At a "press availability" with Canadian Prime Minister Martin of Canada on April 30, Bush was asked if, one year after he had declared an end to major combat, things were getting better or worse in Iraq. "A year ago, I did give the speech from the carrier, saying that we had achieved an important objective, that we'd accomplished a mission, which was the removal of Saddam Hussein.," he said. "And as a result, there are no longer torture chambers or rape rooms or mass graves in Iraq." The remark contrasted starkly with headlines around the world decrying reports that Iraqi prisoners had been abused by US troops.
"We're making progress, you bet," he added. "There's a strategy toward freedom." But Congress and other observers questioned the nature of that progress, as funds allocated for Iraqi reconstruction were being diverted for security and administrative costs, or, as reported by the Center for Investigative Reporting (CIR) being paid as bribes to contractors and members of the US-appointed Iraqi governing council.
"A free Iraq is in the interests of world peace," he continued. "Because free societies do not harbor terrorists; free societies do not threaten people or use weapons of mass destruction," Yet analysts have suggested that the US invasion has actually heightened the global terrorist threat, as poorly secured weapons sites were looted, the concentration of US forces presented ready targets, and the presence of an occupying force may have boosted recruitment efforts by al-Qaeda and related groups. This observation has implications for the 2004 presidential campaign, as a recent New York Times/CBS poll showed the public disapproves of Bush's handling of the war in Iraq, but approves of his handling of the war on terrorism.