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Welcome to "Ask the White House" -- an online interactive forum where you can submit questions to Administration officials and friends of the White House. Visit the "Ask the White House" archives to read other discussions with White House officials.

Jim Wilkinson
Jim Wilkinson
Deputy National Security Advisor for Communications

September 23, 2004

Jim Wilkinson

Hello everyone. Quite a historic day here in Washington with Prime Minister Allawi's visit. I look forward to taking your questions. Be gentle.

Glenn, from Holland, MI writes:
The war in Iraq is not going well. Why is violence neccesary to keep me and my fellow citizens safe?

Jim Wilkinson

Thank you for your question...hope you are doing well...

I urge you to read Prime Minister Allawi's comments today before Congress and in his press availability with the President in the Rose Garden. His remarks give an update on the progress in Iraq.

As for why going to war against terrorism was necessary to keep our Nation safe, I ask you to consider the following argument.

When the Berlin Wall came down, Communism fell, and we won the Cold War, we certainly owed a debt of gratitude to leaders from both political parties, leaders like President Ronald Reagan. But we should all realize that when we finally won the Cold War, what we were really doing was harvesting the benefits of good strategic decisions made in the early days of our long and difficult struggle against Communism.

Many who watch the news today argue that the situation in the Middle East looks desperate and hopeless. Some say that the daily ups and downs in the news cycle and on cable television prove that democracy will never work in the Middle East. Some even argue that we should bring all of our troops home, retreat into a defensive posture here at home, and just hope the terrorists don’t attack us again like they did on September 11. Many argue that our struggle in the war on terror is simply hopeless.

These skeptics miss the basic geography of the war on terror. Make no mistake – we are going to fight the terrorists. We will either fight them over there on their turf, or we will fight them here on ours. The terrorists are simply not going to go away; or find a new line of work, or become peaceful. They have an ideology of hatred that must face strategic defeat.

Think back to how desperate and hopeless things must have looked in the 1940s, in the opening days of our Nation’s long struggle against Communism.

In 1946 there was still starvation in Germany and the reconstruction was going poorly, leading eventually to the Marshall Plan.

In 1946 Communists did well in elections in France and Italy.

Communist governments consolidated their hold throughout Eastern Europe between 1945 and 1948.

In 1948 the Communists tried to strangle Berlin, which led to the Berlin Airlift.

In 1948 the Communists staged a successful coup d’etat on the legitimate government of Czechoslovakia.

In 1949 the Russians exploded a nuclear weapon five years ahead of schedule.

And in 1949 the Chinese Communists won the civil war in China.

How must the decision makers at that time have felt given all these challenging events? It must have looked hopeless at times, and many at the time openly challenged the wisdom of their policies and their decisions. But the decision makers in the opening days of the struggle against Communism never wavered in their resolve that the defense and spread of liberty was America’s first line of defense against the spread of Communism.

In June of 1945, Eisenhower told his staff, “The success of this occupation can only be judged fifty years from now. If the Germans at that time have a stable, prosperous democracy, then we shall have succeeded.” Obviously, they succeeded.

We were able to finally win the Cold War in the early 1990s because of the strategic path set back in the 1940s – a path set by patriots like Truman, and Acheson, and Marshall. These giants of their time forged policies and made decisions based on the shared values of freedom, liberty, and opportunity.

The pressures on them were great. Many thought they would fail and the world events certainly looked challenging. But they never wavered, they saw beyond the news of the day to the horizon where strategic victory might be possible.

We see this same pessimism and hand wringing today that decision makers saw then.

The pessimists said we were bogged down in Afghanistan. And they were proven wrong when just a short time later the Taliban regime was out of power.

The pessimists said Afghans weren’t ready for democracy. And they are being proven wrong today when more than 10 million Afghans have registered to vote in the upcoming elections.

The pessimists said that the Iraqis would never agree on a Transitional Administrative Law that protected individual rights, religious freedom and the rule of law. And they were proven wrong.

The pessimists said there could not be a successful transition to sovereignty on June 30. And they were proven wrong when we transferred sovereignty early.

The pessimists said the new Iraqi government would not have legitimacy. And they have been proven wrong.

The pessimists said Iraq could never hold a successful national assembly. And they were proven wrong when in August more than 1,300 Iraqis representing a broad cross-section of Iraq met to select the 100 members of the Iraqi Interim National Council (IINC).

The pessimists said that Prime Minister Allawi and President Ghazi would not be legitimate leaders. And the pessimists were proven wrong today when Prime Minister Allawi addressed a Joint Session of Congress and did a press conference in the Rose Garden. And they will be proven wrong tomorrow when PM Allawi addresses the UN General Assembly as the leader of his nation.

