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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.

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor

October 6, 2005

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Good Afternoon, thank you for joining me today for this chat. I am Dr. J.D. Crouch, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor for the President. I would like to discuss the President's vision on the War on Terror and talk a little about his speech earlier today. I appreciate you all taking the time to join on this chat today. With that, I will answer some questions.

Lulie, from Washington, DC writes:
Dr. Crouch,This morning in a speech on terror, the President mentioned that freedom will prevail in the war on terror in Iraq. I was wondering, if this fight goes beyond President Bush service in office after 2008, how can this be guaranteed if he is no longer President?

Dr. J.D. Crouch
It is the will of the Iraqi people to defeat the terrorists there and establish a prosperous democracy. We are working side by side with them, to create the government and civil institutions that will nurture their young democracy, but it is the Iraqi people themselves who will see it through. As we speak, they are registering to vote in record numbers not only on a new constitution but also for December elections to create a new government. People from all parts of the Iraqi nation are determined to vote and see that their interests are represented in the new government. That is a sign of a healthy democracy. At the same time, we are training Iraqi security forces – police and an army –so that they can provide security to their own citizens. And we are making good progress on that front. I know that the Iraqi people are committed to freedom and democracy and are our partners in the fight against terrorism. With our help they will prevail.

Matt, from Los Angeles, CA writes:
Dr. Crouch, thank you for taking the time to address this very important issue to our country. Terror is mindset and a state of being. Terrorisim in some form will always exist. Because of this fact, we are essentailly fighting an enemy that will always be there. Will it ever be possible to in the war on terror? Have we pledged ourselves in a war that is impossible to win?

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Thank you for your question, Matt. You may be right that there will always be some fanatics—be they Islamic radicals, or anarchists, or cult members—who are willing to murder others to advance their ideas or political goals. However, what the President believes we can do is defeat violent extremism as a threat to our way of life. To do that free and open societies must work together to create a global environment inhospitable to violent extremists and all who support them. Mankind has defeated evils like this before. Standing together, nations brought about the fall of Communism and fascism. There are still fascists out there, but they are not organized to pose a threat to our way of life.

Ger, from Her writes:
Do you think that withdrawing troops from Iraq now would be a good idea?What do you think would result from withdrawing the troops?

What do you think will come about once we establish a democracy in Iraq? How will we ever stop the insurgents (even after creating a new constitution)?

Dr. J.D. Crouch
No, withdrawing troops from Iraq now, would play in to the hands of the terrorists like Zarqawi, abandon the Iraqi people and the nascent democracy they have worked so hard to achieve, and ultimately threaten the United States.

Al Qaeda and its affiliated terror groups would use Iraq as a safe haven from which to launch attacks on America and our allies

On the other hand, a strong democratic Iraq will be a strong ally in the War on Terror and a model for positive change in the region.

Marilyn, from Texas writes:
Is there some way that more of what is really being accomplished, the successes, could be reported in the media? Also features about the individual troops and what they are doing as well as reports from our great president George W Bush.

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Thank you for your question. I, too, wish the media would report more on our great successes. Our troops are executing a smart strategy to defeat the terrorists, cleaning them out of their strongholds and restoring order town by town throughout Iraq. They are doing amazing things and are proud of what they are accomplishing. The President takes every opportunity to recognize their successes and let them know how proud Americans are of the men and women in uniform protecting our way of life.

David, from Chicago, Illinois writes:
Aren't virtually all of the accusations that President Bush leveled against Islamic extremists in his speech today equally true of himself and his government? When will the President stop killing civilians in Iraq, stop protecting the drug trade in Afghanistan, stop torturing prisoners, stop developing dangerous new weapons, stop trampling human rights abroad and democracy at home?

