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September 27 2004 | 4:03 p.m.(EDT)

Q: Lisa from West Monroe, Louisiana:
What is the justification for our troops remaining in Iraq? How can we possibly hope to change the issues for the people in Iraq when they do not desire a change? Do we really have a say?

Colby Cooper A: Colby Cooper, Director for Communications and Media Relations, National Security Council:

Lisa -

The President has for a long time committed that US troops will remain in Iraq as long as necessary and not one day longer. On Thursday, in the Rose Garden with Interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi, President Bush spoke to that commitment when he said, "The path to our safety and to Iraq's future as a democratic nation lies in the resolute defense of freedom. If we stop fighting the terrorists in Iraq, they would be free to plot and plan attacks elsewhere, in America and other free nations. To retreat now would betray our mission, our word, and our friends. Mr. Prime Minister, America will keep it's commitments."

Prime Minister Allawi, in his Rose Garden remarks, also addressed the presence of US and Coalition troops in Iraq by saying, "We do not want the multinational force to stay in Iraq any more than you want to remain there -- for there. But for now, we need you. We need the help of our American and multinational partners while we continue to accelerate the training of Iraqi security forces."

With regard to the second part of your question -- I think the words of the Iraqi Prime Minister, before a Joint Session of Congress last Thursday, say it best...

"Before I turn to my government's plan for Iraq, I have three important messages for you today.

First, we are succeeding in Iraq. It's a tough struggle with setbacks, but we are succeeding. I have seen some of the images that are being shown here on television. They are disturbing. They focus on the tragedies, such as the brutal and barbaric murder of two American hostages this week. My thoughts and prayers go out to their families and to all those who lost loved ones. Yet, as we mourn these losses, we must not forget either the progress we are making or what is our stake in Iraq. We are fighting for freedom and democracy -- ours and yours. Every day we strengthen the institutions that will protect our new democracy, and every day we grow in strength and determination to defeat the terrorists and their barbarism.

The second message is quite simple and one that I would like to deliver directly from my people to yours. Thank you, America.

We Iraqis know that Americans have made and continue to make enormous sacrifices to liberate Iraq, to assure Iraq's freedom. I have come here to thank you and to promise you that your sacrifices are not in vain. The overwhelming majority of Iraqis are grateful. They are grateful to be rid of Saddam Hussein and the torture and brutality he forced upon us; grateful for the chance to build a better future for our families, our country and our region. We Iraqis are grateful to you, America, for your leadership and your sacrifice for our liberation and our opportunity to start anew.

Third, I stand here today as the prime minister of a country emerging finally from dark ages of violence, aggression, corruption and greed. Like almost every Iraqi, I have many friends who were murdered, tortured or raped by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

We -- well over a million Iraqis were murdered or are missing. We estimate at least 300,000 in mass graves, which stand as monuments to the inhumanity of Saddam's regime. Thousands of my Kurdish brothers and sisters were gassed to death by Saddam's chemical weapons. Millions more like me were driven into exile. Even in exile, as I myself can vouch, we were not safe from Saddam.

And as we lived under tyranny at home, so our neighbors lived in fear or Iraq's aggression and brutality. Reckless wars, the use of weapons of mass destruction, the needless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of lives, and the financing and exporting of terrorism, these were Saddam's legacy to the world.

My friends, today we are better off, you are better off, and the world is better off without Saddam Hussein."