In Iraq and across the Broader Middle East we will continue to see ups and downs. But this President will never waver in his determination to see our nation through to the strategic victory in the war on terror.

I believe that one day, years from now, future presidents and the American people will harvest the benefits of the strategic decisions President Bush and our close allies have made in 2001, and 2002, and 2003 and 2004. I believe the decisions President Bush has made today, will lead to a tomorrow where ideologies of hatred have been replaced with freedom, and where the true source of terror in the Middle East has been eliminated.

Glenn, I ask you to take a moment to consider the President's strategic decision to go to war against those who seek to attack our Nation.

To fight and win this war, President Bush has directed every resource at our Nation’s command -- every means of diplomacy, every tool of intelligence, every instrument of law enforcement, every financial influence, and every necessary weapon of war -- to the disruption and to the defeat of the global terror network. But his strategic decisions are broader than fighting and defeating terrorists. President Bush wants to end the true source of terrorism, and his Broader Middle East Initiative he is already spurring reform in the Middle East.

Because of the strategic decisions President Bush has made and continues to make, freedom is on the march.

And history shows, when freedom is on the march, America is more secure. History also teaches us that when freedom is on the decline, America is more vulnerable.

Under President Bush’s leadership, freedom is most definitely on the march. America is safer today because he has made the right decisions. And America will be safer and more secure in the future because he has made the right strategic decisions for the strategic challenges of our times.

So Glenn, I know it is tough sometimes to look past the daily ups and downs on cable tv and the Internet, but I urge you to take a long look at the strategic path President Bush has set our Nation on. It is a path that will make our Nation and your community in Holland, Michigan safer.

Good question.

Sarah, from Texas writes:
How long before the troops come home? The war is already over and Iraq obviously doesn't want to be saved.

Jim Wilkinson

Hey there...I am a Texan myself...keep our state safe! :)

Prime Minister Allawi and the President spoke about this today and you should visit our web site for the transcripts. As the President has said, our forces will be in Iraq as long as it takes to get the job done -- and not a day longer. My brother served in Iraq in the 101st Airborne so I am definitely sympathetic with the families who long for their sons and daughters to come home. But our mission in Iraq is critical to our Nation's security and our forces in the field need your support, my support and the support of every American right now. They certainly have the President's support and he will make sure they have everything they need to get the job done.

Kat, from St. Paul, MN writes:
With Great Britain announcing plans this week to pull out of Iraq, that essentially leaves the USA to go it alone. Can America realistically expect to bring order in Iraq when the whole world apparently believes the invasion was a mistake?

Jim Wilkinson

Hope things in Minnesota are well today.

You have your facts wrong...the UK hasn't announced they are pulling out of Iraq. They are on the ground and working hard to help improve Iraq and make our world safer. I do want to take this opportunity to thank, on behalf of the President, all of our coalition members. Some out there seem to think we should not be grateful to them. Here are some facts on the President's efforts, as part of his five-step plan for Iraq, to increase international support for Iraq:

On June 8, 2004, the UN Security Council passed unanimously resolution 1546, which endorsed the formation of an Iraqi interim government and democratic elections by January 2005, and defined the status of the multinational force and its relationship with the new Iraqi government.

In June, leaders at the G-8 Sea Island Summit, the US-EU Summit, and the NATO Istanbul Summit all voiced strong, unified support for UNSCR 1546, the new Iraqi government, and international efforts to assist the Iraqi people with the reconstruction of their country and their path toward free, national elections.

Today more than 30 countries make up the Multinational Force in Iraq; recently the overwhelming majority of them issued statements condemning terrorism, kidnappings, and executions that have occurred in Iraq.

At the June summit, NATO agreed to Prime Minister Allawi’s request for assistance in training Iraqi security forces. The NATO security team is already working in Iraq and just yesterday made an announcement about a larger training mission in Iraq.

The UN has reestablished its Iraq mission. The UN Secretary General has appointed a new special representative to Iraq.

And there are more than 70 international NGOs working in Iraq.

So, contrary to your belief, international support in Iraq is growing.

Melissa, from Atlanta, Georgia writes:
Are you aware of a mandatory draft being put into place for all women and men 18-26 years old, proposed to be starting June 15, 2005?

Jim Wilkinson

This is a myth...there are no plans whatsoever for a draft...we have an all volunteer force of wonderful men and women in uniform who are getting the job done.

I know this myth is making its way around the Internet, but you can place this myth right up there with Area 51, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, or the myth that the government filmed the moon landing in Nevada. :)

Rich, from NYC writes:
Does NSC have a secret handshake?

