WASHINGTON (BP)–The military campaign in Iraq will last “[h]owever long it takes to achieve our objective,” President Bush said March 27, barely a week after the first strikes against the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Bush refused to speculate whether it would take weeks or months when pressed by a reporter during a news conference at the presidential retreat at Camp David in Maryland.
“It isn’t a matter of timetable; it’s a matter of victory,” Bush said. “And the Iraqi people have got to know that. They’ve got to know that they will be liberated and Saddam Hussein will be removed, no matter how long it takes.”
British Prime Minister Tony Blair, also speaking at the 25-minute news conference, reiterated Bush’s message.
“[T]here is absolutely no point, in my view, of trying to set a time limit or speculate on it, because it’s not set by time; it’s set by the nature of the job,” Blair said. “All I would do, though, is point out to you that within those six or seven days, actually an enormous amount has already been achieved.”
The news conference came at the close of meetings Bush and Blair held beginning March 26, about the progress of the war. The United States and Great Britain are the leaders of the coalition now engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom, began after diplomatic efforts failed to bring about the destruction of Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
While the coalition has made great progress, the Bush administration has cautioned that the war is far from over.
Blair said much has been accomplished already.
The coalition’s forces “have secured the southern oil fields and facilities, and so protected that resource and wealth for the Iraqi people and avoided ecological disaster,” he said. The coalition has moved within 50 miles of the capital of Baghdad, surrounded the key city of Basra and secured the port of Umm Qasr, thereby making a way “for humanitarian aid to flow into the country,” Blair said.
Bush and Blair said they discussed a post-war Iraq, but they did not detail any plans for how a post-war Iraq would be administered.
They are “committed to helping [the Iraqi people] over the long term,” the president said. “Iraq’s greatest long-term need is a representative government that protects the rights of all Iraqis. The form of this government will be chosen by the Iraqi people, not imposed by outsiders. And the prime minister and I are confident that a free Iraq will be a successful nation.”
The president also said Blair and he believe the freeing of Iraq could result in “renewed hope and progress” in all of the Middle East. Bush said he would soon reveal a “road map” intended to produce a state of Palestine “living side by side in peace and security” with Israel.
Blair affirmed the coalition’s decision to go to war in Iraq, citing the need to stand against what he described as “the dominant security threat of our time, which is the combination of weapons of mass destruction in the hands of unstable, repressive states and terrorist groups.”
“We tried to make the diplomatic process work, but we weren’t able to do so,” Blair said. “But I have no doubt that we’re doing the right thing. I have no doubt that our cause is just, and I have no doubt that were we to walk away from this conflict at this time, we would be doing a huge disservice to future generations.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ACTING TOGETHER IN A NOBLE PURPOSE.