December 9th, 2008
01:30 PM ET
6 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. haha

    WORST. PRESIDENT. IS COMING.

    December 9, 2008 05:10 pm at 5:10 pm |
  2. Felonious Monk

    Noah, "You are either ignorant, lying, or intellectually bankrupt." The connection between Iraq and terror was made. Repeatedly. To deny this is a revision of history. The Bush Doctrine is, simply put, to preemptively strike when U.S. interests are at risk. If part of the underlying cause of this war is not oil, then why were the U.S. bases in Afghanistan position so strategically around the vital oil pipeline in that country. Congress abdicated their responsibility by handing over the power to declare war to one man. One man.

    December 9, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. to richard

    you, sir, are ignorant. probably willfully so.

    December 9, 2008 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  4. dj

    bring on the Hague

    December 9, 2008 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. Charles Atlanta

    To "richard" and "Noah":
    Terrorist and dictator are two different things. Suddam Hussien is a brutal dictator but not a terrorist, period. Do you think kill some innocent muslims will help eliminating al Qaeda? Let's talk about results, after these long 6 years, al Qaeda are still there. We need to have a closure on 9/11 and Bush simply didn't complete his job to eliminate al Qaeda.

    December 9, 2008 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  6. New Yorker

    Bush is one of the best Presidents we ever had. Too bad we have so many cowards in this country that aren't willing to defend freedom and bad-mouth the president because he has the backbone to do what needs to be done.

    December 9, 2008 05:37 pm at 5:37 pm |
  7. Barry, IN

    The handwriting is on the wall–this man is a joke. He is the WORST PRESIDENT EVER. I don't have to wait for the historians, I lived it.

    The military has to cheer him on, what else can they do.

    The only difference between this dictator and Saddam is one is dead.

    December 9, 2008 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  8. Milhouse van Houten

    I wonder if his jaw ever gets real sore.The way he has been talking out of both sides of his mouth must surely takes its toll,but then again,
    Shrubs got to be used to that by now.

    December 9, 2008 05:39 pm at 5:39 pm |
  9. jack debrot, new york, new york

    thank you president bush for keeping the united states safe and thank god for giving you the courage and strength to do so.

    December 9, 2008 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  10. Greg

    To Joe B. You either forgot Jimmy Carter accidentially or you are just ignorant.

    December 9, 2008 05:41 pm at 5:41 pm |
  11. Matt

    Just had to get a look at 'em before he sends 'em off to die.

    December 9, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  12. Mari

    OF COURSE HE DEFENDS IT! To be HONEST and ADMIT that Iraq was a MISTAKE that has BANKRUPTED OUR NATION...... would be too much to ask of Bush!

    $10 BILLION being spent each month there.... for 7 years........add it up!

    THANKS BUSH..... FOR THE ....$10 TRILLION ....IN NATIONAL DEBT!

    December 9, 2008 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  13. Nimi from NY

    Saddam was one of the worst tyrants the world ever had as a country's head of state but I never believed he was worth shedding an innoent blood for. Bush took us to war for Iraq's oil and revenge against Saddam for threatening his father.

    December 9, 2008 05:48 pm at 5:48 pm |
  14. Independent Voice

    Thank you President Bush for your leadership and the tough decisions you have had to make. Soon enough, the Dem. attempts to manipulate your decision and the facts about the information at the time you made it will be exposed, either in this life or the next.

    It is too bad that the same fools that want to claim "unity" and push support for Obama are the ones that did not show Bush any of the same respect during his time in office. No matter what party you are, shame on you; please go jail yourself for libel and slander against a sitting President.

    If we are going to move on as a "united" country under Obama, you fanatics need to move past your Bush hatred. I didn't vote for him either time but you MoveOn.org "put him in jail" morons are a laughing stock.

    December 9, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  15. Don

    Gee, I wonder if those kids believe your lies.

    December 9, 2008 05:49 pm at 5:49 pm |
  16. Jay for Sac

    Bush is like that Drunk Uncle at your family christmas party that just won't go away!!!