Jim Wilkinson

If I answered your question, I would have to.........................

Just kidding.

No...we do not have a secret handshake...but it might be cool to have one...

Mark, from Mesa, Arizona writes:
Mr. Wilkinson I am writing a paper for my english class concerning the military draft and I just have a couple questions, first of all is it going to happen, second of all if it was to happen who would get drafted and how does it work?

Jim Wilkinson

See previous answer on the prospects that there may be a draft...Good luck on your paper...if you don't meet your deadline, your professor may "draft" you for detention. :)

Ioannis, from Orlando, FL writes:
As a veteran and one who has patroled the NO-Fly-Zone I am saddend by what is being done to Americans in Iraq. My question is, why has President Bush not leveled Fallujah and Najaf? Are the people in that city really innocent?

P.S. I am a Republican for now

Jim Wilkinson

Let me thank you for your more than most know just how belligerent Saddam Hussein's regime was acting before it was removed...when I worked for General Franks at Central Command (in your state of Florida by the way) I was always impressed by the courage of the pilots who flew in the Northern and Southern No-Fly Zones....literally our pilots, especially in the Southern No-Fly Zone, were shot at every day...and responded every day...I often think that those who argue Saddam wasn't that bad should have experienced what you did...

You should read Prime Minister Allawi's transcript today where he was asked about efforts to bring security to Najaf and Fallujaf. In Najaf things are much better, and you can imagine just how unfortunate it would have been if Coalition forces had been forced to storm the holy sites there...Sadr was holed up with his Mahdi Army inside the Imam Ali Shrine, and if violence had taken place in the sites it could have caused not only damage to this most holy of Shia shrines, but could also have caused significant political problems in Iraq. Prime Minister Allawi was able to resolve the situation peacefully without having to storm the shrine.

In Fallujah, clearly there are security problems. Prime Minister Allawi today spoke about his efforts to resolve the situation there, and we support those efforts.

Laurel, from Rancho Santa Margarita, CA writes:
As a mother of two sons, one of which is currently serving in the Army in Afghanistan and the other recently enlisted and is now in basic training, I am of course concerned about their safety. I am also concerned over the lack of positive information in our media regarding the good things our troops are doing in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Not only training their police and military forces to protect themselves, but providing health care and basic human support. Is there a regular briefing about our successes and if so, where can I find it? Thank you.

Jim Wilkinson

Let me, on behalf of the President, thank you for your family's very PERSONAL contribution to the war on terror. I know you must have some sleepless nights, but I just want to make sure you know how much everyone here, especially the President, appreciates the dedication and commitment of your sons. People talk a lot about the dedication of our men and women in uniform. But the dedication of the moms and dads and brothers and sisters and grandparents and children of those in uniform is no less. America's sons and daughters need all of our support -- and we should celebrate their families as well.

So great work Mom!

Ok, I agree totally that the media seems to only focus on what is wrong, and not pay attention to all that is right...I urge you to visit the White House web site where we have lots of facts and figures on positive accomplishments of our should also visit US AID's web site, the State Department's site, DOD's site and also check out some of the sites of the NGOs...

If you call me at my office I am happy to talk to you and see if there are some other things I can find for you...thanks and thanks again for your family's contribution to my family's safety.

Dominique, from Tennessee writes:
Is there a way that the general public can view who is on the terrorist watch list? And how do you report a "suspicious" person?

Jim Wilkinson

Curious why you are asking...Do you want to see if you made our "suspicious" list? :) Just kidding!

I can't elaborate too much for security reasons...but I will tell you that the federal intelligence and law enforcement community coordinate very closely with state and local law enforcement entities and agencies to make sure that no stone is left unturned in looking for those who might want to do us harm...from time to time you may see public alerts with names and faces, but from an intelligence perspective we obviously can't release a full list because it would tip off those we are seeking to catch. If you do see a suspicious person, call your local authorities immediately, because it is citizens like you who are on the front lines helping to stop crimes and acts of violence against their communities.

Denise, from Texas writes:
Are you the same guy from People magazine? Is condi still trying to get you a date? how's that going?

Jim Wilkinson

Yes. But the only person who thinks I should have been in there is my Mom...and some days even she has her doubts...

Jim Wilkinson
Well thanks everyone for the questions. I have to get back to work. Let me just say just how important your thoughts and questions are to President Bush. Thank goodness we live in a country where we can have debates like this, have serious discussions and even poke a little fun at each other. But at the end of the day, we are all Americans, we all love our country, and we all want what is best for our Nation's future. God bless you all and I hope you have a wonderful rest of the day and upcoming weekend...