Pelosi to Bush: 'Take a deep breath' and 'calm down'
President Bush reiterated that he would veto any bill which contains a timetable for withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, during a Wednesday morning speech to the National Cattleman's Beef Association's 2007 Spring Legislative Conference in Washington, DC.
Afterwards, responding to the president, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) asked him to "calm down" and respect Congress' constitutional role.
"Here's the bottom line," Bush said, one day after the Senate voted, in a close vote of 50 to 48, to include in the emergency military spending bill a timetable for pulling out most US forces from Iraq in March of 2008. "The House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders and an artificial timetable for withdrawal. And I have made it clear for weeks if either version comes to my desk, I'm going to veto it."
The Senate bill is expected to be passed on Thursday, but the president added that it's "also clear from the strong opposition in both houses that my veto would be sustained; that Congress continues to pursue these bills, and as they do, the clock is ticking for our troops in the field."
Bush spoke forcefully against the timetables, and accused Democrats of "making political statements" which could put US troops in peril.
"Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid-April," Bush said. "Members of Congress need to stop making political statements and start providing vital funds for our troops. Need to get that bill to my desk so I can sign it into law."
The president said that he wasn't going to be forced by Congress how to fight the war.
"Now, some of them believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely," Bush said. "That's not going to happen. If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible."
In contrast to Bush, Pelosi's speech was more conciliatory.
"On this very important matter, I would extend a hand of friendship to the president just to say to him 'Calm down with the threats, there's a new Congress in town," Pelosi said. "We respect your constitutional role, we want you to respect ours."
Pelosi continued, "This war must end. The American people have lost faith in the president's conduct of the war. Let's see how we can work together."
"So I just wish the president would take a deep breath, recognize again that we each have our constitutional role, and we should respect that in terms of each other," Pelosi added.
During his speech, Bush also quoted from an editorial written by bloggers from Iraq the Model published in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks ago to argue that his "surge" or escalation plan has already been successful.
"I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers -- they have bloggers in Baghdad just like we got here -- (laughter) -- describe -- 'Displaced families are returning home. Marketplaces are seeing more activity. Stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve.'"
The following clip of Pelosi's remarks is from CNN Newsroom.
Excerpts from Bush's speech:
Just as our prosperity depends on rejecting economic isolationism, so too our security depends on rejecting calls for America to abandon its leadership in this world. September the 11th is an important moment in this country's history. It's a sad moment. But it should serve as a wakeup call to the realities of the world in which we live.
On September 11th, we saw problems originating in a failed state some 7,000 miles away that affected how we live.
See, September the 11th was not only a day we were attacked, it is a day that our country must never forget, and the lessons of that day must never be forgot; that what happens overseas matters here at home. It may be tempting to say,"Oh, just let it run its natural course," but for me, allowing the world to run its natural course, which could lead to more violence and hatred, would end up reducing the security of the United States, not enhancing the security.
And our biggest job in America, the biggest job of this government is to protect you from harm. I think about it every day and so do a lot of other good, decent citizens of this country. The best way to protect this country is to defeat the enemy overseas, so we don't have to face them here at home. (Applause.)
And for the long-term peace and security of this country, we must advance an ideology that stands in stark contrast to the ideology of the killers. The best way to secure this homeland is to stay on the offense and, in the meantime, encourage the spread of liberty as an alternative to tyranny. And it's hard work, but it is necessary work.
We went into Afghanistan, and we did so to remove a vicious tyranny that had harbored terrorists who planned the 9/11 attacks on our country. Our message was: If you provide safe haven, if you provide comfort to an enemy, you're just as guilty as the enemy. And so along with allies, we captured and killed hundreds of al Qaeda and Taliban fighters. We closed down their training camps. We helped the people of Afghanistan replace the Taliban regime with a democratic government, and it's in our nation's long-term interests that we help the people of Afghanistan survive the threats and onslaughts by people who want to reinstate tyranny.
And then we went into Iraq, and we removed a dictator who was a threat to the United States and to the world. And now we're undertaking the difficult and dangerous work of helping the Iraqi people establish a functioning democracy that can protect their own people and serve as an ally in this global war against those who would do America harm.
2005, I want you to remember, in 2005 the Iraqi people held three national elections. Oh, it seems like a decade ago, doesn't it, and yet in the march of history it's not all that long ago that the Iraqis people showed up at the election box after having lived under the thumb of a brutal and murderous tyrant to express their will about the future of their country.
