December 9th, 2008
01:30 PM ET
5 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. John McCain

    I tried to tell you.

    December 9, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. Rae

    psychopath

    December 9, 2008 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  3. I'm Not Missing The Old Mule & Winky Half-baked Alaska

    Only George Bush is stupid enough to continue his defense of the invasion of Iraq.

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

    Iraq seems to be heading toward a theocracy, not a democracy. As bad as Saddam was, a fundamentalist muslim theocracy would be worse( I would not give my child's life for the difference between Saddam and a muslim theocracy).Iraq's women could be treated worse under a fundamentalist muslim theocracy than they were under Saddam. Iraq could be like the French Revolution. A tyrant is overthrown, but the citizens get a reign of terror. If Iraq has a western style democracy in 10 or 20 years, then Bush might be right, but if Iraq has a Government without a separation of church and state, then Bush will be wrong, and all the death and spent treasure will have been in vain.

    December 9, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  5. Jack Jodell, Minneapolis, MN

    There is no defense for the invasion and occupation of Iraq other than the truth: Bush and Cheney wanted their hands on Iraqi oil, wanted a permanent US military base there, and wanted to outdo daddy (Bush 1). And none of those reasons fully justify our invasion. Al Qaeda, suspected WMD, and 9/11 were only excuses and had nothing to do with it!

    December 9, 2008 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  6. David Goldman

    IF BUSH MEANS BY "WE TOOK IT TO THEM", THE

    AMERICAN PEOPLE, HE IS RIGHT . HE TOOK IT TO

    US ALL RIGHT. HE RUINED OUR FINANCIAL MARKETS.

    HE RUINED OUR REPUTATION. HE RUINED OUR ECONOMY

    & HE WORKED HARD TO RUIN OUR LOVE FOR EACH OTHER.

    THE THREE LEADING MASTERMINDS OF 9/11 ARE IN THE CAVES.

    December 9, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  7. Anna

    Wow Noah, then your CIA genius dont see Pakistan as threat to your nation? for your kind information all the terrorists in the world come from Pakistan. But you guys seems to love that country for selfish reasons huh?

    December 9, 2008 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  8. Jeremy

    I love him!

    December 9, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  9. Rowena

    I agree with you Blue.

    December 9, 2008 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
  10. maxum

    The people of USA gave this president a high approval rating for invading Iraq; they rejoice when Iraq was vanquished with minimal casualties; they applauded when Saddam was caught. It is nice to blame someone whom they supported and cajoled to get into war.

    December 9, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  11. John Anthony

    This photo reminds me of the photo of Hitler in his last days greeting the Hitler Youth lined up before him. War criminals love to take refuge in unquestioningly loyal young people who don't know any better...

    December 9, 2008 04:33 pm at 4:33 pm |
  12. Apples for sale

    That took a lot of guts.

    December 9, 2008 04:34 pm at 4:34 pm |
  13. Capn Al

    Still playing front man for the military industrial/disaster recovery complex. Oh yeah, that's his base, Halliburton, Bechtel, Blackwater, Lockheed/Martin, Boeing... Poor stupid salesman taking the corporate high road to get his bonus...

    Bushbashing? You bet!! The buffoon should resign effective immediately so America can start putting out the fire!

    "The day will come when they get the justice they deserve." Well said Mr lame duck. I hope you hear this quote again.

    December 9, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  14. Brian

    Hey Noah,

    I hate to break it to you but Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and the whole Axis of Evil Politicians said specifically that Iraq was partially responsible for the attack. Although in a very thin way that is true, but if that all it take to wage war, then what we really should do is attack ourselves, because it is US, the U.S. CIA, who helped train and provide weapons to Mr. Osama.

    Why do you think 85% (increasing daily) of the country wants out???

    Is that what we call "Mission Accomplished"?

    December 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. Mick

    As a graduate I will say that this man does not have enough honor to stand on the sacred ground within the gates of West Point. It's a shame someone allowed him to speak there. And yes, I do respect the position of the commander in chief, but in my book individual respect for others(ie. the military) begets respect. You don't endanger thousands of lives for a bullcrap mission when your intelligence was not concrete.

    December 9, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  16. Rich

    Noah:

    Bush DID time after time link Saddam Hussain to 911. Its on tape after tape. Now he's doing it again after saying that Saddam had NO ties to 911 last week. You are the one not listening to the facts as Bush claims that they are.

    One week he admitted Iraq hates Al Queda FINALLY, and now this morning as I was getting dressed I heard this speech, which REVERSED everything he said last week. If this is the kind of person you want leading the country, then I feel sorry for you.

    December 9, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  17. FreeNLovIt

    To Noah..

    Do U actually think you know what he's thinking? He invaded based on the intelligence at the time? Honey, we WILL never know the truth, but I can tell you, that based on observations (watching TV), A FEW ELITES were DYING to kick Saddam's butt NO MATTER what was in front of them. It's like this. My parents told me NOT to marry a LUNATIC, but I already have committed in my heart that I was going to marry him anyway. So it didnt matter what the evidence were or what people were going to say to me.

    December 9, 2008 04:42 pm at 4:42 pm |
  18. SJC

    To richard,

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

    Only people who hate America think that the life of a two-bit Iraqi dictator, who was absolutely no threat to us, is worth 4200 American lives and 35,000 wounded.

    December 9, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  19. Geeque - Chicago,IL

    richard,
    you are an Idiot as Goerge Bush.

    December 9, 2008 04:45 pm at 4:45 pm |
  20. Al

    Prison. War crimes, abuse of authority, funneling budget money to biz of his cronies. I am generally against death penalty.

    December 9, 2008 04:48 pm at 4:48 pm |
  21. Laverne

    George W. Bush is too full of PRIDE to ever admit he was wrong about invading Iraq. Again, he is still trying to convince the nation his presidency was secretly awesome and the sad part about it is some people are sooo easy to be hoodwinked into believing his crap!

    December 9, 2008 04:56 pm at 4:56 pm |
  22. Dianne

    Hey Bush, remember
    Saddam was not involved in 9/11. That guy is still free. Bush's need for revenge against Saddam and the oilman himself and friends wanted the oil. You went after the wrong man.
    admit it and go home.

    December 9, 2008 04:59 pm at 4:59 pm |
  23. Kim

    Richard, Saddam Hussein has as much to do with terrorism as Hugo Chavez, or Vladimir Putin, or Ahmadinijad. Just because there is a dictator, doesn't mean they are a direct threat to the US. Yes, they are a threat to democracy in general, but there were no terrorists/Al Qaeda in Iraq until we occupied their country and made it too weak to keep them out. There was never a tie to 911 from Iraq. That was what Cheney wanted us to believe, but intelligence proved that was not correct. We were told lies to go to war in Iraq. That's the truth and that's why our country is so frustrated with the war in Iraq.

    December 9, 2008 05:02 pm at 5:02 pm |
  24. ken

    Yes, this little liar still spews, and spews.

    War Criminal is free to do more harm everywhere he spews.

    I want to thank David Letterman for putting this idiot in his
    proper place every night. Best 30 seconds on TV.

    December 9, 2008 05:05 pm at 5:05 pm |
  25. Pat

    Oh My!
    He is delusional. Has he started drinking again?

    December 9, 2008 05:09 pm at 5:09 pm |
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