11 Oct 2006
During an hour-long press conference today Oct 11th in Washington, U.S president George W. Bush vigorously defended his administration’s policy on both Iraq and N. Korea. Referring to recent developments in N. Korea, Bush said that; “the claim [that N. Korea has detonated a nuclear device] constitutes a threat to peace and international security.” He said that the U.S. will increase defense cooperation with her allies in the region. When prompted by questions from reporters, the president consistently avoided any mention of a military option against N. Korea. “It is important for us to solve this problem diplomatically.” He said this a number of times. Making his preference for the six parties talk over bilateral negotiations, George Bush explained that he did not want to give the North Koreans the opportunity to present the problem as if it was an American issue. He deduced that the message to the N. Koreans will be more weighty when China, Russia, Japan, South Korea and the U.S speak with one voice as they are doing presently.
On Iraq, the president extended his condolence to the Iraqi deputy prime minister and other Iraqis that have lost loved ones during the ongoing violence. “These are tough times in Iraq”. He admitted that violence is on the increase in Iraq because it is Ramadan (Muslims' Holy month of fasting) period and also because the coalition is engaging the militants in Bagdad and elsewhere. On many occasions Bush said; “the stakes are high”. Dismissing the possibility that the U.S may consider pulling out of Iraq “before the job is done”, George Bush said; “we will help this young democracy to succeed”. Adding; “We cannot tolerate a new terrorist state in the heart of the Middle East”. He referred to the Iraqi militants as “extreme elements that use religion to achieve their objectives”. George W. Bush repeated his claim that Iraq is part of the war on terror. Making allusions to statements credited to the Al Qaeda leadership, Bush said; “They want to drive us out of a part of the world to establish a caliphate. That is what the enemy says.” He warned Americans that if the U.S. were to pull out of Iraq before the work was done, the enemy will “follow us here”. The president dismissed a recent survey that shows that the number of Iraqi deaths since the war began stood at 655,000 (about 20 times his own quoted estimates). Bush said the report was “not credible” and that the methodology was “pretty well discredited”.
In an answer to a question as to the impact of the Iraqi war on the forth-coming elections in the U.S, George Bush was rather dismissive and instead saying that there were two main issues that count, namely the economy and defense. Observers agree that the president feels more confident projecting these issues even as recent polls are showing that the Democrats are faring as well on these issues.
George Bush proved himself as an apt politician through out the press conference by successfully facing the press without falling into some of the traps set for him by the reporters especially with the issue of ‘drawing a red line for North Korea’.
Njei Moses Timah