previous cases of national disintegration — most recently Yugoslavia — and shall work with the U.N. to bring them under the scope of the U.N. Charter, preserving them from predatory neighbors, while reserving always the right to act in our own interests if we believe those interests threatened.

Four.  A neighboring power may invade and attempt to annex part or all of your country. This will not be acceptable to the United States, and it will of course be a clear violation of the U.N. Charter. We shall seek U.N. authority to end any such adventure by concerted action on the part of the community of civilized nations; or, if that community is unwilling to act, we reserve the right to act unilaterally, subject to our calculation of our own interests, and to the approval of our people through their elected representatives.

People of Iraq! Elections will be held in your country a few weeks from now, so that you too may choose fellow citizens to make, interpret, and execute your laws, as the people of all modern civilized nations do. In the period leading to those elections, we shall do our best to assist the new Iraqi security forces to maintain order, and to crush those who seek to disrupt social peace. Following those elections, we shall commence preparations to withdraw from Iraq.

I cannot tell you how long that withdrawal will take. I hope it will be speedy. I guarantee only this: that the present occupation of your country by American armed forces, under the justification for which we arrived here a year and a half ago, will have ended completely when I step down from office in January 2009. I hope it will end well before that.

I further guarantee one other thing to you. Our troops have shown great discipline and forbearance when under attack by hostile elements in Iraq this past few months — under attack when they were helping to restore your country to peace, independence and prosperity. Our task once done, as we withdraw from your country in good order, and satisfied that we have accomplished our mission here, should there be any attacks on our withdrawing forces, those attacks will be countered with utmost ferocity.

We know that the Iraqi people wish us gone. We ourselves wish to be gone — we never wished to stay. Understanding this, we shall be bound to conclude that attacks on our withdrawing forces must be inspired not by any patriotic or properly military motives, but simply by the desire to humiliate or inconvenience us. Malice of this kind will be countered with equal malice, and tenfold force. Our leave-taking will be as confident and disciplined as was our arrival. Attempts to make it otherwise will be met with vigorous and indignant retaliation.

People of Iraq! It is natural for you to think that the affairs of your country are as important to others as they are to you. I am sorry to tell you that this is not the case. The people of the United States spend very little time thinking about Iraq. Our expenditures in Iraq, though we should like to think they were appreciated, have formed only a minuscule proportion of our national wealth. Our activities in your nation did not form a major theme in the recent presidential campaign. Americans, a generous people, would prefer to see Iraq prosper and thrive. No American wishes, or has ever wished, any harm to Iraq. Should Iraq fail as a nation, however, Americans will be very little concerned, so long as you pose no threat to us in your failed state. The purely internal affairs of Iraq are, in the last analysis, the business of no-one but Iraqis.

We the people of the United States have removed a perceived threat to ourselves, fulfilled an important commitment to the community of civilized nations, and done our sincere best, at a high cost to ourselves in precious blood and treasure, to repair the damage that must inevitably accompany a military campaign, however necessary and well justified, however well disciplined in execution. We shall leave Iraq in an orderly fashion, according to our own timetable, confident in the rightness of our past actions, proud of our efforts here, and ready to return in the future should Iraq ever again pose a threat to our interests.

What follows our withdrawal will be up to the people of Iraq. We hope that you will, in a spirit of proud patriotism, make wise choices. Should you fail to do so, we shall feel a mild passing sorrow, while remaining ever watchful for intentions to harm ourselves, our interests, or our allies.

We wish you well, with all our hearts. Good night!