Remarks by President Bush on the Global War on Terror
WASHINGTON, April 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Following is a transcript of remarks by President Bush on the global war on terror: East Grand Rapids High School East Grand Rapids, Michigan 1:02 P.M. EDT THE PRESIDENT: Thank you all very much. I'm glad to be back in Grand Rapids. I appreciate the opportunity to address the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. I was leaving the White House today, Laura said, where are you headed? I said, to the West Coast. (Laughter.) She said, make sure you take your suntan lotion. (Laughter.) I said, the West Coast of Michigan -- (laughter) -- and I'm glad to be with you. You can't help but think about Gerald Ford when you come to Grand Rapids, Michigan. You know, our country was blessed to have such a decent, honorable, kind, courageous leader in Gerald R. Ford, and we miss him a lot. (Applause.) I appreciate Dixie Anderson, who is the Executive Director of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. I thank Barbara Propes who is the President of the World Affairs Council of America. I want to thank Ping Liang, President, Board of Directors of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan, and a fellow Yale Bulldog. I appreciate my friend, Ambassador Pete Secchia for joining us today. He was the Ambassador to Italy under 41. I appreciate Sara Shubel, who is the Superintendent of the East Grand Rapids Public Schools. Thank you very much for allowing me to come to this beautiful auditorium here in East Grand Rapids High School. I appreciate Jenny Fee, the Associate Principal, as well as Larry Fisher. My purpose of coming is to instruct, is to talk about the issues that our world is facing, particularly the issue of Iraq. And I appreciate the chance to come to this high school to do so. I thank Congressman Vern Ehlers, congressman from this district. I appreciate you being here, Vern, and thank you for joining me and Congressman Pete Hoekstra on Air Force One. It's probably quite convenient for you to fly from Washington on Air Force One. (Laughter.) Glad to provide the transportation. (Laughter.) Both these men are really honorable folks who serve Western Michigan well in Congress, and I want to thank you for your service. (Applause.) I thank the Michigan Attorney General, Michael Cox, for joining us. Mike, thanks for coming today. Michigan Secretary of State Terri Lynn Land. She heard this was a foreign policy speech. (Laughter.) I appreciate Cindy Bartman, City of East Grand Rapids; Mayor George Heartwell, City of Grand Rapids. Thank you all for serving. I appreciate your willingness to become public servants. One of the messages I hope that I can convey to the high school students who are here, no matter what your political beliefs may be, that it's important to serve. It's important to serve the community in which you live. And you can do so all kinds of ways. You can run for mayor at some point in time, or you can feed the hungry. But service is noble, and service is necessary. I see we've got some who wear the uniform of the United States military. In this day and age, that's the ultimate service, as far as I'm concerned, and I appreciate you volunteering. (Applause.) For more than a half century, the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan has been a forum for lively and important debate. I understand this council was set up in 1949. It's been an important forum for people to talk about the big questions facing our country. There is no bigger question than what course our nation should pursue in Iraq, and that's what I'm here to talk about. Three months ago, my administration completed an extensive review of that very question. I ordered major changes to our strategy in Iraq. And to lead this new strategy, I named General David Petraeus, an expert who wrote the Army's new manual on counterinsurgency warfare. This new strategy is fundamentally different from the previous strategy. It recognizes that our top priority must be to help Iraq's elected leaders secure their population, especially in Baghdad-- because Iraqis will not be able to make the political and economic progress they need until they have a basic measure of security. Iraq's leaders are committed to providing that security -- but at this point, they cannot do it on their own. And so I ordered American reinforcements to help Iraqis secure their population, to go after the terrorists and insurgents that are inciting sectarian violence, and to get their capital under control. As our troops take on this mission, they will continue to train and mentor the Iraqi security forces for the day they can take full responsibility for the security of their own country. General Petraeus has been carrying out this new strategy for just over two months. He reports that it will be later this year before we can judge the potential of success. Yet the first indicators are beginning to emerge -- and they show that so far, the operation is meeting expectations. There are still horrific attacks in Iraq, such as the bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday -- but the direction of the fight is beginning to shift. In the coming months, I'll deliver regular updates on our operations. Today, I want to share some details about how this effort is unfolding in three areas: Baghdad, Anbar province, and the outskirts of Baghdad where terrorists and extremists are making a stand. The