President Bush says his re-election proves Americans agree with his decision to invade Iraq, and that as a result, there's no need to hold any administration officials accountable for mistakes made in planning for the war, or its aftermath
"We had an accountability moment, and that's called the 2004 elections," Mr. Bush said in an interview with The Washington Post for Sunday's editions. "The American people listened to different assessments made about what was taking place in Iraq, and they looked at the two candidates, and chose me."
In the interview, conducted Friday aboard Air Force One, Mr. Bush set no schedule for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and said he will not ask Congress to expand the size of the National Guard or regular Army.
He urged Americans to be patient as Iraq moves toward creating a democratic nation in place of a dictatorship.
"On a complicated matter such as removing a dictator from power and trying to help achieve democracy, sometimes the unexpected will happen, both good and bad," he said. "I am realistic about how quickly a society that has been dominated by a tyrant can become a democracy ... I am more patient than some."
The president declined to endorse outgoing secretary of State Colin Powell's prediction that U.S. troop strength in Iraq could be reduced by the end of the year.
"The sooner the Iraqis are ... better prepared, better equipped to fight, the sooner our troops can start coming home," he said.
Rather than propose an expansion of the National Guard and regular army, the president said, "What we're going to do is make sure that the missions of the National Guard and the reserves closely dovetail with active army units, so that the pressure ... is eased."
Mr. Bush said he was pleased with the pursuit of Osama bin Laden, blamed for the 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. "I will be more pleased when he's brought to justice, and I think he will be," he said.
Asked why bin Laden was not been captured yet, the president responded, "Because he's hiding."
He acknowledged that U.S. standing has diminished in the eyes of some countries and said he has asked Condoleezza Rice, his nominee to replace Powell, to launch a diplomacy campaign that "explains our motives and explains our intentions."
He predicted most Muslims will eventually see America as a beacon of freedom and democracy, but said: "There's no question we've got to continue to do a better job of explaining what America is all about."