Posted Monday, March 13, 5:24 p.m. President Bush stressed the need to strengthen Iraqi police forces and combat the use of improvised explosive devices in a speech Monday at the Marvin Center’s Betts Theatre.
Bush told more than 400 guests, among them Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the U.S. ambassadors to Jordan and Israel, that accelerating Iraqi police training is one of his administration’s “major goals” this year. The speech, which started at 1:15 p.m., was not open to the public.
“We will finish what we started in Iraq,” he said during his nearly half-hour speech on the global war on terror. Monday’s event at GW was part of a series of speeches to increase support for the reconstruction of Iraq as the third anniversary of the invasion – which took place in late March 2003 – nears.
“As Iraqis stand up, America and its coalition will stand down,” Bush said, echoing the refrain he’s made repeatedly in speeches over the last year.
Iraqi response to the bombing of a mosque in the city of Samarra late last month, which the president said was an attempt to incite sectarian civil war, showed the progress of Iraqi police forces, he said. The bombing of the holy Shiite Muslim site, Al-Askariya Mosque, was one in a series of mosque attacks in Iraq.
“The situation in Iraq is still tense, and we’re still seeing acts of sectarian violence and reprisal,” Bush told the audience at GW. “Yet out of this crisis, we’ve also seen signs of a hopeful future.”
Conceding that “not all of the units performed as well as others,” the president said that Iraqi security forces, not coalition forces, restored order following the Samarra bombing.
Bush outlined the administration’s increased efforts to combat improvised explosive devices while accusing Iran of helping the Iraqi insurgency, saying that some of the explosives and components seized were “clearly produced in Iran.”
“Such actions along with Iran’s support for terrorism and its pursuit of nuclear weapons are increasingly isolating Iran,” Bush said. “And America will continue to rally the world to confront these threats.”
Calling University President Stephen Joel Trachtenberg a “smart man,” Bush also thanked Trachtenberg for informing him that his father is scheduled to speak at this spring’s Commencement ceremony and that his mother will receive an honorary degree from the University.
Monday’s speech marked Bush’s second visit to campus. On Oct. 15, 2002, he delivered a speech on minority homeownership in the School of Media and Public Affairs building’s Jack Morton Auditorium. Because of Spring Break, the supporters and detractors who greeted him for the October 2002 speech were not present Monday.
-Michael Barnett contributed to this report.