Dr. J.D. Crouch
David, I am afraid I must strongly disagree with you. The United States was attacked by Usama bin Laden and al Qaeda. On 9/11, and several times before that, including when they attacked our embassies in 1998. It is our moral responsibility to protect the American people by eliminating the terrorist threat posed by Islamic militants like Bin Laden. I would hope that you can see a vast moral difference between the President’s decision to defend the American people from further attacks and the actions of Islamic radicals who intentionally murder innocent civilians, to advance their evil ideology and agenda. The United States goes to the greatest possible lengths to avoid civilian casualties—to a degree perhaps unprecedented in the history of warfare. And when civilians are accidentally killed during war it is a regrettable tragedy. For the Islamic radicals—the Zarqawis and the Bin Ladins—civilian casualties are the very point. They don’t go to any lengths to avoid them, they rather seek ways to maximize them. The last several years, including 9/11, have been witness to their continual horrors.

Matt, from DC writes:
Dr Crouch, with the Iraqi referendum coming up, how do you believe tensions within the wider Islamic community in Iraq could escalate?

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Much of the violence that makes the news, the massive suicide attacks on crowds of people in markets or at hospitals, comes from the foreign terrorists led by Zarqawi who have come to Iraq to butcher Iraqis and prevent the creation of a stable, prosperous democracy in the heart of the Middle East. Zarqawi and his supporters have failed to foment the civil war they so desperately want. The Iraqi people themselves are debating, sometimes vigorously, the constitution. In the last several months, we’ve seen more than 1 million Iraqis who did not vote in the first elections in January come forward to confirm their voter registration for the upcoming constitutional referendum and then the December election of a new government. I think that the amount of time, effort, and emotion that the Iraqis have invested in writing and debating the constitution demonstrates their commitment to Iraq as a country. They would not be having this vigorous political debate if they did not believe in the importance of the constitution to their future. So no, I do not believe this will escalate tensions, nor do I believe the terrorists like Zarqawi will succeed. I believe in the Iraqi people and their success.

Bill, from Greenwood Lake NY writes:
Why hasn't osama Binladen hit the U.S. again, have we crushed his infrastructure so badly, or do you think he is just waiting for the right time for another evil attack?

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Bill, I thank you for your very tough question. There is no doubt that this President’s leadership, the dedication of U.S. government officials at all levels, and the cooperation of our many foreign partners that we have both significantly damaged al-Qaida and also significantly improved our defenses against terrorist attack. It certainly has been more than good fortune that has prevented another attack on the U.S. Homeland since 9/11. However, this fact is no cause for complacency. I believe we are safer, but not yet safe. As the President indicated in his speech this morning, al-Qaida continues to plot against us and our allies around the world. We must remain vigilant and continue aggressively taking the fight to the terrorists if we are to continue to prevent future attacks.

Richard, from Middlesex, NJ writes:
The United States is fighting a war against terrorism. Our enemy does not follow any of the rules of warfare. They hide amongst innocent civilians while they target innocent civilians. Rather than exposing our well equipped "conventional war" military forces to their "unconventional" terrorist attack methods, shouldn't the USA develop a new strategy of aggressive deception and sting-style operations to bait and lure out the bad guys? An enemy that straps on a bomb is not that smart and can be easily fooled by the right type of planning. This is not the time to play fair or be politically correct

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Thank you for your ideas. Out of the box thinking is what we need in the War on Terror. Your question aptly emphasizes that the war on terrorism is unlike other wars we have fought in the past and, in addition to the effective use of all elements of national power, victory in it requires our flexibility and ingenuity. While some of our efforts in the war on terror are visible, like the current U.S. and Iraqi military offensive against terrorists in Iraq, we also use less "conventional" means, very often working with our partners around the globe, for meeting the terrorist threat. I would point out that we have used Special Operations Forces to an unprecedented degree in this war. These less conventional means, which are also often less visible, have produced some of our greatest successes thus far in the war on terror, including the capture of 9/11 mastermind Khalid Shaykh Muhammad. Rest assured, however, that we are doing everything we can to fight the war on terrorism on all fronts.

Allison, from Monroe, GA writes:
I am doing a speech in for my college Communications class on the United States roles in foreign affairs. I wanted to see what you comments are on the recent elections held in Afghanistan and how the help of the US made this possible?