They chose a transitional government. They adopted the most progressive, democratic constitution in the Arab world. And then they elected a government underneath that constitution. Despite the endless threats from killers, nearly 12 million Iraqi citizens came out to vote in a show of hope and solidarity that the United States should never forget.
A thinking enemy watched all this. See, there are some who can't stand the thought of a free society emerging in their midsts. And this enemy escalated attacks. Al Qaeda is very active in Iraq. And they and other Sunni extremists blew up one of the most sacred places in Shi'a Islam, the Golden Mosque of Samarra.
Why did they do that? They did that to provoke retaliation. They did that to cause people to take up arms themselves. And they succeeded. Radical Shi'a elements, some of whom have received support from Iran, increased their support of death squads, and then the situation began to escalate.
And so I had a choice to make. Last fall I looked at the facts, I consulted with a lot of folks, in Congress and our military commanders, and my choice really boiled down this: Do we withdraw our troops and let violence spiral out of control, let this young democracy fail, or do I send reinforcements to help the Iraqis quell the violence and secure their capital? In other words, do we give them breathing space to get on the path of reconciliation so that this young democracy could survive.
Well, I weighed the options, and the military commanders and I concluded that the consequences of withdrawal would be disastrous for the United States of America. And let me tell you why. If we were to step back from Baghdad before it was more secure, before the government could secure its own capital, it would leave a security vacuum, and into that vacuum could quickly come Sunni and Shi'a extremists, bolstered by outside forces. A contagion of violence could spill out across the country, and in time, the violence of these emboldened extremists could affect the entire region. The terrorists could emerge from chaos -- see, they benefit when the situation is chaotic -- with new safe havens to replace the one they had lost in Afghanistan.
There's no doubt in my mind that their intention is to try to strike us again, and they need the resources and the safe haven to do so. If we were to abandon this young democracy to chaos, it would embolden these extremists. It would enable them to be able to recruit more. It would give them new resources from which to plot and plan. I believe the consequences of failure in Iraq affect the security of the United States of America, and that's why I made the decision I made. (Applause.)
And so instead of retreating, we reinforced -- troops led by a capable commander named General David Petraeus. The Iraqi government saw our firm support, and they're now beginning to carry out an aggressive plan to secure their nation's capital. And the plan is still in the beginning stages. I mean, General Petraeus has been on the ground just for about two months. Only half of the reinforcements that he needs have arrived, and he says it's going to be early June before all the troops that are dedicated to the operation are even in place.
In other words, I've sent reinforcements into Baghdad with a new commander with a plan to help the Iraqis secure the capital, a plan that we believe will be successful.
He's been there for about two months. Half the troops that he needs are -- have arrived. And, look, I recognize it's going to require a sustained, determined effort to succeed. I know that. And there are some early signs that are encouraging.
I mean, for example, the Iraqi leaders appointed a commander for Baghdad, who's working closely with our generals. The last of the nine Iraqi surge battalions arrived in the Iraqi capital. In other words, they said we're going to commit troops to this plan to secure the capital, and they're delivering. The Iraqis are showing up. Iraqi leaders have lifted restrictions that once prevented Iraqi and American forces from going into areas like Sadr City. You've been reading about Sadr City. Well, my attitude is murderers are murderers and they ought to be brought to justice. And -- and so any political restrictions preventing our people are being lifted.
The Iraqis are in the lead and we're helping them. We're now setting up checkpoints across Baghdad. When I say "we," that is the Iraqis with American help. There are hardened perimeters around markets and areas that have been targets for these spectacular attacks, all aimed at shaking the confidence of the American people and shaking the confidence of the Iraqi people. We've got joint security stations throughout the Iraqi capital. In the past, we would clear an area, and then we'd go home, and then the insurgents or killers would move back in. Now, we've got a strategy of clear, hold -- and that's what that means -- and then using money to help reconstruct Iraq. By the way, most of the money is coming from the Iraqis. They just put out a $20 billion reconstruction budget. That's what we expect. A government of and by the people should be spending the people's money to help rebuild their country.
American forces are now deployed 24 hours in these neighborhoods. And guess what's happening? The Iraqi people are beginning to gain confidence. The support from the Iraqi people can be measured by the tips our people are getting. You know, there are people saying so- and-so's over here, a cache of weapons over there, and we're using the tips to aggressively pursue.
