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Bush Plans Yet Another Push to Improve Poll Numbers on Iraq, With Yet More Speeches Linking Iraq with 9/11
Bush plans bid to rally Iraq support
Texas protests continue as Republicans disagree on conflict
Aides say Bush will attempt to portray the Iraq conflict in the context of long wars like World War II.
CRAWFORD, Texas (CNN) -- President Bush will launch a new round of speeches to rally support for the war in Iraq, advisers said Sunday, as protesters camped outside Bush's Texas home and polls showed weaker support for the two-year conflict.
Senior aides say Bush will attempt to portray the Iraq conflict in the context of long wars like World War II, which U.S. forces fought from 1941 to 1945.
They said the president also will invoke the September 11, 2001, attacks, arguing once again that the insurgents battling American troops in Iraq share the same ideology as the al Qaeda operatives who crashed hijacked jetliners into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field.
On Monday, Bush travels to Salt Lake City, Utah, to speak to veterans at 1:35 p.m. ET (11:35 a.m. MT).
In a previous attempt this summer to boost sagging support for the war, the president delivered a prime-time, nationally televised address in June to a military audience in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. In his speech, Bush assured Americans that the conflict in Iraq was worth the sacrifice. (Full story)
The sacrifice includes 1,862 U.S. troops deaths, including a soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb Saturday near Baghdad, the U.S. military said.
"Our mission in Iraq is clear: We're hunting down the terrorists. We're helping Iraqis build a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror," Bush said in June.
"We're advancing freedom in the broader Middle East. We are removing a source of violence and instability, and laying the foundation of peace for our children and our grandchildren."
But his remarks did little to move public opinion. A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted August 5-7 found that 54 percent of those surveyed thought the 2003 invasion of Iraq was a mistake. (Full story)
The 9/11 commission's report, issued in July 2004, found no evidence that Iraq had any operational relationship with al Qaeda.
The CIA concluded in February that Iraq had become a training ground for terrorists who wish to attack U.S. troops -- a haven critics say did not exist before Saddam Hussein's ouster.
The Iraq issue has followed Bush into his planned five-week vacation in Crawford, where dozens of antiwar demonstrators have set up a makeshift camp near his ranch.
The protesters are led by Cindy Sheehan, whose son, Casey, was killed in Iraq in April 2004.
Hundreds of white crosses commemorating U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq are now planted just outside Bush's property, and the demonstrators drew support Sunday from folk singer Joan Baez.
"I think Cindy and the women have impeccable credentials -- no matter how hard people try to slander and assassinate their personalities, it is impeccable credentials," Baez said. "I think they simply can't be not listened to."
Sheehan, the founder of Gold Star Families for Peace, began camping outside Bush's Crawford home on August 6 in hopes of having a second meeting with the president.
The first occurred in 2004, when Bush met with families of those killed in Iraq at Fort Lewis, Washington.
She left Thursday to tend to her mother, who suffered a stroke last week, but says she will return to "Camp Casey" if possible.
Meanwhile, in downtown Crawford, more Bush supporters arrived at a pro-Bush camp, The Associated Press reported.
As of Sunday afternoon, more than 150 people had visited the pro-Bush camp, which features a large tent with "God Bless Our President!" and "God Bless Our Troops" banners, the AP reported.
The pro-Bush camp is called "Fort Qualls," for Marine Lance Cpl. Louis Wayne Qualls, 20, who was killed in action last fall in Falluja, the AP said. Qualls' father, Gary Qualls of Temple, Texas, said the anti-war demonstrators are being disrespectful to soldiers.
White House officials concede Sheehan's vigil has drawn much more attention than they anticipated.
Meanwhile, some congressional Republicans have raised questions about the progress of the war.
Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, a long-time critic of the administration's handling of the war, told ABC's "This Week" that "'stay the course' is not a policy."
Part of the problem, he said, "is we have no measurement for progress."
Sen. George Allen, on the same show, backed the president's war effort even as he acknowledged that it was beset by problems.
"I think there's progress being made, but it's very difficult," said the Republican from Virginia, noting that the Iraqi parliament is attempting to meet a Monday deadline to create a draft constitution.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, told "Fox News Sunday": "Nobody wants to withdraw, but people are concerned. It's gone on longer than we thought. The violence is larger than we thought it would be."
A bipartisan group of House members and Sen. Russ Feingold, a Wisconsin Democrat, have proposed a withdrawal of American troops from Iraq by the end of 2006.
The administration opposes the plan, arguing that a timetable would simply let the insurgents wait out U.S. troops.
Feingold, a possible Democratic presidential candidate, said the date was "target," not a deadline -- one that would spur the fledgling Iraqi government to take more responsibility for its own security.
"Without any sort of a time frame in place, we'll never even get to that point," Feingold told NBC's "Meet the Press."
Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, a Mississippi Republican, told NBC that setting a timeline for a U.S. withdrawal would be a bad idea. He said the United States is winning the war in Iraq but that his constituents want to know more about U.S. plans.
The president "needs to get out there and lay it out more," Lott said.