Presidential Radio Address - 8 May 2004
THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. In recent days, America and the world have learned of shocking conduct in Iraqi prisons by a small number of American servicemen and women. These individuals had been given the responsibility of overseeing Iraqis in American custody, and doing so in a decent and humane manner, consistent with U.S. law and the Geneva conventions. Instead we have seen shameful images of prisoners being subjected to abuse and humiliation. Such practices do not reflect our values. They are a stain on our country's honor and reputation.
Shortly after reports of abuse became known to our military, an investigation was launched. Today several formal investigations, led by senior military officials, are underway. Some soldiers have already been charged with crimes. We will learn all the facts and determine the full extent of these abuses. Those involved will be identified; they will answer for their actions. All prison operations in Iraq will be thoroughly reviewed to make certain that similar disgraceful incidents are never repeated.
What took place in that Iraqi prison was the wrongdoing of a few, and does not reflect the character of the more than 200,000 military personnel who have served in Iraq since the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom. America is a compassionate country that believes in justice and in freedom.
Americans believe in the worth and rights and dignity of every person.
Our country has sent troops into Iraq to liberate that country, return sovereignty to the Iraqi people, and make America and the world more secure. In this cause, our troops perform a thousand acts of kindness, decency and courage every day. More than 700 Americans have given their lives. The brave and honorable soldiers, sailors, airmen, Coast Guardsmen, and Marines who are serving and sacrificing in Iraq -- not the few who have let us down -- show the true character of America. The men and women of our military have my complete confidence as they carry on with their mission.
This has been a difficult few weeks. Yet our forces will stay on the offensive, finding and confronting the killers and terrorists who are trying to undermine the progress of democracy in Iraq. To address the violence in Fallujah, our Marines are working with Iraqis to conduct operations in and around the city. They are using targeted force to strike former Baathists and other militants, surrounding the city to prevent the escape of enemy fighters, and taking every precaution to avoid hurting the innocent.
In the city of Najaf, an illegal militia is attempting to incite violence and seize control. The 1st Armored Division is steadily and systematically defeating these enemy forces, while seeking to protect the people and the holy sites of that city. Elements of this militia have been ejected from the Najaf governor's office, which they had been occupying.
The vast majority of Iraqi people want a free society, and next month they will take another historic step forward when they regain sovereignty. On June 30th, a sovereign Iraqi interim government will assume authority, and Iraqis will take over the functions of their state, from basic services to law enforcement to diplomacy. On that day, the Coalition Provisional Authority will cease to exist, and relations with a new Iraqi government will be conducted through our new embassy.
Our mission in Iraq will continue on July 1st, and beyond. We have no intention of leaving that nation at the mercy of thugs and murderers. We're determined to help build a free and stable Iraq, a nation at peace with its neighbors and with the world.
Our nation is grateful to the men and women of our military, and to their families who face hardship and long separation. Our people in uniform are the best of America.
Thank you for listening.