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Thank you for your question. The September 18th National Assembly and Provincial Council elections in Afghanistan were a tremendous success, again highlighting the enthusiasm of the Afghan people – given the opportunity – to shape their own political future. A total of 6.8 million Afghans turned out to vote, with women comprising 43% of voters on election day.

The United States provided assistance to Afghan and United Nations electoral officials in a number of ways. The U.S. Government contributed $50 million, or nearly one-third of the overall expense ($159 million) to hold the elections. U.S. military forces, working closely with the Afghan Ministry of Defense and Afghan Ministry of Interior, provided vital support to ensure that Taliban and other insurgent forces were unable to disrupt the ability of voters to get to the polls and vote their preferences. Our support extends beyond election day. We are working closely with UN and Afghan authorities to establish a permanent independent election commission that will enhance the Afghan Government’s ability to hold national elections itself. And since September 2004, we have been involved in preparing infrastructure and training staff for when the new National Assembly finally convenes.

I hope this will help in your preparations for your speech.

Jo, from Owensboro KY writes:
Everyday we hear the bad things coming from Iraq - the car bombings, the suicide bombings and the number of American soldiers killed and wounded. I realize that these are important but I would like to know more about the good things that our military personnel are doing in Iraq. Our military are the best in the world and do so much more than fight. Is there a website setup that will reflect the good things we are doing? Thank you.

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Thank you, I agree our Military is the best in the world. We also appreciate all of the troops from our coalition partners fighting side by side with our American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan – including Iraqi and Afghan soldiers.

The Defense Department does have a very good website, and I encourage you to look through it for some of the great achievements of our military. Additionally, there are excellent websites that track progress being made on the ground in Iraq. For information about training Iraqi security forces, check out the site run by the Multi National Security Transition Command -- Iraqis are fighting and dying for their country, and this site gives a good picture of their bravery and determination. You can also access there a weekly magazine called “The Advisor” which details the U.S. military’s work training of Iraqi security forces, with stories missed in the media – such as the recent opening of Iraq’s Joint Staff College, which will train Iraqi’s elite officer corps. Our NATO partners inaugurated this college, and more than 17 countries have contributed training personnel. You can also check out, which provides daily updates on what our soldiers are doing in the field. And don’t forget the efforts of our civilians in Iraq – USAID, for example, provides weekly updates on its many projects and successes in Iraq. You can get a sense of these efforts at

Sam, from Santa Barbara, CA writes:
Dr. Crouch. Congratulations on all your previous missions, you have done well. October 15 is coming soon and terrorist groups have said that they will not interrupt the elections. My question to you is: After the elections for a new National Government, where will Iraq stand and how will your job be affected by the elections? Thanks

Dr. J.D. Crouch
It is important to see the referendum and upcoming elections as part of the overall political transition process. In the referendum, for example, Iraqis will vote to approve or reject the draft constitution. No matter the result, the political process will continue: if the constitution passes, the December election is for a new parliament that will serve up to four years and help implement the constitutional framework; if the referendum fails, the December election is for a new national assembly to write a new constitution. And the new election law for the December elections seeks to ensure fair representation from all areas of Iraq – representatives will be selected by province, much like representatives to our House of Representatives. This will ensure that all groups, including Sunnis, have a stake in the new Assembly.

So where will Iraq stand after the elections? The political process will continue. We must be patient. It took 11 years for our Declaration of Independence to get a Constitution. It took four years from the end of WWII to stand up the first German government. The Iraqi people are recovering from three decades of tyranny and building a broad political consensus.

Dr. J.D. Crouch
Thank you for participating in this online chat, you have all submitted great questions. The President is very committed to the safety and security of all Americans. We will prevail in Iraq, and freedom is expanding in the region. We are in historical times, we are fighting a different kind of enemy than in past wars. We did not ask for this fight, but this is a war we must fight and we will win.

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