December 9th, 2008
01:30 PM ET
9 years ago

Bush defends Iraq invasion at West Point farewell

President Bush says farewell to the cadets at West Point.

President Bush says farewell to the cadets at West Point.

WEST POINT, New York (CNN) - With his days in office dwindling and
criticism of his record mounting, an unapologetic President Bush strongly defended his administration's foreign and defense policies - including his controversial decision to invade Iraq and the tenure of former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - in an address Tuesday at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

"Within weeks of September the 11th, our armed forces began taking the fight to the terrorists around the world," Bush said to an assembly of West Point cadets. "And we have not stopped."

Bush asserted that, in the more than seven years since the terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the U.S. and its allies had "applied the full range of military and intelligence assets" to "severely weaken" terrorist networks and kill hundreds of al Qaeda leaders.

At the same time, however, he conceded that the military and the incoming Obama administration will face a volatile situation in a number of hot spots around the globe in the years ahead - particularly along the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan, where "ungoverned spaces" remain a safe haven for a significant number of Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

"We have made it clear to Pakistan and to all our partners that we will do what is necessary to protect American troops and the American people," said Bush, who has been criticized by the Pakistani government for launching missile attacks against suspected terrorist targets inside the country's borders.

President-elect Barack Obama has also indicated a willingness to strike "high value" targets inside Pakistan if the Pakistani government is unable or unwilling to act.

Relations between the U.S. and Pakistan have been further strained in the wake of last month's terrorist attacks in Mumbai, India. The Bush administration has insisted that Pakistan - a historic rival of India - cooperate in the investigation of the attacks.

Pakistan has denied any role in the incident, which resulted in deaths of more than 160 people. Indian officials have blamed Pakistani militants.

Reviewing what was arguably his most significant decision as president, Bush defended the invasion of Iraq - a move that came under withering criticism at home and abroad after pre-war intelligence showing Iraq in possession of weapons of mass destruction proved to be incorrect.

"We took a hard look at the danger posed by Iraq," Bush argued. "After seeing the destruction of September 11, we concluded that America could not afford to allow a regime with such a threatening and violent record to remain in the heart of the Middle East."

Bush said that while the war in Iraq has been "longer and more difficult than expected," the administration's so-called "surge" strategy had worked and that the recently concluded security agreement with the Iraqi government had "set a framework for the drawdown of American forces as the fight in Iraq nears a successful end."

At the same time, Bush defended one of the primary architects of the Iraq war - the much-maligned former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld - by arguing that Rumsfeld was responsible for leading a transformation of the military that has left the armed forces "better trained, better equipped and better prepared to meet the threats facing America today, and tomorrow and long in the future."

Bush also promised that al Qaeda's top leaders would eventually be punished for their role in the September 11 attacks and the conflicts that followed.

"The day will come when they receive the justice they deserve," Bush said.

Filed under: President Bush
soundoff (180 Responses)
  1. Juge

    Liar Liar Pants Afire!

    December 9, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  2. Jeff

    But Bush and Rumsfeld will probably never face the justice they deserve.

    Justice dealt out by The Hague.

    December 9, 2008 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  3. Lyndon from CA

    America's best and brightest willing to sacrifice their lives and that Bush vampire willing to take it from them.

    December 9, 2008 02:13 pm at 2:13 pm |
  4. Sharon Kitchen

    One would think that between him and rumsfeld/cheney and the rest of his "people" that being a constant reminder of such a costly ,ill-informed (some call an outright lie),blunder,that has cost the lives of so many.......he would choose anything else to talk about.
    But.......................................not bush...............................................................

    December 9, 2008 02:15 pm at 2:15 pm |
  5. Geeque - Chicago,IL

    What an Idiot ! The Worst President of The United States, you belong to jail Mr. War Criminal.

    December 9, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  6. Glenn in California

    Just another nail in the G.W. legacy coffin, defending Rumsfeld. Bush will go down in history as worst president EVER.

    December 9, 2008 02:17 pm at 2:17 pm |
  7. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    an arrogant jerk to the very end.....

