|HELEN THOMAS: Does the President want no troops out from Iraq on his watch? I'm talking about all the troops.|
DANA PERINO: Well, 5,700 troops will be home by the end of the year, so that is some troops coming home. The President said that troop levels are going to be made by commanders on the ground, and that we're going to have to talk about --
HELEN THOMAS: Why should it be? Why can't the American people have a say?
DANA PERINO: -- return on success. The American people have had a say. They elected a President who is their Commander-in-Chief and is making decisions based on what his commanders on the ground are telling him.
HELEN THOMAS: And you think that was the vote of the American people?
DANA PERINO: They elected a Commander-in-Chief, and the President is bringing home 5,700 troops, based on the recommendations of his commanders on the ground and based on return on success. Hopefully in the future we can bring home more, but it's going to depend on what General Petraeus reports and remember he will come back in March.
HELEN THOMAS: Why should we depend on him?
DANA PERINO: Because he is the commander on the ground, Helen. He's the one who is making sure that the situation is moving --
HELEN THOMAS: You mean how many more people we kill?
DANA PERINO: Helen, I find it really unfortunate that you use your front row position, bestowed upon you by your colleagues, to make such statements. This is a -- it is an honor and a privilege to be in the briefing room, and to suggest that we, at the United States, are killing innocent people is just absurd and very offensive.
HELEN THOMAS: Do you know how many we have since the start of this war?
DANA PERINO: How many -- we are going after the enemy, Helen. To the extent that any innocent Iraqis have been killed, we have expressed regret for it.
HELEN THOMAS: Oh, regret. It doesn't bring back a life.
DANA PERINO: Helen, we are in a war zone, and our military works extremely hard to make sure that everyone has the opportunity for liberty and freedom and democracy, and that is exactly what they are doing. I'm going to move on.