most significant element of our new strategy is being carried out in Baghdad. Baghdad has been the site of most of the sectarian violence; it is the destination for most of our reinforcements. So far, three additional American brigades totaling about 12,000 troops have reached the Baghdad area; another brigade is in Kuwait preparing to deploy; and one more will arrive in Kuwait next month. The Iraqi government is also meeting its pledge to boost its force levels in the city. For every American combat soldier deployed to Baghdad, there are now about three Iraqi security forces -- giving us a combined total of nearly 80,000 combat forces in the Baghdad area. My point is, is that the American combat forces are not alone in the effort to secure the nation's capital. And just as important as the growing number of troops is their changing position in the city. I direct your attention to a map showing our troop presence around Baghdad late last year. This is how we were positioned. Most troops were at bases on the outskirts of the city. They would move into Baghdad to clear out neighborhoods during the day, and then they would return to their bases at night. The problem was that when our troops moved back to the bases, the extremists, the radicals, the killers moved back to the neighborhoods. And we're changing. Part of our strategy change, part of the new mission in Baghdad is for American troops to live and work side by side with Iraqi forces at small neighborhood posts called joint security stations. You can see from this map, there are now more than two dozen joint security stations located throughout Baghdad; more are planned. From these stations, Iraqi and American forces work together to clear out and then secure neighborhoods -- all aimed at providing security for the people of Baghdad. If a heavy fight breaks out, our forces will step in, and Iraqi forces learn valuable skills from American troops; they'll fight shoulder to shoulder with the finest military every assembled. By living in Baghdad neighborhoods, American forces get to know the culture and concerns of local residents. Equally important, the local residents get to know them. When Iraqi civilians see a large presence of professional soldiers and police patrolling their streets, they grow in confidence and trust. They become less likely to turn to militias for protection. People want security in their lives, and they tend to turn to the most apparently effective security force. And as people gain confidence in the ability of the Iraqi troops, along with the United States to provide security, they begin to cooperate. In fact, Iraqi and American forces have received more tips in the past three months than during any three-month period on record. These are tips provided by local citizens about where to find terrorists and insurgents. Most people -- the vast majority of people want to live in peace. Iraqi mothers want their children to grow up in peace. And if given the opportunity and given the confidence, civilians turn in the terrorists and extremists and murderers to help achieve that peace. This new approach to securing Baghdad brings risks. When I announced the new operation, I cautioned that more troops conducting more operations in more neighborhoods would likely to bring more casualties. Since the security operation began, we have seen some of the highest casualty levels of the war. And as the number of troops in Baghdad grows and operations move into even more dangerous neighborhoods, we can expect the pattern to continue. We must also expect the terrorists and insurgents to continue mounting terrible attacks. Here is a photo of the destruction caused by a car bomb at a bus stop in Baghdad on Wednesday. The victims of this attack were innocent men and women, who were simply coming home from work. Yet this was hardly a random act of murder. It has all the hallmarks of an al Qaeda attack. The terrorists bombed the buses at rush hour, with the specific intent to kill as many people as possible. This has been long a pattern of al Qaeda in Iraq; this is what they do. They carried out the spectacular attack on the United Nations headquarters in Baghdad. They bombed the Jordanian embassy in Iraq. They claimed credit for the bombing of the Golden Mosque of Samarra. Just last week, they sent a suicide bomber to attack the Iraqi parliament building. Al Qaeda believes that its best chance to achieve its objectives -- which is to drive the United States out of Iraq and prevent the emergence of a free society in the Middle East, is to defeat the security operation by conducting spectacular attacks that provoke Iraqis into taking violence into their own hands -- and lead Americans to conclude that the sectarian killing will never be contained. This strategy is merciless, but it is not without logic. It's important for all Iraqis -- Sunnis and Shia alike -- to understand that al Qaeda is the greatest threat to peace in their country. And the question is whether we and the Iraqis will give in, and to respond the way al Qaeda wants. Because of the lessons of September the 11th, the answer is the United States government will not give in to what al Qaeda wants -- and the Iraqis must not give in to al Qaeda if they want to have a peaceful society. The nature of a strategy aimed at securing the population is that the most important gains are often the least dramatic. Day by day, block by block, Iraqi and American forces are making incremental