And the response was that we understand this is a moment that we've got to make a choice if we're going to have sectarian strife or whether or not we're going to unify. And I heard loud and clear that they understand that they're going to choose unification, and we're going to help them do so.
The presence of the U.S. troops is there to protect as many Iraqis as we possibly can from thugs and violence, but it's also to help the Iraqis protect themselves, and we're making progress in terms of standing up to these Iraqi troops so they can deal with, deal with these incidents of violence.
VARGAS: But what is the plan if the sectarian violence continues? I mean, do the U.S. troops take a larger role? Do they step in more actively to stop the violence?
BUSH: No. The troops are chasing down terrorists. They're protecting themselves and protecting the people, and -- but a major function is to train the Iraqis so they can do the work. I mean the ultimate success in Iraq -- and I believe we're going to be successful -- is for the Iraqi citizens to continue to demand unity.
And remember, one of the things that's lost during this troubled week -- and there's no question it's a troubled week -- was the fact that 11 million Iraqis, about two months ago, went to the polls and said, "We want to have a democratic government." So there's still a will of the people there that are interested in a unified government.
Secondly, we're working with the leaders to form this unity government, and we'll see how it goes. We're making pretty good progress though. And I think the bombers really caused the leaders to say, "Wait a minute. We now have got to project civil war or civil strife or sectarian violence."
And the other side of the equation has got to be to train the Iraqis to fight so that the people feel like there is a unified security force that's interested in protecting them from a few people who are trying to sow violence and discord.
VARGAS: But there is a concern that when you talk to these political leaders that they don't wield the real power in Iraq, that it's the clerics that wield the power and the clerics who are controlling these militias, the militias who were responsible for most of the violence in the last few days.
BUSH: Well, Ayatollah Sistani, who is by far -- not by far -- is one of the most revered clerics, has made it very clear that this type of violence is not acceptable, and that he calls for a unified government. And matter of fact, many of the clerics have spoken out for a peaceful unified future for Iraq.
And there's no -- look, these are -- there are people that don't want to see democracy, and the reason why is because it defeats their vision of a totalitarian type government from which they can launch either attacks on America or future instability in the Middle East. You're witnessing this ideological struggle that's taking place, and Iraq happens to be the battle front for that struggle right now.
And I believe we're -- we will prevail, and the definition of prevailing is an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself, an Iraq that is not a safe haven for people like Zarqawi or al Qaeda and its affiliates, an Iraq which becomes an ally in the war on terror.
VARGAS: So let me make sure I understand you. No matter what happens with the level of sectarian violence, the U.S. troops will stay there?