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. Jason, Los Angeles

    How can he do that while looking some of these future victims in the eyes. What a horrible man. January 20 just can't come fast enough.

    December 9, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  2. Joe - STL

    The fact that Bush continues to link Iraq to 9/11, and continues to defend both his inept foreign policy and the completely moronic Rumsfeld shows just how pathetic and delusional he is.

    December 9, 2008 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  3. Super D

    May all the Bush haters be the first ones killed in the next terrorist attack. That would be justice for these morons.

    December 9, 2008 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  4. NY republican

    I'm still not convinced that it's the Republicans that are the "haters". Ms.B – it was September that was the reason for Iraq.

    December 9, 2008 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  5. Pathetic

    Bush doesn't deserve any cheering or salutes. He sent their friends and family members to their deaths all to finish a job his daddy couldn't do himself

    December 9, 2008 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  6. nick

    It is sad to watch Pres. Bush continue with his "correct to attach Iraq"speech. He and his team of experts were wrong. There were no WMD, and it certainly was not a "slam dunk" or a""mission äccomplished" Additionly, Rumsfeld plan left out troops undermanned, undersupplied, underequipped, and unaware of the response of the Iraq population. Bush will go to his grave and ultimately face his maker, still singing the same song. A man unable to admit a mistake that took so many lives. Sad, indeed.

    December 9, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  7. Thomas

    I guess this is the only group Bush can talk to with out the risk of being booed off stage.

    December 9, 2008 03:50 pm at 3:50 pm |
  8. Accountability

    George, for the love of God, just go away.....

    December 9, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  9. Sue in MI

    And soon, I hope, you too, George Bush, will get what you deserve for duping us, spying on us, committing war crimes, encouraging torture and secret prisons, ruining our economy, running up the debt and the deficit, and selling us out to China and Saudi Arabia. Nice work, George. Guess your attempt to become King (or dictator) hasn't worked out quite as planned. Wait, that would mean presume there WAS a plan! You have been responsible for far more US and Iraqi deaths than those hijackers you were warned about in August of 2001.

    December 9, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  10. Dan


    Can't wait to see the back of him!

    December 9, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  11. Charles

    I'm in that picture!!!

    December 9, 2008 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  12. Sherrol in Canada

    You sir need to stop giving speeches a just fade into the background. I truly feel sorry for Laura Bush.

    December 9, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  13. Jim

    What's really insulting is that he thinks, because he's at one of the service academies, he can spit out such stupidity and it will be cheered. I think our future Army officers know better.

    December 9, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  14. Corey W

    He is sick and needs Jesus, not the one he profess to know but the one he needs to confess to know.

    December 9, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  15. richard

    The only idiots are those who think Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with terrorist.

    December 9, 2008 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  16. Joe B.

    You ought to resign now!! You are the WORST president in US history!
    Your legacy is nothing but a filthy joke!

    December 9, 2008 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  17. GOPS lost, get it!

    Why are we still listening to Elmer Fudd?

    December 9, 2008 04:04 pm at 4:04 pm |
  18. Doug in New Mexico

    The man has no just cause for what he has done. He will probably never have to face the loss of lives and tremendous suffering that he has caused. He will probably never face real consequences. But, let it be said that no one walks away free from their actions, whether good or bad. His day will come.

    December 9, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  19. Jaye

    HOW can he defend the Iraq invasion? How can ANYONE defend the Iraq invasion?
    It was WRONG. PERIOD.

    December 9, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  20. Viet Vet

    That's it you low life, go in front of the military, they gotta a least pretend they support you. The cannot voice their disresect for the commander guy, no sir! But I can – -You sir should be executed

    December 9, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  21. VON BISMARK,Vienna.

    This shameless hypocrite still cannot sum up the courage to admit the fact that he has blood in his hands.After 9/11 he sacrificed 4200+ American soldiers and nearly a million Iraqis on the alter of his mad democra(z)y.
    He claims he is a christian.Sir, Jesus didn't take a single life-AMEN.

    December 9, 2008 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  22. bob k

    Thank God we have been lucky to have a serious adult as our Commander in Chief for the past 8 years to keep us safe...particularly after we were left so vulnerable by the sexual deviant and "perjurer in chief" who occupied the WH beforehand

    December 9, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  23. dogberry

    "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."

    There was on danger posed by Iraq - no link to Al Qaeda, no nuclear weapons, no WMD. Just a dictator sustained in the past by the US (remember - Cheney and Rumsfeld were fans of Saddam when he was fighting Iran). There was never a shred of legitimacy to starting a war that has killed over 4,000 US troops, wounded untold thousands more, and caused the death of far more Iraqis, not to mention the destruction of their country and of America's standing in the world.

    And as for Rumsfeld's transformation of the military, history will show that what he did was closer to a destruction of our military, rather than any change for the better.

    The worst president and administration in history, and they have no competition for that title.

    December 9, 2008 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  24. Louis

    We must always remember that there was no significant link between 9/11 and Iraq. This debacle was an unnecessary war that killed 4,000 brave American soldiers and 100,000 innocent Iraqi civilians, and wasted at least $1,000,000,000,000 (1 trillion) hard-earned American taxpayer dollars. History will judge the Bush administration as the dead lie in their graves.

    December 9, 2008 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  25. Poor Richard

    A war against terrorists is a war against an ideal, and ideals transend governments. It is absurd to think there is no link between the previous government of Iraq and terrorist networks. It is an ESTABLISHED FACT that Saddam funded terrorist groups and gave them land to conduct their training. To turn a blind eye to such facts is intelectual suicide as it requires looking facts in the face, and then denying them. The opinion that a terrorist regime can be destroyed in a matter of a few decisive battle proves no more than a lack of understanding of social phsychology. The ideas that lead to such barbaric actions as attacking innocent civilians is both deap rooted and wide spread. In order to propperly address these ideals, their support and legitimacy must be undermined and destroyed. That is the aim, and that is what President Bush is speaking of. To every free person, there is implied the responsibility to seek knowledge and understand what it is that makes them free. It is an ideal, and ideal that must be defended from enemies. Think before you speak, and when you speak, know of that which you speak with certainty, lest you waist your breath, lead others wrongly, and prove yourself unwise.

    December 9, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
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