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Bush chuckles at Iraq success: 'Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed'
David Edwards and Josh Catone
Published: Wednesday May 2, 2007
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In remarks made Wednesday to the Associated General Contractors of America, President Bush defined his view of the success in Iraq that he hopes to accomplish.

"Either we'll succeed, or we won't succeed," he said. "And the definition of success as I described is sectarian violence down. Success is not no violence."

While saying "succeed," Bush appears to chuckle.

The president then compared Iraq to the United States, saying that there were parts of the US with "a certain level of violence," but that "people feel comfortable about living their daily lives" in those areas. That level of violence, said Bush, is what the US is aiming to achieve in Iraq.

At a White House Press Briefing later in the day Suzanne Malveaux of CNN asked Press Secretary Tony Snow to clarify what would constitute an "acceptable level of violence."

"That's a very good question," replied Snow. "I don't have an answer."

Earlier in the press conference Snow also compared Iraq to the US, saying "Washington for many years was the murder capital of the United States of America. I believe we are still able to do our jobs. Now, really what he's [President Bush] talking about -- he's talking about that."

Read the full remarks by President Bush here.
Read today's White House Press Briefing transcript here.

Excerpts from the press briefing are below:

Q The President earlier today defined success in Iraq. He said, "Success is not, no violence. There are parts of our country that, as you know, have a certain level of violence to it. But success is a level of violence where the people feel comfortable about living their daily lives, and that's what we're trying to achieve." What is the President talking about when he says there's parts in our own country where a certain level of violence that people will accept?

MR. SNOW: It means that you have places with high crime rates. And it is something that is quite often a fact of American life that we don't like and it is something that is a matter of constant and ongoing concern. But you could construe that as violence, and it is. If you take a look at drug-related violence that has wracked many of our cities -- and now, increasingly, in rural areas, as well as suburban -- that is a form of violence. If you read stories over the years that constantly take a look at murder rates and rape rates, and every time we come out with either the Bureau of Justice statistics or FBI with its reports, it's a standard part of reporting.

So what he's really talking about is that there's certain kinds of violence that do, unfortunately, exist in a society, but he was not arguing, for instance, that there are militias afoot or that sort of thing. He was simply saying, at some point, you need a level of violence in a society, crime or whatever, that is not going to be undermining your ability to have a functional democracy. And of course, the endless experiment within democracy is always to make it more effective and attending to the needs and safety of the people.

Q If the President is using that as an example of saying that the Iraqis, if they find a certain level of violence that is acceptable, that's defined now as success?

MR. SNOW: Yes, in other words, what he's saying is that if you can have a society that can function more or less normally, where you will have effective police forces that are able to dispense justice fairly, regardless of who you are; you have a growing economy; you have a rule of law; you have political institutions that reflect and protect the rights of all; you have a political system that is able to adjust over time and to -- amid compromise and full debate; you have diplomatic roots set down so you are a strong and functional player within the region. All of those are parts of being a successful state.

Q But the President -- he argued that this is about freedom, this is about democracy. But when the President defines success as a level of violence, where people feel comfortable about living their daily lives -- that bar is very, very low. That's much lower than a democracy or freedom agenda.

MR. SNOW: No, it's not. No, it's not. I mean, look, Washington for many years was the murder capital of the United States of America. I believe we are still able to do our jobs. Now, really what he's talking about -- he's talking about that. He is not talking about --

Q How do you define an acceptable level of violence? I mean, how can that possibly be defined?

MR. SNOW: That's a very good question. I don't have an answer.