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Bush calls for a 'total victory'
President finds a friendly audience in Salt Lake City
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
By Ann McFeatters, Post-Gazette National Bureau
WASHINGTON -- President Bush for the first time yesterday referred to the exact number of Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan as he tried to hammer home his argument that staying in Iraq is vital to a "total victory over the terrorists and their hateful ideology."
Speaking to a friendly audience of military veterans in Salt Lake City, he referred to American "sacrifices" in war six times as he compared those who have died or been injured in Iraq to World War II casualties.
"Since the morning of September the 11th, we have known that the war on terror would require great sacrifice as well," he said. "We have lost 1,864 members of our armed forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom [in Afghanistan]."
He added that all of "these heroes" left grieving families, but that their legacy "will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty."
Bush spoke to about 6,000 people at the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars just before the Iraqi parliament concluded that it needs three more days to consider a draft constitution, a 10-day extension of the original deadline. That delay -- coupled with calls over the weekend by Sens. Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., and Russ Feingold, D-Wis., for the United States to pull out of Iraq -- has convinced the administration that the president needs to move swiftly to counter growing anti-war sentiment.
With little news being generated by the president while he has been vacationing in Texas, the news media assigned to cover him has focused instead on anti-war protesters camped near his ranch, especially Cindy Sheehan, who lost her son in the war. Tomorrow, Bush again will break his vacation to travel to Nampa, Idaho, to speak about the war to a National Guard gathering.
Bush's approval are now the lowest of his presidency. Four national polls conducted this month, each involving at least 1,000 people, found that his average approval rating is 44 percent. When asked about the war in Iraq, about 58 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied. Record high gasoline prices also are contributing to the president's falling job-approval rating.
But it is the war in Iraq that has begun to remind many of the growing national discontent over the Vietnam War during the late 1960s and early '70s. Over the weekend, Hagel, who fought in Vietnam and who may run for president in 2008, compared the situation in Iraq with the war in Vietnam that the United States lost. He said it is clear after 2 1/2 years in Iraq that the United States is not winning the war.
Feingold has become the first U.S. senator to demand withdrawal by a specific date -- the end of 2006.
Bush, in his speech yesterday, said a "policy of retreat and isolation" would not make Americans safe from terrorism. "The only way to defend our citizens where we live is go after the terrorists where they live," he said.
He then said the U.S. goal is "nothing less than total victory" over terrorists. As he has done many times, he called Iraq a central front in the war on terror. He said that if Americans did not stay in Iraq, terrorists would turn that country into "what Afghanistan was under the Taliban [regime] -- a place where women are beaten, religious and ethnic minorities are executed, and terrorists have sanctuary to plot attacks against free people."
Although an Iraqi constitution is not yet a done deal, because the Sunni factions so far have refused to go along with it, the White House yesterday continued to hold out hope that the war-torn country still would arrive at a workable draft document.
(Ann McFeatters can be reached at 202-662-7071 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)