We've launched successful operations against Shi'a extremists. We've captured hundreds of fighters that are spreading sectarian violence. In other words, we're after killers. We're after -- we -- we don't say this religious group or this religious group; we're saying, if you're trying to destabilize this young democracy, the Iraqis with coalition help are coming after you.
Last week, we captured a Shi'a extremist leader and his associates who were implicated in the kidnapping and murder of five U.S. soldiers in Karbala. Last month, American and Iraqi forces uncovered more than 400 weapons caches. We're conducting dozens and dozens of operations on a daily basis throughout that country with the Iraqi forces.
See, ultimately, the Iraqis are going to have to defend themselves. Ultimately, it is their responsibility. That's what the 12 million people who voted want. We just need to give them some breathing space so they can gain their confidence and have the capabilities necessary to protect this country. We're destroying bomb factories. Just last week, we captured the head of the al Qaeda bomb network responsible for some of the most horrific bombings in Baghdad.
Interesting, I mention al Qaeda. Al Qaeda wants us to fail in Iraq. This is what their leaders have clearly said, and they're willing to kill innocent women and children to achieve their objectives. The missions I described are only the opening salvos in what is going to be a sustained effort. Yet the Iraqi people are beginning to see policy changes.
I want to share with you how two Iraqi bloggers -- they have bloggers in Baghdad just like we got here -- (laughter) -- describe -- "Displaced families are returning home. Marketplaces are seeing more activity. Stores that were long shuttered are now reopening. We feel safer about moving in the city now. Our people want to see this effort succeed. We hope the governments in Baghdad and America do not lose their resolve."
I want to read something Army Sergeant Major Chris Nado (sp) says. The guy's on his second tour in Iraq.
He says, "I'm not a Democrat or a Republican. I'm a soldier. The facts are the facts. Things are getting better. We're picking up momentum. These are hopeful signs, and that's positive."
Yet at the very moment that General Petraeus's strategy is beginning to show signs of success, the Democrats in the House of Representatives have passed an emergency war spending bill that undercuts him and the troops under his command. This bill would damage our effort in Iraq three ways.
First, the House bill would impose restrictions on our commanders in Iraq, as well as rigid conditions and arbitrary deadlines on the Iraqi government. It would mandate a precipitous withdrawal of American forces if every one of these conditions is not met by a date certain. Even if they are met, the bill would still require that most American forces begin retreating from Iraq by March 1st of next year, regardless of conditions on the ground.
It's unclear what the military significance of this date is. What is clear is that the consequences of imposing such a specific and random date for withdrawal would be disastrous. If the House bill becomes law, our enemies in Iraq would simply have to mark their calendars. They would spend the months ahead picking how to use their new -- plotting how to use their new safe havens once we were to leave. It makes no sense for politicians in Washington, DC to be dictating arbitrary timelines for our military commanders in a war zone 6,000 miles away, (Applause.)
I want to read to you what a major newspaper editorial page said. And by the way, this editorial page, like, generally is not singing my praises. (Laughter.) "Imagine if Dwight Eisenhower had been forced to adhere to a congressional war plan in scheduling the Normandy landings, or if in 1863, President Lincoln had been forced by Congress to conclude the Civil War the following year. This is the worst kind of congressional meddling in military strategy." (Applause.)
Second, the House bill also undermines the Iraqi government and contradicts the Democrats' claim that they simply want to help the Iraqis solve their own problems. For example, the House bill would cut funding for the Iraqi security forces if Iraqi leaders did not meet arbitrary deadlines. The Democrats cannot have it both ways. They can't say that the Iraqis must do more and then take away the funds that will help them do so.
Iraq is a young democracy. It is fighting for its survival in a region that is vital to our security. The lesson of September the 11th must not be forgot. To cut off support for the security forces would put our own security at risk.
Third, the House bill would add billions of dollars in domestic spending that is completely unrelated to the war. For example, the bill includes $74 million for peanut storage, $25 million for spinach growers. These may be emergencies. They may be problems. But they can be addressed in the normal course of business. They don't need to be added on to a bill that's supporting our troops. There's $6.4 million for the House of Representatives salaries and expenses account. I don't know what that is -- (laughter) -- but it is not related to the war and protecting the United States of America. (Applause.)
