December 9th, 2008
01:30 PM ET
10 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. Looking at the big picture

    Not linked just connected.

    December 9, 2008 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  2. chelle

    I thought he'd figured it out...but no....he is still and always will be an idiot. Mr. Bush – everyone has figured out that you and your team scewed the data to make your push to invade Iraq. We all know it – stop lying about it.

    And just think – the US could have had another GWB in Sarah "I can see Russia" Palin.

    December 9, 2008 02:35 pm at 2:35 pm |
  3. S.B. Stein E.B. NJ

    Apparently the some of the voters are not thinking. To elect this man (twice) was just one of the stupidest things that this country could have done. There was no clear justification then (and now) to launch a fight in Iraq. Even after the process started to find materials and equipment related to WMD and unlawful weapons, Bush had it stopped to launch his attack when we hadn't finished with Afghanistan. That should have done first. That was the more clear problem.

    If there was a regime that had a history of violence, yes the Hussein government did have it. That is why we should have done a complete job in first gulf war which had legitimate reason for going in.

    December 9, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  4. Larry, Hazleton, Pa

    Duty, Honor Country – these are the words of General Macarthur and they are words that should never be uttered by the likes of BUSH/CHENEY niether one them could even remotely understand what they mean to those of us who have served this great nation.

    December 9, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  5. rob

    Nice to see all the tollerant left in these posts, as usual fair-minded and able to look at the whole picture of the history of the last 2 decades in that region.

    December 9, 2008 02:37 pm at 2:37 pm |
  6. vahe

    idiot bush oil money baby!!!!!!!!!!!!!! he doesnt care he made billions out of this war

    December 9, 2008 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  7. obama-mama

    George still does not get that 9-11 and Iraq are not related. I will be glad when he stages right.

    December 9, 2008 02:39 pm at 2:39 pm |
  8. c in il

    Sadam was a criminal dictator. He killed his own people, and the world is a better place without him. I'm glad he is gone. That is what the Iraq War has accomplished.

    December 9, 2008 02:41 pm at 2:41 pm |
  9. Joyce

    Bush is hard at work to redeem himself from the disastrous 8 years he ruled the country. Hard at work to save face and hope history would somehow be re-written. While the man who will replace him is the one working very hard to find a solution to the economic crisis among other things.

    I mean come on!!!! If this is not evidence of how selfish this man is, I don't know what is. Me first. His legacy first. While people are losing their livelihood.

    Moron, you're still the President unfortunately. The only way we'd forget about you is if the world develops amnesia. Or maybe just maybe you can do something good for the next month by not screwing things up any further!!!

    December 9, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  10. Donna

    My nephew is at West Point...while it's an honor to see any President in person, it takes away from the luster when that President happens to be one that lies, lacks moral or remorse, etc....

    December 9, 2008 02:42 pm at 2:42 pm |
  11. Tylenol666

    War in Training School,, gotta luv em

    December 9, 2008 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  12. Frank Fatcherman

    Anyone who would speak out against the President is a Communist. He was elected fair and square...I'll bet you'll vote next time you stupid hippie. All Hail President Bush the great Leader in the free world.

    December 9, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  13. KG

    Actually, in the real world, Al Qaeda, Iraq (the Saddam regime), Syria, Iran, the Taliban, Hamas, etc, etc are all linked when it comes to terrorism. They work with each other, train with each other, help each other financially, help each other require weapons, etc. Just because you don't have a piece of paper with everyone's name on it doesn't make it so.

    I'm not saying Pres Bush was a great Pres. Goodness knows, he's made a lot of mistakes. But, (in my opinion) when it came to confronting terrorists, their organizations, and their finances, I think he did a relatively good job.

    Now, it's time for us to move on as a nation.

    December 9, 2008 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  14. Dylan from MN

    That's a lot different from what you were saying to Charlie Gibson, Mr. Bush. C'mon, we're not that dumb here in America, the vast majority of Americans know that Iraq and 9/11 were not related. C'mon!

    December 9, 2008 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  15. CJ

    What a moron. He is on tape with all comments he has and will make, what an idiot. Jan 20 can not come fast enough. No matter what he tries to do to make himself look good it is too late. He is the worst president in History. He needs to go back to Texas and stay there.

    December 9, 2008 02:47 pm at 2:47 pm |
  16. Jason in cincy

    President Bush –

    Thank you for finishing the job that Clinton couldnt. Although there were no WMD's (and to think people are upset there werent any?) – I am thankful you didnt find any – although you did liberate a nation, you brought in freedom from tyranny, you lifted spirits, you supplied opportunities that too many on this board take for granted to people who lived in fear. Thank you. Thank you to the 4200 brave men and women who gave their lives to the one thing you can NEVER put a price on – FREEDOM.

    December 9, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  17. Mark

    Will the freedom loving Iraqis come and liberate us from our Hussein Obama?
    How many terrorist attacks on the U.S. since 9-11? Don't any of you clowns remember the certainty with which more attacks were predicted after that horrible day? Everyone was VERY concerned. Guess what? Didn't happen here, but did in many other places...because we were strong and took the battle elsewhere. Al Queda focused on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq so you precious little crybabies could wallow in your sanctimonious elitism in secure comfort. Children....

    December 9, 2008 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  18. Bush Be Gone

    No one died when Clinton lied.

    Bush cannot say the same,

    I am glad I will not be in Bush's shoes come Judgment Day!

    December 9, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  19. Ron of Baltimore

    W, get thee out of town. Don't wait for January 20th, don't give any more addresses to the nation, or to anyone else. You have made a big enough fool of yourself already. Do not take the rest of us for fools any longer. You are a snivelling, self-centered, weak person at heart; we know. Now just go before any more morale is lost in this great nation and our great Party.

    December 9, 2008 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  20. keeth in california

    Who is he trying to convince? Us or himself? When does Bush get the justice he deserves for an illegal invasion and countless deaths based on lies? Yawn... oh, never mind...

    December 9, 2008 02:50 pm at 2:50 pm |
  21. WhoCares?

    He really is trying to re-write history on his way out the door isn't he?

    December 9, 2008 02:51 pm at 2:51 pm |
  22. Former Republican Army Wife

    I am so tired of seeing Mr. Bush use the backdrop of our men and women in uniform, to further his political rhetoric. He was to defend linking 9/11 and Iraq, write a book. Standing in front of those cadets, soon to be Officers in the united States Army, Mr. Bush should be praising their courage, speaking of what they face in the future. Don't stand in front of those men and women and try to politically define your misguided legacy. This man is a joke as president and can't leave office soon enough.

    December 9, 2008 02:52 pm at 2:52 pm |
  23. Remy

    It seems Bush follows the NAZI propaganda theories. NAZI propaganda minister Goebells once said " Tell the lies again and again, then the lies become truth".

    December 9, 2008 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  24. James, Ho. TX

    A defeated Iraqi Government 8 yrs prior, and they posed a threat to the U.S.;
    The truth being that You, Bush, were under orders from the PNAC !
    5000 Dead GI's later and the mangled; Thats what your taking back to Dallas on a government Pension. SMU should reject your One room Library!
    The "Divie Chicks" are absolutely right !

    December 9, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  25. Vicki5

    Everyone already knows the truth, and I for one am glad the little trick to re-write history isn't going to work this time.

    December 9, 2008 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
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