WASHINGTON – President Bush (search) says he is determined to complete the mission of establishing democracy in Iraq (search) because the world will be a better place for it, and so those who have fallen in combat will not have died in vain.
At a joint news conference Monday with European leaders, the president also defended operations at the prison at Guantanamo Bay (search) in Cuba and said international relations that were strained by the war in Iraq are returning to normal.
"There may have been past differences over Iraq, but as we move forward there is a need for the world to work together so that Iraq's democracy will succeed," Bush said.
He repeatedly expressed empathy for families who have lost loved ones in battle.
"I want those families to know: One, we're not going to leave them — not going to allow their mission to go in vain. And two, we will complete the mission, and the world will be better off for it," Bush said.
Bush did not dwell on differences with European allies but said "we want Europe strong so we can work together to achieve important objectives and important goals."
Bush met at the White House with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the rotating European Council.
Bush and the European leaders vowed continued cooperation in pressing Iran to give up its nuclear program, persuading China to ease trade barriers and battling global piracy and counterfeiting.
"There have been past differences over Iraq," Bush said. "But as we move forward there is a need for the world to work together so that Iraq as a democracy will succeed."
While the U.S. human-rights image has been tarnished by allegations of inmate abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and the U.S. jail in Guantanamo Bay, Bush said the detainees were being treated humanely and invited journalists to go to Guantanamo and see for themselves.
He reiterated that many detainees there "are dangerous people" and said "about 200 or so have been released back to their countries."
"There needs to be a way forward on the other 500 that are there," Bush continued. "We're now waiting for a federal court to decide whether or not they can be tried in a military court, where they'll have rights, of course, or in the civilian courts. We're just waiting for our judicial process to move — to move the process along."
On Iraq, Bush said he would not bow to "cold-blooded killers that will kill Americans or kill innocent Iraqis in order to try to drive us out of Iraq."
"I think about Iraq every day. Every single day, because I understand we have kids in harm's way," the president said. "And I worry about their families; and I obviously, any time there's a death, I grieve."