    December 9, 2008 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  8. tfc

    Goes to show you that if you say something often enough, you come to belive it, regardless of how rediculous it is.

    December 9, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  9. james in s.c.

    idiot king bush is still connecting the dots with iraq and 9-11!! he's a total sociopath!!

    December 9, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  10. jon

    too bad your not going to be the one to distribute that justice, hope you cry yourself to sleep you coward

    December 9, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  11. Ed A.

    George W. Bush continues to attempt to link Iraq and the September 11 attacks.

    Is this a case of, "if said enough, it will become true"?

    Saddam Hussein, Iraq and the September 11 attacks are NOT linked.

    Please Mr. President, enough!

    December 9, 2008 02:19 pm at 2:19 pm |
  12. paul (staunch Moderate)

    Interesting that, yet once again, Bush changes his tune on what his impetus was for invading Iraq in an attempt to defend his administration's unlawful actions.

    "The day will come when they receive the justice they deserve..."

    Mr President, sir, we can only hope that the Justice Department will indeed ensure you all receive the justice you rightly deserve. There is an overwhelming amount of evidence clearly pointing to the guilt of you, VP Cheney, SoS Rice, and former SoD Rumsfeld, among many others who so blatantly lied to Congress, the American people, and the world.

    What this country needs now is someone who will be as rabid in the pursuit of this as Kenneth Starr was in pursuing the previous administration.

    December 9, 2008 02:20 pm at 2:20 pm |
  13. Ed, Santa Fe, NM

    Bush is an arrogant JERK to the very end....

    December 9, 2008 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  14. failboat nubsauce

    "September 11, we concluded that America could not afford to allow a regime with such a threatening and violent record to remain in the heart of the Middle East."

    Violent Record huh?

    Gee Mr Bush... the most violent record for any country in the middle east is........... you guessed it


    why didnt we invade them?

    December 9, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  15. Gary of El Centro, Ca

    It's been 7 years since 911........when exactly do you expect that "punishment" day to come Mr. President?

    December 9, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  16. Roy Arellano (San Antonio)

    Sorry buddy, won't stand, we live in the era of technology. All that has happened was done with the eye of the media and internet always on. History will be harder to re-write now.

    December 9, 2008 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  17. Disgraceful!!

    We are learning more and more about Bush's administration, now that it is coming to an end. We are learning they did absolutely nothing to protect our young people who have volunteered their lives for 'his' war.

    Good riddance Gov. Bush...

    December 9, 2008 02:24 pm at 2:24 pm |
  18. Northwest Washington

    Bush still loves to use our troops as props and backdrops. He is the most pathetic human on this planet.

    December 9, 2008 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  19. Mike Dallas

    It still amazes me this man can look these and former young people in the eye, knowing some will soon be victims of his elective war.

    December 9, 2008 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  20. rich

    Should have been Bush arrested at 6am today along with the Illinois governer. We all know his crimes.

    December 9, 2008 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  21. arc, Lugano CH

    Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rice and Wolfowitz etc... are War Criminals. History should remember then as such.

    December 9, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  22. What an idiot!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Mr President, you have done what Al-Qaida has been trying to do forever. You have brought the United States of America to its knees. So long, Mr. Failure. Please try not to cry as President Obama restores our country back to what it once was, before you had to come along.

    December 9, 2008 02:28 pm at 2:28 pm |
  23. Emma

    Too bad he lacks the self-esteem to own the mistakes he made.

    December 9, 2008 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  24. Big D

    More empty promises and continued coverups to a most disasterous president and administration. The country and the world will be much better off if, and when, you just "GO AWAY" and are NEVER heard from again. I heard they're in the market for a "bafoon" at the San Diego Zoo. Hope you get the job, you deserve it!

    December 9, 2008 02:32 pm at 2:32 pm |
  25. FreeNLovIt

    It was recklessly handled. It could have been smoother had we 100% committed enough resources to fight to win.

    December 9, 2008 02:33 pm at 2:33 pm |
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