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Bush Requests $87 Billion for Iraq, Afghan Funding - 2003-09-08

President Bush is asking the U.S. Congress for $87 billion in emergency funding for Iraq and Afghanistan. In a broadcast address to the nation he urged other countries to help, saying the United Nations has a big role to play.

President Bush said Iraq is now the central front in the war on terrorism. He said enemies of freedom are making a desperate stand on Iraqi soil and they must be defeated. "This will take time and require sacrifice. Yet we will do what is necessary, we will spend what is necessary, to achieve this essential victory in the war on terror, to promote freedom, and to make our own nation more secure," he said.

The president said he will ask Congress for a substantial financial commitment 87 billion dollars to pay for ongoing military operations and reconstruction projects primarily in Iraq but also in Afghanistan. "This effort is essential to the stability of those nations and therefore to our own security. Now and in the future, we will support our troops and we will keep our word to the more than 50 million people of Afghanistan and Iraq," he said.

In an 18 minute address broadcast by all the major U.S. television networks, Mr. Bush made the case for continued U.S. involvement in Iraq. With criticism of his policies growing, especially from members of the opposition Democratic Party, he said firmly that America has no choice. "The Middle East will either become a place of progress and peace, or it will be an exporter of violence and terror that takes more lives in America and in other free nations. The triumph of democracy and tolerance in Iraq, in Afghanistan, and beyond, would be a grave setback for international terrorism," he said.

The president's primary audience may have been the American public, but his words were also meant to travel far beyond the nation's borders.

Mr. Bush reached out to those who opposed U.S. military intervention in Iraq. He stressed they all face the threat of terrorism, and he said it is time to put their differences aside. "Terrorists in Iraq have attacked representatives of the civilized world, and opposing them must be the cause of the civilized world. Members of the United Nations now have an opportunity, and the responsibility, to assume a broader role in assuring that Iraq becomes a free and democratic nation," he said.

Last week, the Bush administration announced plans to get a new U.N. resolution on Iraq in hopes it would convince more countries to contribute troops and money. At the same time, congressional leaders from the president's Republican Party went to the White House and urged him to go before the public and make the case for continued U.S. involvement.

This was his first prime-time televised speech on Iraq since May, when he declared an end to major combat. The topic is also expected to dominate his planned address to the United Nations General Assembly later this month.