Here's the full text of President Bush's opening statement at tonight's press conference.
One central commitment of that mission is the transfer of sovereignty back to the Iraqi people. We have set a deadline of June 30th. It is important that we meet that deadline. As a proud and independent people, Iraqis do not support an indefinite occupation, and neither does America. We're not an imperial power, as nations such as Japan and Germany can attest. We're a liberating power, as nations in Europe and Asia can attest, as well….
On June 30th, Iraqi sovereignty will be placed in Iraqi hands. Sovereignty involves more than a date and a ceremony. It requires Iraqis to assume responsibility for their own future. Iraqi authorities are now confronting the security challenge of the last several weeks. In Fallujah, coalition forces have suspected offensive operations, allowing members of the Iraqi Governing Council and local leaders to work on the restoration of central authority in that city….
The success of free government in Iraq is vital for many reasons. A free Iraq is vital because 25 million Iraqis have as much right to live in freedom as we do. A free Iraq will stand as an example to reformers across the Middle East. A free Iraq will show that America is on the side of Muslims who wish to live in peace, as we've already shown in Kuwait and Kosovo, Bosnia and Afghanistan. A free Iraq will confirm to a watching world that America's word, once given, can be relied upon even in the toughest times.
Above all, the defeat of violence and terror in Iraq is vital to the defeat of violence and terror elsewhere, and vital, therefore, to the safety of the American people. Now is the time and Iraq is the place in which the enemies of the civilized world are testing the will of the civilized world….
The violence we are seeing in Iraq is familiar. The terrorist who takes hostages or plants a roadside bomb near Baghdad is serving the same ideology of murder that kills innocent people on trains in Madrid, and murders children on buses in Jerusalem, and blows up a nightclub in Bali, and cuts the throat of a young reporter for being a Jew.
We've seen the same ideology of murder in the killing of 241 Marines in Beirut, the first attack on the World Trade Center, and the destruction of two embassies in Africa; in the attack on the USS Cole, and in the merciless horror inflicted upon thousands of innocent men and women and children on September the 11th, 2001.
None of these acts is the work of a religion. All are the work of a fanatical political ideology. The servants of this ideology seek tyranny in the Middle East and beyond. They seek to oppress and persecute women. They seek the death of Jews and Christians, and every Muslim who desires peace over theocratic terror. They seek to intimidate America into panic and retreat, and to set free nations against each other. And they seek weapons of mass destruction to blackmail and murder on a massive scale.
Over the last several decades, we've seen that any concession or retreat on our part will only embolden this enemy and invite more bloodshed. And the enemy has seen over the last 31 months that we will no longer live in denial or seek to appease them.
For the first time the civilized world has provided a concerted response to the ideology of terror: a series of powerful, effective blows. The terrorists have lost the shelter of the Taliban and the training camps in Afghanistan.
They've lost safe havens in Pakistan. They lost an ally in Baghdad. And Libya has turned its back on terror. They've lost many leaders in an unrelenting international manhunt. And perhaps most frightening to these men and their movement, the terrorists are seeing the advance of freedom and reform in the greater Middle East.
A desperate enemy is also a dangerous enemy, and our work may become more difficult before it is finished. No one can predict all the hazards that lie ahead or the costs they will bring. Yet in this conflict, there is no safe alternative to resolute action. The consequences of failure in Iraq would be unthinkable. Every friend of America in Iraq would be betrayed to prison and murder as a new tyranny arose. Every enemy of America in the world would celebrate, proclaiming our weakness and decadence and using that victory to recruit a new generation of killers.
We will succeed in Iraq. We're carrying out a decision that has already been made and will not change. Iraq will be a free, independent country and America and the Middle East will be safer because of it. Our coalition has the means and the will to prevail. We serve the cause of liberty and that is always and everywhere a cause worth serving.