Today’s item comes not from the press corps, but from a question asked to President Bush while he addressed the Associated General Contractors of Amercia:
Q I’d like to know, like a lot of other people in this room, we have family members — we have family members who are actively involved in the security of this country in various ways. From them, we’ve received positive information that we consider credible, who say about the success and the good things that are happening as a result of us being in Iraq. I would like to know why and what can be done about we, the American people, receiving some of that information more from the media, or (inaudible.) (Applause.)
THE PRESIDENT: If you’re trying to goad me into attacking the media, you’re crazy. (Laughter.)
It’s interesting, people get their news all different kinds of ways. This is an interesting, different type of war. I mentioned asymmetrical warfare. That means an enemy can use inexpensive weapons to try to defeat expensive defensive armament. A car bomb, a suicide bomber, an IED, these are inexpensive weapons that help them achieve strategic objectives.
It’s also different in that this is a volunteer army that we have fielded. And, therefore, the role of government is to make sure that our families are well-supported — our military families are well-supported, that the veterans get everything they deserve, and that the health care is perfect as possibly can be. And we’re working toward it.
By the way, I was proud of our Secretary of Defense the other day. When he found inadequate health care, he responded, because he knows — and the Congress shares the same view — is that when we have somebody volunteering to be in combat, they and their families deserve the best that we can possibly provide.
Thirdly, back to your question. You thought I was kind of doing one of these — (laughter) — Washington, D.C. dodges. (Laughter.) I talk to a lot of families who have got a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan, or anywhere else in this global war on terror, and they are in constant communication with their loved one. That’s amazing, isn’t it. You’ve got a kid in Iraq who is emailing mom daily, talking about the realities of what he or she sees. Information is moving — you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it’s also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets. It’s amazing how many emails I see from people that are writing in what they think and what they hear.
We’ve all got — those of us who believe that we’re doing the right thing must continually speak. Joe Lieberman has been great about continually speaking about the consequences. (Applause.) Wait a minute — you didn’t give me a chance to say something nice about Chairman Warner. (Laughter.) He, too, has been strong. (Applause.)
It’s just a — I can’t answer your question beyond that people just need to be — the best messenger, by the way, for us is David Petraeus, because he’s actually there in Baghdad, and Ryan Crocker who is actually — he’s the ambassador who is there in Baghdad. And freedom of the press is a valuable freedom here, and it’s just something that we’ve all got to live with and value it for what it is, and just continue to speak the truth as best as we can without trying to — without trying to gloss over the inherent dangers.
The interesting thing I find is that our — as the president here mentioned, there have been multiple rotations. People have gone back to Iraq. In other words, they’ve re-upped. And the re-enlistment rate is high. People are signing up for the first time, as well. And it’s just an interesting statement, isn’t it, about the character of our military, a character which is — says that we’ve got people willing to serve a cause greater than themselves.
I saw a Marine yesterday — came out of Anbar. His brother, who was in the Army, was lost. And I was comforting his family as best as I possibly can, or could. And he said, we’re making great progress in Anbar, I just wanted to tell you that, President. You know, is he the kind of guy that tells the President what he wants to hear? I don’t know. All I can tell you is what he told me. And I told that to David Petraeus, who confirmed it.
But slowly but surely, the truth will be known. Either we’ll succeed, or we won’t succeed. And the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our own country that have got a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve.
I’m asked all the time about strategies. I liked what James A. Baker and Lee Hamilton reported back after a serious investigation of Iraq. I liked their ideas. And it’s something that we should seriously consider. And their idea was, is that at some point in time, it makes sense to have a U.S. presence configured this way, embedded with Iraqi forces, training Iraqi forces, over-the-horizon presence to provide enough security to know that people will have help if they need it, but put the — more onus on a sovereign government of Iraq, a presence to keep the territorial integrity of Iraq intact, a special ops presence to go after these killers who have got their intentions on America. It’s an interesting idea.
By the way, in the report it said, it is — the government may have to put in more troops to be able to get to that position. And that’s what we do. We put in more troops to get to a position where we can be in some other place. The question is, who ought to make that decision? The Congress or the commanders? And as you know, my position is clear — I’m the commander guy.