- WASHINGTON - U.S. President
George W Bush on Saturday defended the war in Iraq, telling Americans the
United States was forced into war because of the Sept 11 terror strikes.
- Bush also resisted calls for him to set a timetable for
the return of thousands of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq, saying Iraqis
must be able to defend their own country before U.S. soldiers can be pulled
- "We went to war because we were attacked, and we
are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm
our country and hurt our citizens," Bush said in his weekly radio
- Bush began a public relations offensive to defend the
war as his approval rating has dropped well below 50% with Americans expressing
skepticism about the invasion.
- The centerpiece of the campaign will be a speech on June
28, exactly one year after the U.S.-led coalition officially handed over
sovereignty to a hand-picked Iraqi provisional government.
- "Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam
Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists
have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror," said the
- "These foreign terrorists violently oppose the rise
of a free and democratic Iraq, because they know that when we replace despair
and hatred with liberty and hope, they lose their recruiting grounds for
terror," he argued.
- "Our troops are fighting these terrorists in Iraq
so you will not have to face them here at home."
- Bush, who is to welcome Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim
Jaafari for his first visit to the White House next Friday, ruled out any
hard and fast timetable for withdrawing the 130,000 U.S. soldiers currently
deployed in Iraq and made it clear that it will not be anytime soon.
- Terrorists "know there is no room for them in a
free and democratic Middle East, so the terrorists and insurgents are trying
to get us to retreat," he said.
- "Their goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis
have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected
and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people."
- A June 13 USA Today poll showed that almost six of 10
Americans, 59%, want a full or partial pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.
- In a New York Times/CBS News poll among 1,111 adults,
Bush's approval rating dropped to 42% while 59% disapproved of his handling
- "I am confident that Iraqis will continue to defy
the skeptics as they build a new Iraq that represents the diversity of
their nation and assumes greater responsibility for their own security,"
Bush said. "And when they do, our troops can come home with the honor
they have earned."
- "This mission isn't easy, and it will not be accomplished
overnight. We're fighting a ruthless enemy that relishes the killing of
innocent men, women, and children," he said.
- "By making their stand in Iraq, the terrorists have
made Iraq a vital test for the future security of our country and the free
world. We will settle for nothing less than victory." (Wire reports)
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