gains in Baghdad. Thanks to more troops on the streets and more cooperation from residents, the average number of weapons stockpiles seized each week has jumped 50 percent since the beginning of the new strategy. American and Iraqi forces tracked down and captured the leaders of a major car bomb ring. We found and cleared a warehouse where terrorists were storing chemicals to make weapons. We captured members of a death squad that had terrorized hundreds of residents in a Baghdad neighborhood. As a result, displaced families are beginning to return home. And the number of sectarian murders in Baghdad has dropped by half since the operation began. The results of the security operation are uneven across the city. In some areas, there have been sharp declines in sectarian killing -- while in other areas, the level of violence is still far too high. Yet even in volatile districts like Sadr City, our new approach is beginning to make a difference. A report last month in the Grand Rapids Press quoted an Iraqi resident of Sadr City. Perhaps you read it. If you didn't, here's what it said: "They thanked us" -- they're talking about our forces and Iraqi forces -- "They thanked us with respect and a smile." This resident said, "I'm happy that such a campaign is done in my neighborhood." People want security and they want to live in peace. Developments like these are not as spectacular as a terrorist bomb. When a family decides to stop depending on militias to protect them, or a young man rejects insurgency and joins the Iraqi army, it doesn't usually make the evening news. Yet small, individual choices like these are vital to the success of our campaign. They show that despite all the violence, the vast majority of Iraqis want security, they want to live in peace. I know I've said that more than once; it's important for our citizens to understand that people around the world are anxious for peace, and, yet, there are extremists and radicals and murderers who will do anything they can to prevent it from happening. The Iraqi security forces are growing in maturity and gaining trust, and that's important. Our men and women in uniform are showing great courage and skill, and that's important to the Iraqi people, as well. Another significant element of our new strategy is being carried out in Anbar province -- a largely Sunni area west of Baghdad. For much of the past four years, Anbar has been a hotbed for insurgents and al Qaeda terrorists. Remember, al Qaeda is Sunni in nature. According to a captured al Qaeda document, according to what al Qaeda has made clear, their goal is to take over the Anbar province and make it their home base for Iraq. That would bring them closer to their stated objective of taking down Iraq's democracy, building a radical Islamic empire, and having safe haven from which to launch attacks on the United States citizens here at home or abroad. That is what al Qaeda has stated; that is their objective. And Anbar province is where they're trying to achieve their objective. Al Qaeda has pursued this goal through a ruthless campaign of violence -- and they grew in power. They were succeeding. And then something began to change. The people of Anbar began to realize their life was not the paradise al Qaeda promised -- as a matter of fact, it was a nightmare. So courageous tribal sheiks launched a movement called "The Awakening" and began cooperating with American and Iraqi forces. The sheiks and their followers knew exactly who the terrorists were, and they began providing highly specific intelligence. To help capitalize on this opportunity, I sent more troops into Anbar province. Alongside the Iraqi army and police, U.S. Marines and Special Operations Forces have been striking terrible blows against al Qaeda. The maps show the dramatic changes taking place in Ramadi, which happens to be the capital of Anbar province. The red-shaded areas in the first map show the concentration of al Qaeda terrorists in the city two months ago. The second map shows the concentration of the terrorists now. Their presence has declined substantially. Here is how one reporter described the changes: "A year ago, Ramadi's police force had virtually been wiped out, leaving only a couple dozen officers and a lawless city with nowhere to turn for help. Now, guerrilla fighters have begun to disappear, schools and shops have reopened, and civilians have begun walking [in] previously deserted streets." Anbar province is still not safe. Al Qaeda has responded to these changes with sickening brutality. They have bombed fellow Sunnis in prayer at a mosque, they send death squads into neighborhoods, they have recruited children as young as 12 years old to help carry out suicide attacks. But this time, local Sunnis are refusing to be intimidated. With the encouragement of their tribal leaders, they're stepping forward to protect their families and drive out the terrorists. They're stepping forward to prevent al Qaeda, the people who attacked us on September the 11th, 2001, from establishing safe haven in Anbar province. And I believe strongly it's in the interest of the United States of America to help them. General Petraeus said earlier this month: "In the latest recruiting effort, which used to draw minimal numbers of Iraqis willing to serve in the Iraqi army or the Iraqi police in Anbar province, there were over 2,000 volunteers for the latest training." General Petraeus went on, "Frankly, it's a stunning development