Bush defends cost of Iraq war
* Says war on terror requires great sacrifice from Americans
WASHINGTON: US President George W Bush, besieged at his ranch by relatives of US soldiers killed in Iraq launched a five-day campaign on Saturday to defend the war to an increasingly sceptical US public.
In his weekly radio address from his Prairie Chapel property, Bush said that the war would help avert another attack like the September 11 terrorist strikes and that the best way to honour fallen US troops was to defeat global terrorism.
“We must finish the task that our troops have given their lives for and honour their sacrifice by completing their mission,” said Bush, whose approval ratings have slipped to some of the lowest levels of his presidency.
More than 1,800 US soldiers have been killed in Iraq and thousands more wounded in a conflict with a price tag in the tens of billions of dollars.
A recent poll found that a majority of Americans – 57 percent – believe that the war has made the United States more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, despite Bush’s frequent arguments that the conflict has made them safer.
US soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan “know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail,” he said.
In his radio remarks, Bush noted that the four-year anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes was coming up and said he would be marking that event and thanking US soldiers he said were “on the front lines.”
He did not mention efforts by Iraqi political leaders to craft a constitution, or their failure to nail down a charter by last Monday’s deadline. “Like previous wars we have waged to protect our freedom, the war on terror requires great sacrifice from Americans,” especially those serving in the armed forces, said Bush.
“In this war, many of these brave men and women have given their lives to defend their fellow citizens and to bring the hope of freedom to millions who have not known it. We owe these fallen heroes our gratitude, and we offer their families our heartfelt condolences and prayers.”Meawnhile, the US Army is planning for the possibility of keeping the current number of soldiers in Iraq – well over 100,000 – for four more years, the Army’s top general said.
In an Associated Press interview Saturday, Gen Peter Schoomaker said the Army is prepared for the “worst case” in terms of the required level of troops in Iraq. He said the number could be adjusted lower, if called for, by slowing the force rotation or by shortening tours for soldiers.
Schoomaker said commanders in Iraq and others will decide how many troops will be needed next year and beyond. His responsibility is to provide them, trained and equipped. agencies