    December 9, 2008 05:52 pm at 5:52 pm |
  17. Gene

    Richard.. Saddam used to execute Al Queda members in the street. He was the on person in the middle east that hated and kept Iran in check. We literally broke the balance of power.. and now Iran has no opposition in the middle east besides Israel.

    Saddam was by no means a nice guy or innocent.. but he had nothing to do with the terror attacks on us. The only people he really terrorized was his own people. Should he have been killed? Yes, if you ask those who believe he deserved to die out of principle. No, if you ask those who look at the worldly impact of replacing the Iraqi government with people who kiss and hug Iranian leaders.

    December 9, 2008 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  18. Gene

    Richard.. Saddam used to execute Al Queda members in the street. He was the on person in the middle east that hated and kept Iran in check. We literally broke the balance of power.. and now Iran has no opposition in the middle east besides Israel.

    Saddam was by no means a nice guy or innocent.. but he had nothing to do with the terror attacks on us. The only people he really terrorized was his own people. Should he have been killed? Yes, if you ask those who believe he deserved to die out of principle. No, if you ask those who look at the worldly impact of replacing the Iraqi government with people who kiss and hug Iranian leaders.

    December 9, 2008 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  19. One Voice for Truth

    Feeling sorry for the sheep that hate Bush so much they fail to remember that it was well established during Clinton's Presidency that Saddam was sponsoring terrorism and seeking WMD.

    Quit hating your brother and being judge and jury on President Bush.

    December 9, 2008 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  20. ran

    Bush needs to go to jail for his actions over the past 8 yrs. If what Clinton did rose to impeachment then Bush has more then exceeded that criteria.

    December 9, 2008 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  21. Mark, B'ham., Al.

    You Bush Haters ought to thank him that we have not had another 9/11 in the USA while he was in office. He made alot of mistakes just like anyother president has. About Iraq if you think the UN sanctions were working look at all the smuggle oil that Iraq bought French, German, Chinese, and Russian weapons with. With allies like them who needs enemies. Also if you do not think Saddam should have been removed for killing hundreds of thousands of his citizens then I had better not hear a word from you about sending American Troops into Darfur or Kosovo or Bosnia. The economy is also to be blamed on Congress which has been run by the Pelosi and Reid Circus who are to blame for Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac along with Barney Frannks and Chris Dodd. And the biggest fault of the economy is on the greedy Americans who want to get rich anyway possible and go so far in to debt they cannot get out. So when you look into the mirror remember you were part of the problem too!

    December 9, 2008 06:04 pm at 6:04 pm |
  22. Ryan

    How where we supposed to let Saddam Hussein defy the United Nations and not allow any inspections? Saddam could have prevented this entire war if he just let inspectors into the suspected plants! I'm glad we went into Iraq. War is absolutely horrible, but we can not let dictators who threaten our country go unchecked.

    December 9, 2008 06:09 pm at 6:09 pm |
  23. liz

    He fought terror by attacking a country that had NOTHING TO DO WITH AL QUAEDA or 9/11?!?!?!

    December 9, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  24. Frank

    To Noah:

    You insult the integrity and intelligence of American people who can see through political double-speak.

    Quoting: "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."

    Note that Bush used Iraq and Sept. 11 in the same breath.

    Bush, Cheney and others used that same technique in the build-up to the Iraq war – to mention Iraq and Saddam Hussein in the same sentence or statement as the Sept. 11th attacks. This is a clever way to manipulate the listener into connecting the 9/11 attacks, Al Queda, Saddam Hussein and Iraq by implicit reference.

    Unfortunately, this shrewd use of key phrases worked on most of Americans. But this is no longer the case. Most Americans now see the truth.

    December 9, 2008 06:15 pm at 6:15 pm |
  25. linda from South Dakota

    i agree,, the worst president we ever had, ,yes!!!!!,, now he has to try to validate his wrongs,,, to make himself look good before he leaves,, we ll mr bush,,, i didnt like you then and sure dont mow,, you have really messed up the world here and i mean world,, retire and live with your mistakes,,,,

    December 9, 2008 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
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