and reflects the frustration the Sunni Arab tribes have with what al Qaeda has done to them. It has really had a devastating effect." If given a chance, most people will reject extremists and radicals and murderers. The United States will help Sunni sheiks and will help their people. We will stay on the offense in Anbar province. We and the Iraqi government are carrying out our new strategy in Baghdad and Anbar, as well as the "Baghdad belts" -- these are areas on the outskirts of the capital that have been staging grounds for deadly attacks. I have discussed the capital city with you, I discussed a western province with you, and I'm now going to talk about the belts around the capital city of Iraq. We have moved an additional Stryker battalion to Diyala province, which is northeast of Baghdad, where our soldiers and Iraqi forces are conducting raids against al Qaeda and insurgents. We have sent reinforcements to Diwaniyah province -- Diwaniyah, a city of Diwaniyah, which is 80 miles south of Baghdad, where we're working with Iraqi forces to route out militia and Shia extremists. In these and other parts of the Baghdad belts, Iraqi and American forces are fighting to clear and hold territory that the enemies of a free society considered their own. They're fighting back. As a result, violence is increasing. And as our forces move deeper into the territory, the violence could increase even more. Yet these operations are having an important impact on this young democracy. They're keeping the pressure on the terrorists and insurgents who have fled Anbar and Baghdad. They're helping cut off the supply of weapons and fighters to violent groups inside the capital. They're showing Iraqi citizens across the country there will be no sanctuary for killers anywhere in a free Iraq. All of these military operations are designed to improve security for everyday folks. They're designed to reduce sectarian violence. And they're designed to open up breathing space for political progress by Iraq's government. It may seem like decades ago, but it wasn't all that long ago that 12 million Iraqi citizens voted for a free and democratic future for their country. And the government they elected is in place -- it hasn't been in place a year yet -- and they're working hard to make progress on some key benchmarks; progress to help this country reconcile and unite after years of tyrannical and brutal rule. The Iraqi legislature passed a budget that commits $10 billion of their money for reconstruction projects -- and now the government must spend that money to improve the lives of Iraqi citizens. The Council of Ministers recently approved legislation that would provide a framework for an equitable sharing of oil resources -- and now that legislation needs to go before their parliament for approval. The government has formed a committee to organize provincial elections -- and the next step is to set a date for those elections to be held. Iraqi leaders are taking steps toward agreement on a de-Baathification law that will allow more Iraqis to re-enter their nation's civic life -- and they need to agree on that measure and send it to parliament. Prime Minister Maliki is working to build greater support from Iraq's neighbors and the international community. I just talked to him the other day on secure video -- I was in the White House and he was in Baghdad-- and we talked about this neighborhood conference, an opportunity to rally the international community to help support this young democracy's efforts to thrive and prosper. And at the conference in Egypt next month, he, along with Secretary Rice and other concerned leaders, will seek increased diplomatic and financial commitments for this country. Iraq's leaders have begun meeting their benchmarks -- and they've got a lot left to do. As more breathing space is created by reducing the sectarian violence, Iraq's leaders have got to take advantage of that breathing space. I have made it abundantly clear to the Prime Minister that our patience is not unlimited; that we fully recognize that there has to be political progress and economic progress, along with military progress, in order for that government to succeed. And it's up to the Iraqi people and the Iraq- elected folks to show America and the world they're ready to do the hard work necessary to reconcile and move forward. It's important to understand that Iraq's government is working hard in a difficult environment. The day after its building was bombed, the Iraqi parliament held a special session. Its speaker said the meeting sent, "a clear message to all the terrorists and all those who dare to try to stop this political process that we will sacrifice in order for it to continue." I found that to be a heartening statement; that here al Qaeda bombs their parliament and this man stands up and says, you're not going to scare us; we want to represent the will of the 12 million people who voted. You've just got to know my view of -- the vast majority of Iraqis are courageous people; they've endured brutality as a result of murderers trying to stop their new country from -- their new system of government from succeeding. And I'm impressed by their courage. And I believe this current government under Prime Minister Maliki is committed to building a strong democracy. That's my judgment, having talked to him. I've watched a man begun to grow in office. I first talked to him in June, when he was named the Prime Minister. I've