This week the Senate is considering a version that is no better. The Senate bill sets an arbitrary date for withdrawal. It also undermines the Iraqi government's ability to take more responsibility for their own country, by cutting funds for Iraqi reconstruction and law enforcement. And just like their colleagues in the House, Senate Democrats have loaded their bill with special-interest spending. The bill includes $40 million for tree assistance. You know, all these matters may be important matters. They don't need to be loaded on to a bill that is emergency spending bill for our troops.
There's $3.5 million for visitors to tour the Capitol and see for themselves how Congress works. (Laughter.) I'm not kidding you. (Laughter.)
Here's the bottom line. The House and Senate bills have too much pork, too many conditions on our commanders and an artificial timetable for withdrawal. (Applause.) And I have made it clear for weeks if either version comes to my desk, I'm going to veto it. (Cheers, applause.)
It is also clear from the strong opposition in both houses that my veto would be sustained; that Congress continues to pursue these bills, and as they do, the clock is ticking for our troops in the field. Funding for our forces in Iraq will begin to run out in mid- April. Members of Congress need to stop making political statements and start providing vital funds for our troops. Need to get that bill to my desk so I can sign it into law.
Now, some of them believe that by delaying funding for our troops, they can force me to accept restrictions on our commanders that I believe would make withdrawal and defeat more likely. That's not going to happen. If Congress fails to pass a bill to fund our troops on the front lines, the American people will know who to hold responsible. (Applause.)
Our troops in Iraq deserve the full support of the Congress and the full support of this nation. (Applause.) I know when you see somebody in a uniform you praise him; I thank you for that. And we need to praise those military families too that are strong, standing by their loved one in this mighty struggle to defend this country. They risk their lives to fight a brutal and determined enemy, an enemy that has no respect for human life.
We saw that brutality in a recent attack. Just two weeks ago, terrorists in Baghdad put two children in the back of an explosive- laden car, and they used them to get the car passed a security checkpoint. And once through, the terrorists fled the vehicle and detonated the car with the children inside. Some call this "civil war," others call it an "emergency"; I call it pure evil.
And that evil that uses children in a terrorist attack in Iraq is the same evil that inspired and rejoiced in the attacks of September the 11th, 2001, and that evil must be defeated overseas so we don't have to face them here again. (Applause.)
If we cannot muster the resolve to defeat this evil in Iraq, America will have lost its moral purpose in the world. And we will endanger our citizens, because if we leave Iraq before the job is done, the enemy will follow us here.
Prevailing in Iraq's not going to be easy. Four years after this war began, the nature of the fight has changed, but this is a fight that can be won. We can have confidence in the outcome, because this nation has done this kind of work before.
You know, following World War II, after -- after we fought bitter enemies, we lifted up the defeated nations of Japan and Germany and stood with them as they built their representative governments. We committed years and resources to this cause, and the effort has been repaid many times over in three generations of friendship and peace.
After the Korean War, had you predicted that Korea would have been a major trading partner in the world, or Japan would have been a major trading partner and vibrant economy, or China would be developing an open market, and the Far East would be relatively peaceful, they'd have called you a hopeless idealist. And yet, because of American presence and influence, the Far East has emerged as I've described it.
The stakes are high, and the efforts we're undertaking in Iraq, it's a part of a long, ideological struggle against those who spread hatred and lack of hope and lack of opportunity. But I believe with patience and resolve, we will succeed. The efforts we're undertaking today will affect a generation of Americans who are coming up in our society.
You know, it's -- it's important for you to understand that the Iraqi people want to live in freedom and peace.
I believe strongly in the universality of liberty. I believe people want to be free, and if given a chance, they will take the risks necessary to be free. And that's what's happened in Iraq. We see the desire for liberty in Iraqi soldiers who risk their lives every day. We see the desire in the shopkeepers and civic leaders who are working to reform their neighborhoods. We see it in the desire of Iraqi moms and dads who want the same thing for their children that we want for our children.
If we stand by the Iraqi people today and help them develop their young Iraqi-style democracy, they're going to be able to take responsibility for their own security, and when that day comes, our forces can come home and that we will leave behind a stable country that can serve as an example for others and be an ally in this global struggle against those who would do us harm.
It's tough work, but it's necessary work; work the United States has done before, and work the United States will complete now.
God bless you. (Applause.)