Indonesian leader pushes for American withdrawal from Iraq
BOGOR,Indonesia—AngryantiAmerican protesters marched in the streetsonNov.20shouting“die,Bush, die,” as Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono urged PresidentBushtomovetowardatimetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Theleaderoftheworld’smostpopulous Muslim nation stood side by sidewiththeU.S.presidentandcalled for a “proper timetable” for “withdrawal and disengagement of U.S. forces from Iraq.”
But Mr. Yudhoyono said that any withdrawal should follow a “national reconciliation” and come after security is established and other nations join the effort to aid Iraq in its efforts to establish a democracy.
“We have to involve other parties. We have to probably employ [a] new setup of security forces in parallel with some day, this on a proper timetable, the disengagement of U.S. military forces and other coalition forces from Iraq,” Mr. Yudhoyono saidinBogorPalace,agrandsummer retreat built in 1744.
He said a “proper and realistic solution for Iraq” is not only the responsibility“oftheUnitedStatesand othercountrieswhoarenowinvolved in Iraq, but of course, is the roles and responsibility of other” nations as well.
Mr. Bush has refused to set such a timetable,arguingthatdoingsowould embolden terrorists. Asked whether he would consider putting more U.S. troops into Iraq — as suggested on Nov.19bySen.JohnMcCain,Arizona Republican — the president said he would not do so without a request fromhistopmilitarycommanderson the ground.
“I haven’t made any decisions about troop increases or troop decreases,andwon’tuntilIhearfroma varietyofsources,includingourown United States military,” he said, notingthatChairmanoftheJointChiefs of Staff Gen. Peter Pace “is in the process of evaluating a lot of suggestions from the field and from people involvedwiththeCentralCommand, as well as at the Pentagon.”
Meanwhile, thousands of protesters flooded the streets of this scenic town 30 miles south of the capital of Jakarta. The city’s center was locked down; most streets were cleared and some were blocked with razor wire andwatercannons.Morethan15,000 policewithriotgearlinedthestreets, eventhoughthepresidentrodeinhis helicopter to this hilltop suburb for a six-hour stay, all within the secure compound of the palace.
Thecrowdsbravedmonsoonrainstorms and lightning to chant antiBush slogans in front of Bogor’s telecommunications center after breakingthroughanouterringofpolice barricades.
But Mr. Bush played down the demonstrations that greeted him on his second visit to the island nation, saying dissent — and the freedom to express it — is a sign of a healthy democracy.
“Look, I applaud a society where people are free to express their opinion,” Mr. Bush said. “It’s not the first time, by the way, where people have showed up and expressed their opinion about my policies. But that’s what happens when you make hard decisions.”
The president also rejected the premise of a U.S. reporter’s question on whether his Middle East policies should be viewed as “antiIslamic.”
“To say spreading democracy is anti-religious — it’s the opposite of that.Democracymeansyoucanworship any way you choose, freely. And so, look, people protest, that’s a good sign.”
Indonesia, spread out over thousands of islands, has nearly 200 million mostly moderate Muslims, the most of any country, but there are also millions of Christians, Hindus and Buddhists. The nation has increasingly grappled with extremists, suffering terrorist attacks in October 2002 and October 2005 in Bali, and in Jakarta in August 2003 and September 2004.
In a brief meeting with moderate civic leaders at the palace, Mr. Bush applauded the nation’s diversity.
“I admire Indonesia’s pluralism,” he said. “It’s very important for the peopleofAmericatounderstandthat thisvastcountryhasgottremendous potential,butit’sgotaprominentrole to play in the world in showing how it’spossibleforpeopletobeabletolive together in peace and harmony.”
“Look, I applaud a society where people are free to express their opinion,” said President Bush after a storm of angry protests welcomed him to Indonesia.