"I am inflexible when it comes to making sure we don't get hit again. And you bet I'm gonna remain strong about making sure that the world we leave behind is a more peaceful world," the president said.
"You have said we can't cut and run on more than one occasion. We have to stay until we win. Otherwise, we'll be fighting the terrorists here at home, on our own streets. So what do you mean exactly by that, Mr. President?" Couric asked.
"Well, I mean that a defeat in Iraq will embolden the enemy and will provide the enemy — more opportunity to train, plan, to attack us. That's what I mean," Mr. Bush said. "You know, one of the hardest parts of my job is to connect Iraq to the war on terror. I believe it. As I told you, Osama bin Laden believes it. But the American people — have gotta understand that a defeat in Iraq — in other words, if this government there fails, the terrorists will be emboldened, the radicals will topple moderate governments. I truly believe this is the ideological struggle of the 21st century. And the consequences for not achieving success are — are dire."
During Couric's interview Tuesday morning, the president revealed information about previously undisclosed terror plots. Fourteen suspected top al Qaeda terrorists, captured after 9/11, revealed important information during interrogations. Now, the president is pushing Congress to approve military tribunals to put them on trial.
"Can you give us any indication about what kind of information you were able to glean from these, quote-unquote, high value targets?" Couric asked.
"Right. Well, for example, we uncovered a potential anthrax attack on the United States. Or the fact that Khalid Sheikh Mohammad had got somebody to line up people to fly airlines, to crash airlines on, I think, the West Coast or somewhere in America. And these would be Southeast Asians. In other words, we've uncovered cells," the president said.
"When you look back on the last five years, President Bush, is there anything that you wish you had done differently?" Couric asked.
"Yeah. I mean, I wish, for example, Abu Ghraib didn't happen. That was a stain on our nation's character, and it sent a signal about who we're not to a lot of people around the world. I probably could have watched my language a little better, you know?" Mr. Bush replied.
" 'Bring it on,' for example," the president said. "Sometimes I try to explain myself in plain terms. And sometimes the terms are too plain."
to read Part II of the Couric interview with President Bush.