talked to him consistently ever since. I look to see whether or not he has courage to make the difficult decisions necessary to achieve peace. I'm looking to see whether or not he has got the capacity to reach out and help unify this country. He says, you know, sometimes it's hard to get the parliament to do exactly what he thinks they ought to do. (Laughter.) I know what he means. (Laughter.) As we increase troop levels, we're also increasing our civilian presence. We're doubling the number of what's called provincial reconstruction teams, which partner civilian experts with combat units to ensure that military operations are followed up with rapid economic assistance. These teams help local Iraqi leaders restore basic services and stimulate job creation and promote reconciliation. Their work highlights a sharp difference: The Iraqi and American governments want to rebuild communities and improve lives - - the extremists and terrorists want to destroy communities and take lives. And when ordinary Iraqis see this difference for themselves, they become more likely to stand with their elected leaders and help marginalize the extremists in this struggle. Here at home, a different kind of struggle is taking place -- and its outcome will have a direct impact on the front lines. Despite the initial signs of progress on the ground, despite the fact that many reinforcements have not even arrived, Democrat leadership of the Congress is pushing legislation that would undercut the strategy General David Petraeus has just started to pursue. They have passed bills in the House and Senate that would impose restrictions on our military commanders and mandate a precipitous withdrawal by an arbitrary date -- they say withdrawal regardless of the conditions on the ground. That approach makes for a vivid contrast with the attitude in Iraq. A prominent Middle East scholar recently visited Iraq, described the difference: "A traveler who moves between Baghdad and Washington is struck by the gloomy despair in Washington and the cautious sense of optimism in Baghdad." We have honest differences of opinion in Washington and around this country, and I appreciate those differences. The ability to debate differences openly and frequently is what makes America a great country. Our men and women in uniform should never be caught in the middle of these debates. It has now been 74 days since I sent to Congress a request for emergency funding that our troops urgently need. The leadership in Congress have spent those 74 days trying to substitute their judgment for the judgment of our generals -- without sending me legislation. And now, to cover ongoing Army operations, the Pentagon is being forced to transfer money from military personnel accounts. The delay in spending is beginning to affect the ability of the Pentagon to fund our troops and all our missions. On Wednesday, I met at the White House with Congressional leaders from both parties; it was a very cordial meeting. I think you would have been pleased at the tone of the meeting in the Cabinet Room at the White House -- at least, I was. I urged the people around the table to put politics aside, and to send a bill that funds our troops without arbitrary deadlines, without wasteful spending, and without handcuffing our commanders. There is ample time to debate this war. We need to get the troops the money. When we debate the war on terror, it can be convenient to divide up the fight by location -- and so we hear about, "the war in Afghanistan," and "the war in Iraq" [as] if they were something separate. This is a natural way to talk about a complicated subject -- I don't think it's accurate. Our enemies make no distinctions based on borders. They view the world as a giant battlefield, and will strike wherever they can. The killers who behead captives and order suicide bombings in Iraq are followers of the same radical ideology as those who destroy markets in Afghanistan; or they set off car bombs in Algeria, and blow up subway trains in London. The men who attacked Iraq's parliament last week swear allegiance to the same terrorist network as those who attacked America on September the 11th, 2001. The fight in Iraq has been long and is trying. It's a difficult period in our nation's history. I also say it's a consequential moment in our nation's history, as well. It's natural to wish there was an easy way out -- that we could just pack up and bring our troops home and be safe. Yet in Iraq, the easy road would be a road to disaster. If we were to leave Iraq before that government can defend itself, and be an ally in this war against extremists and radicals, and be able to deny safe haven from people who want to hurt the United States, the consequences for this country would be grave. There would be a security vacuum in Iraq. Extremists and radicals love vacuums in which to spread chaos. The world would see different factions of radicals, different groups of extremists competing for influence and power. The extremists who emerge from this battle would turn the country into a new radical regime in the Middle East. I told you they want to launch new attacks on America and they need safe haven from which to do so. Not every enemy we face in Iraq wants to attack us here at home, but many of them do. And I believe it's in the interest of this country to take those threats seriously. We don't have to imagine what might happen if a group of terrorists gained safe haven. We've learned