Anyone who doubts George W Bush’s commitment to Iraq should read this speech delivered by the President at Charleston Air Force Base in South Carolina. Quoting verbatim from intelligence reports, Bush argues that al Qaeda is firmly established in Iraq, but that its operations there predated the invasion of 2003. He takes Bin Laden at his word, in concluding that this is a test case for the war on terror, not a distraction from it:
Our action to remove Saddam Hussein did not start the terrorist violence — and America withdrawal from Iraq would not end it. The al Qaida terrorists now blowing themselves up in Iraq are dedicated extremists who have made killing the innocent the calling of their lives. They are part of a network that has murdered men, women, and children in London and Madrid; slaughtered fellow Muslims in Istanbul and Casablanca, Riyadh, Jakarta, and elsewhere around the world. If we were not fighting these al Qaida extremists and terrorists in Iraq, they would not be leading productive lives of service and charity. Most would be trying to kill Americans and other civilians elsewhere — in Afghanistan, or other foreign capitals, or on the streets of our own cities.
This is not a new thesis, but Bush has rarely delivered it so sharply or in so much detail. In presidential debates, Congress and opinion polls, America strives to put distance between itself and the war. Not so its Commander-in-Chief.