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Hanging Loose, Dude
Bush Says Iraq Withdrawal Would Weaken US
By Daniela Deane
The Washington Post
Tuesday 23 August 2005
President Bush said Tuesday that anti-war protester Cindy Sheehan, who wants US troops to be immediately withdrawn from Iraq, was advocating a policy that would "weaken the United States" and was not representative of the views of most US military families.
"I disagree with her," Bush told reporters outside the exclusive resort where he is vacationing in Donnelly, Idaho. "I think immediate withdrawal from Iraq would be a mistake."
Bush seemed to suggest he would not be changing his mind about meeting with the California mother, whose son Casey was killed in Iraq last year. He said he met with her already and that two high-ranking aides also met with her during her recent vigil outside Bush's Texas ranch.
Sheehan's vigil at the Bush ranch in Crawford, called "Camp Casey," became a lightning rod for other anti-war protesters.
Speaking about the political situation in Iraq, Bush said drafting a constitution after "years of a dictatorship is hard."
"We're watching amazing events unfold," Bush said, noting that he had talked to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice twice Tuesday morning about the political events in Iraq. He said the administration is hopeful that an accord will be reached.
Iraq's Shiite Muslim majority and its Kurdish allies submitted a proposed constitution just minutes before a midnight deadline Monday. Negotiators and delegates for Iraq's Sunni Arab minority immediately rejected the proposed charter and warned that civil unrest could erupt if the charter becomes law over their objections.
Bush urged the country's Sunni Muslims to agree to the new charter.
"The Sunnis have to make a choice," Bush told reporters in Donnelly, about 80 miles north of Boise. "Do they want to live in a society that is free or do they want to live in violence?"
The leaders of Iraq's political factions are struggling for consensus on a charter dealing with such thorny issues as the role of Islam in society, the sharing of oil revenues, women's rights and federalism.
The coalition of Shiites and Kurds, which holds a heavy majority in parliament and could easily approve the constitution on its own, agreed to postpone a vote for three days in hopes of appeasing Sunni negotiators.
"The Iraqi people are working hard to reach consensus on the constitution," Bush said. "The fact that they are even writing a constitution is vastly different from living under the hand of a dictator." He said that "democracy is unfolding" in Iraq.
Bush's Iraq policy is under mounting criticism from the public--and from some members of his own party--as American casualties climb in Iraq and insurgent violence shows no signs of ebbing. In Donnelly, he repeated his assertion that as Iraqis "stand up, we will stand down."
Bush told reporters he might spend Tuesday afternoon going for a bike ride or having some "quality time" with first lady Laura Bush.
"We're hanging loose," he said. Bush is scheduled to return to Crawford Wednesday evening.