Oval Office, the White House
9:01 P.M. EST, Dec. 18, 2005
My fellow citizens -- and fellow citizens of the world -- tonight I want to speak to you from my heart about the war in Iraq and the direction of my presidency.
The last time I spoke to you from this room, I told you that I had ordered the invasion of Iraq. I said it was about disarmament; it wasn't. I said I was doing it for your security; I wasn't. I said we had no designs on Iraq and simply wanted freedom for the Iraqi people; that was false. I also told you I attempted to avoid war -- that was perhaps the biggest lie.
The situation in Iraq is dire. We have cynically played factions off against each other. Our troops are killing Iraqis on a regular basis, terrorists which now operate in Iraq are killing innocents wantonly. The way we conducted ourselves has inflamed the most fanatic elements in the region. Apparently one of those groups has abducted members of the Christian Peacemaker Teams and now threatens to kill them.
My administration methodically drove toward an illegal war. We did this for our vanity, because the institutions which support us wanted it that way and those that claim they were opposed to that course didn't do what was needed to stop us. We've lied at virtually every turn before the invasion and we've lied since to keep up the rationale and to position ourselves to dominate the region. We have used the rhetoric of democracy, as with the recent vote in Iraq, to mask our true intentions and give Iraq a veneer of democracy and sovereignty while we have laid our plans for domination as we build 14 permanent military bases there. I want to let go of those plans and help in whatever way I can to ensure authentic democracy in Iraq -- and around the world. Our current course is fueling resentment and it is only a matter of time when the U.S. will be attacked in a manner even worse than 9-11.
Many did criticize my policies, but in the cocoon that is this office, all I heard were partisan and personal attacks, and all that did was harden my heart even more. The Democrats who engaged in similar deceptions about Iraqi WMDs in the Clinton administration and in today's Congress made all I did easier, not harder.
It was my recently learning of the work of the Christian Peacemaker Teams and the members now held hostage in Iraq that set me on a journey. I privately found out about their work after they were abducted. Their web page asks "What would happen if Christians devoted the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war?" People proclaiming any faith or ethical structure can ask themselves such questions.
And these people have made an effort to do that. They have bravely gone to Iraqi neighborhoods, knowing full well that -- largely because of our governmental policies -- they may be resented and be in grave danger. They have lovingly talked and broken bread with Iraqis. More than talked, they documented the testimony of Iraqis about the torture going on in the prisons we run there. They did this even before many of you saw the horrible pictures from Abu Ghraib.
The group Swords of Righteousness says it will kill these good people unless all prisoners are released from Guantanamo and from Iraqi prisons. I cannot do that, but I can now say that all Guantanamo detainees will quickly either have charges put up against them and be tried in a constitutional manner -- or they will be freed; the same for all prisoners in Iraq.
If you are truly Swords of Righousness, and your criminal act was misdirected but your intentions just, you will now release the members of the Christian Peacemaker Team -- Tom Fox, Harmeet Sooden, Norman Kember, and James Loney. Upon their release, given the work that they have selflessly done, I fully expect that it is they who will be greeted with flowers and sweets in the streets of Baghdad. They will certainly be greeted with warmth and love here whenever they decide to visit me.
I am ordering our military command to withdraw all troops from Iraq within six months. This will include military contractors and will be done in an orderly manner. I request international peacekeepers from other nations with no major interests in Iraq to help the Iraqi people whom we have so damaged. I pray the families of those Iraqis killed -- and the number of such people likely far exceeds the 30,000 I claimed recently -- will forgive me for what I have done, and will now embrace what I am doing. We will pay compensation as a small token of our regret to the Iraqis killed in this war we have started. [Bush weeps, but continues with the address.]
I pray that the families of the soldiers who bravely went to fight a war they thought was just will please forgive me. I will attend as many funerals of U.S. service people as I possibly can and will do whatever I can to help put together shattered lives. I hope my actions will bring near the day when I can be accepted in Iraq so I can visit with Iraqis who have lost loved ones as a result of my actions and apologize in person. [Bush wipes his tears.]
My taking this course should not have rested on my spiritual journey; Congress should have stopped me from violating the Constitution and its War Powers clause; it did not. The United Nations should have stopped our nation from violating the UN Charter; it did not. The major media outlets should have exposed our lies; instead they amplified them. And you, the public at large, should have arisen in revulsion in a sustained manner. You did not. We must all change radically.
I believe that I have committed crimes; but I do now have sovereign immunity. I will now use that to redress wrongs I have done. I fully accept responsibility for what I have done and will accept the ruling of a legitimate legal authority when my term as president ends.
The best way to stop the insurgency now is to speak the truth and to listen, to change our policies when they are unjust, and they have been unjust long before 9-11, and to lovingly criticize others in legitimate ways. And that is what I am doing. Up until now, I have used fear to bully people into going along with war for illegitimate goals.
I am asking for the resignations of Vice President Cheney and of my entire cabinet; none of them expected to hear this speech tonight. I wish them the best, but I believe I need a new cabinet to do what we must do. Many people who are unwilling to grow, embrace and change will likely viciously attack what I am saying tonight; this does not mean I don't welcome criticism. But I know how it works, it's when a person or group stands for what is right that illegitimate power strikes against them; indeed I know all too well how it works.
To those of you who have been right, and have criticized me for reasons of principle: I ask for your forgiveness and hope you will now work with me to truly build a better world. To those of you who have been wrong as I have been wrong: I ask that you now change and grow with me. To those of you who have backed Bin Ladin and his crimes: I ask that you now also radically change as we together overcome our worst demons and embrace each others' -- and everyones' -- humanity.
Goodnight and may God bless all Humanity.
9:12 P.M. EST
This text was pre-scribed by Sam Husseini.
[originally published at husseini.org on Dec. 18, 2005]