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Monday, January 15, 2007

President Bush Visits Fort Benning

Story by Bridgett Siter
Fort Benning Public Affairs Office.

FORT BENNING, Ga. -- President Bush, speaking to more than 300 Fort Benning Soldiers and family members at Lawson Army airfield, said the American psyche, such as it is, forgot quickly about the atrocities committed on 9/11. That didn’t surprise him. But the American men and women in uniform have not forgotten. That doesn’t surprise him either.

“I appreciate the fact that you’re part of a long tradition of people who have made incredible sacrifices so that hundreds of millions of people could enjoy liberty and freedom,” Bush told his audience after dining with them in the airport terminal.

He called the visit a celebration of the rich heritage and unwaivering dedication of the American forces, past and present. Then he called upon them, much as he called upon the nation the night before, to be patient and resolute in the pursuit of democracy in Iraq.

“Failure would be a disaster for our future,” he said, because the enemy will come to America once again if they claim a victory in Iraq.

“It’s a different war than any before,” he said. “It would be a different kind of failure, because failure in that part of the world would lead to disaster here at home.”

Bush said he understand that it’s tempting for the American people to grow weary in wartime and push for a pullout.

“But I believe that you would want military decisions to be made by military experts,” he said, and the military experts on the ground in Iraq say success is doable.

“We must and we will succeed,” he said, and the terminal erupted in applause.

Bush explained his proposal for a “new and different” strategy in Iraq, echoing much of his speech Wednesday night from the Whitehouse library. This time, he used the phrase “clear, fill and holds” to describe the manner in which success will be achieved, particularly in Iraq, by clearing enemy strongholds, filling them with Iraqi and American troops, and holding them long enough to give the new Iraqi government enough “breathing space” to establish itself as the dominant force in that country.

Bush reviewed the benchmarks that will indicate progress and reiterated his commitment to assisting the Iraqis in reaching those goals. He repeated his troop surge plan, which will put an additional 20,000 troops in Iraq, and said units already anticipating deployment can expect to leave earlier than expected. That came as no surprise to the Soldiers of the 3rd Brigade, who knew their third deployment to Iraq was immanent. The Department of Defense announced Thursday that the 3rd Brigade will leave in March.

Bush assured his audience he would give the troops what they need to succeed, including equipment and training. He promised to take care of their families, because “ if the Soldier’s family is happy, the Soldier is happy.”

“Believe me, it’s the same way at my house,” he said.

The president thanked the families present and said he recognizes the great sacrifices military families make.

“I’m proud of you, and I have a great respect for you as well,” he said.
Bush repeated statements he made in his speech Wednesday about the extent to which America will be willing to stay in Iraq. He didn’t hint a timeline; it will be a long struggle, he said.

“But the patience of the American people is not unlimited,” he said, and nor is our involvement “open-ended.” Iraq must be willing to take the lead there, and they must take responsibility for their own security by November.

Bush said success can never be achieved without eradicated the world of “an ideology of hate.”

“There must be change. It matters if people are resentful or hateful,” he said. “Success depends on an alternative to hate. It can only be defeated with an ideology of hope.”

After lunch, the president attended an Airborne demonstration on Eubanks Field,” where he told the students he’s proud of them. Then he had a private audience with an undisclosed number of Gold Star mothers who lost children in combat.

Courtesy of DVIDSHub.

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