March 21, 2006 – A Bush Press Conference – Three Years And Counting. . . And Counting . . .And Counting.
March 21, 2006 – Three years into the war in Iraq, the White House was trying to sell the mission to an increasingly pessimistic public:
PRESIDENT BUSH: “Yesterday I delivered the second in a series of speeches on the situation in Iraq. I spoke about the violence that the Iraqi people had faced since last month’s bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra.
I also said that for every act of violence, there is encouraging progress in Iraq that’s hard to capture on the evening news.
Yesterday I spoke about an important example of the gains we and the Iraqis have made, and that is in the northern city of Tal Afar. The city was once under al Qaeda control. And thanks to coalition and Iraqi forces, the terrorists have now been driven out of that city.
Iraqi security forces are maintaining law and order, and we see the outlines of a free and secure Iraq that we and the Iraqi people have been fighting for.
As we mark the third anniversary of the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, the success we’re seeing in Tal Afar gives me confidence in the future of Iraq.
The terrorists haven’t given up. They’re tough-minded. They like to kill. There’s going to be more tough fighting ahead.
No question that sectarian violence must be confronted by the Iraqi government and a better trained police force, yet we’re making progress. And that’s important for the American people to understand.
We’re making progress because we’ve got a strategy for victory.
And we’re making progress, because the men and women of the United States military are showing magnificent courage. And they’re making important sacrifices that have brought Iraq to a historic moment: the opportunity to build a democracy that reflects this country’s diversity, that serves its people and is an active partner in the fight against the terrorists.
Now Iraq’s leaders must take advantage of the opportunity. I was encouraged by the announcement Sunday that Iraqi leaders made — are making — progress toward a council that gives each of the country’s main political factions a voice in making security and economic policies.
It’s an indicator that Iraq’s leaders understand the importance of a government of national unity.
Our ambassador to Iraq, Zal Khalilzad, is very much involved in the process and will encourage the Iraqi leaders to put aside their differences, reach out across sectarian lines and form a unity government.
Here at home, I’m also encouraged by the strength of our economy.
Last year, our economy grew at a healthy 3.5 percent.
Over the past two and a half years, the economy has added nearly 5 million new jobs. That’s more than Japan and the 25 nations of the European Union combined.
The national unemployment rate is 4.8 percent. That’s lower than the average rate of the 1970s and the 1980s and the 1990s.
Productivity is strong. Inflation is contained. Household net worth is at an all-time high. Real after-tax income is up more than 8 percent per person since the beginning of 2001.
The growing economy is a result of the hard work of the American people and good policies here in Washington.
I believe America prospers when people are allowed to keep more of what they earn, so they can make their own decisions about how to spend, save and invest.
On working with Congress
So I’m going to continue to work with Congress to make the tax relief permanent. I’m going to continue to work with Congress to restrain federal spending. I’m going to continue to work with Congress to achieve the goal of cutting the deficit in half by 2009.
We cannot take our growing economy for granted. And so I look forward to working with the Congress to make sure we invest in basic research and promote math and science education.
I’m going to work with Congress to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.
I know it came as a surprise to some of you that I would stand up in front of the Congress and say, “We’ve got a problem; we’re addicted to oil.” But it is a problem. And I look forward to working with both Republicans and Democrats to advance an agenda that will make us less dependent on foreign oil,an agenda that includes hybrid cars and advanced ethanol fuels and hydrogen cells.
I’m going to look forward to working with Congress to make sure health care is affordable and available.
We’re going to work with Congress to make sure we meet our commitments to our fellow citizens who were affected by Katrina.
I appreciate the step that the House of Representatives took last week on passing a supplemental appropriations bill that funds Gulf Coast reconstruction and, of course, supports our men and women in uniform.
I look forward to working with the Senate to get that supplemental bill passed and to my desk.
Now I’d be glad to take any questions you have, starting with the AP person.”
Here is the President Bush press conference of March 21, 2006, in its entirety.