that lesson, I hope. Precisely what happened in Afghanistan-- it's really important for our memories not to dim. At least it's important for my memory not to dim, because my most important job is to protect the American people. The lesson of 9/11 is that when you allow extremists and radicals and killers to find a sanctuary anywhere in the world, that can have deadly consequences on the streets of our own cities. What happens overseas matters here in the United States of America. It's one of the fundamental lessons of September the 11th, 2001. Those who advocate pulling out of Iraq claim they are proposing an alternative strategy to deal with the situation there. Withdrawal is not a strategy. Withdrawal would do nothing to prevent violence from spilling out across that country and plunging Iraq into chaos and anarchy. Withdrawal would do nothing to prevent al Qaeda from taking advantage of the chaos to seize control of a nation with some of the world's largest oil resources. Withdrawal would embolden these radicals and extremists. Withdrawal would do nothing to prevent al Qaeda from using Iraq as a base to overthrow other moderate countries. Withdrawal would do nothing to prevent Iran from exploiting the chaos in Iraq to destabilize the region, expand its radical influence, threaten Israel, and further its ambitions to obtain nuclear weapons. If anything, withdrawal would make each of these dangerous developments more likely. Withdrawal would embolden enemies and confirm their belief that America is weak and does not have the stomach to do what is necessary to lay the foundations for peace. Ultimately, withdrawal would increase the probability that American troops would have to return to Iraq-- and confront an enemy that is even more dangerous. So no matter how frustrating the fight in Iraq can be, no matter how much we wish the war was over, the security of our country depends directly on the outcome of Iraq. The price of giving up there would be paid in American lives for years to come. I firmly believe that historians would look back on that decision to withdraw and say, what happened to them in the year 2007, how come they could not see the dangers to the United States of America. No one understands the stakes in Iraq more clearly than our troops. Every man and woman in our military volunteered for the job. They make us proud every day. Michael Evans is a Specialist from Sumner, Illinois. His unit is part of the new operation to secure Baghdad. He said, "It is a great feeling to know we're contributing to getting insurgents off the streets, so the people do not have to live in fear." He went on to say, "I'll be coming away from this knowing that I was doing something to help the American people -- so that what happened on 9/11 never happens again." I agree with him. Specialist Evans represents the greatness of our country: decent citizens volunteering to protect you. You know, for all we hear about the consequences of failure in Iraq, we should not forget the consequences of success in Iraq. Success in Iraq would bring something powerful and new -- a democracy at the heart of the Middle East, a nation that fights terrorists instead of harboring them, and a powerful example for others of the power of liberty to overcome an ideology of hate. We have done this kind of work in the United States of America before. I am -- you know, I marvel at the fact that on the one hand my dad joined the Navy at 18 to fight a sworn enemy, the Japanese, and on the other hand, his son, some 55 years later, best friend and keeping the peace with the Prime Minister of Japan. I find that an amazing fact of history: 41 fights them, 43 works with them to lay the foundation for peace -- including working with Japan to deploy Japanese troops in Iraq. It's amazing to me. But it shows the power of liberty to transform enemies into allies. We have done the hard work before of helping young democracies. As a matter of fact, we did so after a brutal World War II in helping Germany and Japan get back on their feet and establish forms of government that yield peace. We did so after the Korean War. I suspect it would be hard to find anybody in 1953 to predict that an American President would one day be reporting to the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan that relations in the Far East are solid for the United States of America, and that that part of the world is relatively peaceful compared to other troubled parts of the world. In '53 they would have been thinking about all the lives lost in Japan or in Korea. In '53 they would have seen a communist China gaining strength. And yet, in 2007, we've got a Korea that went through difficult times to get to the democracy she's now in and is now a major trading partner of the United States. We've got a China with an open marketplace, based upon the principles where consumers get to decide things, not the state. The political system has got a long way to go, but the marketplace is beginning to redefine that society. Or how about Japan, a place where we lost thousands of lives and, yet, now they're a partner in peace. America has done the hard work necessary to give liberty a chance to prevail. And it's in my opinion and in the opinion of people like Specialist Evans that we do so in the Middle East for the sake of peace for a young generation of Americans. Thank you. (Applause.)
SOURCE White House Press Office
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