By Elizabeth Stewart | The US president, George Bush, today claimed the Democratic presidential candidates’ plans for a quick withdrawal of troops from Iraq could lead to another terrorist attack on America.
In an online interview for the Yahoo News and Politico websites, Bush said a “premature” withdrawal from Iraq would “embolden” extremists throughout the Middle East, which would “eventually lead to another attack on the United States”.
Not maintaining a “forward presence” in the region would send out “the wrong signals”, he said, adding: “It would shake everybody’s nerves, and it would embolden the very same people that we’re trying to defeat.”
Hillary Clinton – who originally voted in favour of invading Iraq – has spoken out during her campaign against the continued US presence in the country, urging an “orderly withdrawal”.
“The administration often talks about the cost of leaving Iraq, yet ignores the greater costs of continuing the same failed policy,” Clinton told a recent Senate armed services committee hearing.
She is also against the Bush administration’s plans to maintain permanent bases in Iraq.
Clinton’s rival, Barack Obama – who spoke out against the war in 2002, warning of an occupation of “undetermined length and consequences” – last year pledged the immediate withdrawal of troops from Iraq if he became president.
However, he left the door open for maintaining a US base in the country if al-Qaida sought to establish a presence in the region.
In a question and answer session with the websites’ users, Bush said he did not believe US intelligence agencies had intentionally misled him about Saddam Hussein’s alleged weapons of mass destruction.
“Misled is a strong word,” he said. “It almost connotes some kind of intentional.” However, he admitted he was “disappointed” to discover how flawed US intelligence had been.
The president revealed he had given up playing golf because it “sent out the wrong signal” to the families of soldiers fighting overseas.
“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the commander in chief playing golf,” he said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be in solidarity as best as I can with them.”
He admitted it was “tough” hearing that people had lost loved ones as a result of his decision to go to war, but said his Christian faith had helped him through.
“If you’re a faithful person, you try to empathise with the suffering that that person is going through,” he added.