Here’s some of what he said to the West Virginia Air National Guard today:
There’s more than one front in this war against these radicals and extremists. And, obviously, the toughest threat of all is in Iraq. In that country, we removed a cruel dictator who harbored terrorists, paid the families of Palestinian suicide bombers, invaded his neighbors, defied the United Nations Security Council, pursued and used weapons of mass destruction. The world is better off without Saddam Hussein in power. (Applause.) And today, U.S. and coalition troops are standing with the Iraqi troops and the nearly 12 million Iraqis who voted for a future of peace. We’re opposing ruthless enemies who want to bring down Iraq’s democracy and turn that nation into a terrorist safe haven.
Earlier this year, I announced a new strategy in Iraq, under the leadership of General David Petraeus, and new Ambassador, Ryan Crocker. Our goal is to help the Iraqi government protect their population, so they can make progress toward reconciliation and build a free nation that respects the rights of its people, and upholds the rule of law, and is an ally against these extremists and terrorists and killers. And so we sent reinforcements to help the Iraqis secure their neighborhoods, and go after the terrorists and insurgents and militias that are inciting sectarian violence, and help get the capital under control.
It’s a tough fight, but I wouldn’t have asked those troops to go into harm’s way if the fight was not essential to the security of the United States of America. (Applause.) Many of the spectacular car bombings and killings you see are as a result of al Qaeda — the very same folks that attacked us on September the 11th. A major enemy in Iraq is the same enemy that dared attack the United States on that fateful day.
Al Qaeda hasn’t given up its objectives inside Iraq. And that is to cause enough chaos and confusion so America would leave, and they would be able to establish their safe haven from which to do two things: to further spread their ideology; and to plan and plot attacks against the United States. If we were to quit Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists we are fighting would not declare victory and lay down their arms — they would follow us here, home. If we were to allow them to gain control of Iraq, they would have control of a nation with massive oil reserves — which they could use to fund new attacks and exhort economic blackmail on those who didn’t kowtow to their wishes. However difficult the fight is in Iraq, we must win it — we must succeed for our own sake; for the security of our citizens, we must support our troops, we must support the Iraqi government, and we must defeat al Qaeda in Iraq. (Applause.)
Victory in this struggle will require more patience, more courage, and more sacrifice. And we’ve lost some good men and women in this fight. And so on this 4th of July, we pause to remember the fallen — and the grieving families they have left behind. We hold them in our hearts, we lift them up in our prayers, and we pledge to honor their memory by finishing the work for which they have given their life.