Home Page

L. Paul Bremer

Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator

Introductory Remarks

Press Conference

1 November 2003

Before taking your questions I want to give you an update on the situation as I see it following the Madrid Conference and my consultations with the President and the Congress.

A great deal has happened. 

In Madrid, nations other than the U.S. pledged roughly $13 billion of various kinds of assistance to the people of Iraq. 

The U.S. Congress is near approval of almost all of the President’s request for supplemental funding.

These two events put major economic muscle behind our efforts to reconstruct Iraq and to turn an economically viable country back to her people. 

But there is no denying this was a really tough week in Iraq. 

The al-Rasheed Hotel was attacked by multiple rockets. A valued member of my staff, Lt. Col. Charles Buehring, was killed and others were wounded. On the first day of Ramadan terrorists attempted to set off five car bombs.

These attacks, whether targeted assassinations of Iraqi officials or indiscriminate suicide bombings, show the bitter-enders and terrorists to be organized and deadly opponents. While they lack sophisticated command and control systems, at least some of them coordinate their actions.

There is no pretense about them. They honor no rules, respect no boundaries.

They are dangerous and persistent and it will take time to root them out. I expect that these terrorists and Saddam loyalists will continue to attack both Coalition Forces and Iraqis in an effort to prevent the consolidation of security, and the establishment of freedom and democracy. 

They believe they can drain the Coalition of its will by inflicting a steady stream of casualties. 

They are wrong.

Be that as it may, to prevail we must shift and adapt to counter the threats as they present themselves and to pre-empt as often as we can. 

But flexibility does not mean we will lose strategic clarity. The major elements of the President’s strategy stand unchanged:

Security is our first priority. We will continue to take the fight to the enemy. As we have said for some time, we are giving greater responsibility and authority for security to Iraqis.

The Iraqi people are still going to write a constitution and ratify it, they are still going to hold elections under that constitution, and the Coalition is still going to turn over sovereignty to the Iraqi people.

Economic reconstruction will accelerate as we employ the funds Congress is preparing to make available. 

But, we will practice tactical flexibility. As President Bush said in his press conference last week, “We are constantly looking at the enemy and adjusting.” 

What changes can you expect?

On the security front, we will accelerate the turn over of responsibility and authority to Iraqis. Aside from the fact that Iraqis bring vital language and cultural skills to the task, it is important that they take a central role in their own defense. This is their future.

To that end, we will double the size of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps by March. We will accelerate the training of the New Iraqi Army and police force. We will expand the number of Iraqi’s engaged in guarding the country’s borders and infrastructure. In all, we will have over 200,000 Iraqis in their own security forces by September next year.

We will also seek ways to accelerate the transfer of authority for governance to Iraqis. The Governing Council’s most important duty now is to conceive a constitutional and electoral process. The UN has asked that they do this quickly. I am encouraging the Council to get this process going.

Finally, the planned influx of economic resources from donors requires a solution to Iraq’s huge outstanding debt. When I was in Washington, we discussed within the Administration an urgent effort for substantial debt forgiveness. 

The Iraqi people are still reeling from a quarter-century of Saddam’s manifest cruelties. The international community must not saddle the future of the Iraqi people with the burden of his crushing debts.

* * *

Finally, from time to time the ruthlessness and adaptability of the enemy requires changes. We shall always return to our strategic clarity, but retain the tactical flexibility necessary to prevail—and we shall prevail.