QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. President. When you talked today about the violence in Baghdad, first you mentioned extremists, radicals and then al Qaeda. It seems that al Qaeda and foreign fighters are much less of a problem there and that it really is Iraqis versus Iraqis. And when we heard about your meeting the other day with experts and so forth, some of the reporting out of that said you were frustrated, you were surprised, and your spokesman said, "Nope, you're determined."
But frustration seems like a very real emotion. Why wouldn't you be frustrated, sir, by what's happening?
BUSH: I'm not -- I do remember the meeting; I don't remember being "surprised." I'm not sure what they meant by that.
QUESTION: About the lack of gratitude among the Iraqi people.
BUSH: Oh. No, I think -- yeah -- first of all, to the first part of your question, you know, if you look back at the words of Zarqawi before he was brought to justice, he made it clear that the intent of their tactics in Iraq was to create civil strife. In other words, if you -- look at what he said. He said let's kill Shi'a to get Shi'a to seek revenge and therefore to create this kind of hopefully cycle of violence. Secondly, I think it's pretty clear that the -- at least the evidence indicates that the bombing of the shrine was an al Qaeda plot, all intending to create sectarian violence.
Now, al Qaeda is still very active in Iraq. As a matter of fact, some of the more -- I would guess, I would surmise that some of the more spectacular bombings are done by al Qaeda suiciders. No question there's sectarian violence as well. And the challenge is to provide a security plan such that a political process can go forward. And you know, I know -- I'm sure you all are tired of hearing me say 12 million Iraqis voted, but it's an indication about the desire for people to live in a free society. That's what that means, see. And the only way to defeat this ideology in the long term is to defeat it through another ideology, a competing ideology, one that -- where government, you know, responds to the will of the people. And that's really the fundamental question we face here in the beginning of this 21st century is whether or not we believe as a nation and others believe it is possible to defeat this ideology.
Now, I recognize some say that these folks are not ideologically -- but I strongly disagree. I think not only do they have an ideology, they have tactics necessary to spread their ideology. And it would be a huge mistake for the United States to leave the region, to concede territory to the terrorists, to not confront them.
And -- and the best way to confront them is to help those who want to leave in free society. Look, eventually Iraq will succeed because the Iraqis will see to it that they succeed. And our job is to help them succeed. That's our job. Our job is to help their forces be better equipped, to help their police be able to deal with these extremists, and to help their government succeed.
QUESTION: But are you frustrated, sir?
BUSH: Frustrated? Sometimes I'm frustrated, rarely surprised. Sometimes I'm happy. You know, this is -- this is a -- it's -- but war's not a time of joy. These aren't joyous times. These are challenging times. And they're difficult times. And they're straining the -- the psyche of our country. I understand that. You know, nobody likes to see innocent people die. Nobody wants to turn on their TV on a daily basis and see the havoc wrought by terrorists. And our question is, do we have the -- the capacity and the desire to spread peace by confronting these terrorists and supporting those who want to live in liberty? That's -- that's -- that's the question.
And my answer to that question is, we must. We owe it to future generations to do so....
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