Bush Says Iraq War Is Part of a Larger Fight
by DAVID STOUT | August 31, 2006
President Bush began a new drive today to rally the American people behind him on the Iraq war and national security, declaring that the United States must stay the course in Iraq because it is a battleground in an epic struggle between democracy and tyranny.
Mr. Bush told the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City that the terrorists who attacked the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, have much in common with the suicide bombers of Baghdad and the Hezbollah militants who rain rockets on Israel.
Whatever their ethnic or religious differences, Mr. Bush said, they are united in their wish “to turn back the advance of freedom, and impose a dark vision of tyranny and terror across the world.”
Mr. Bush scoffed at his critics’ charges that the American-led campaign in Iraq is a distraction from the real struggle against Al Qaeda terrorists. “That would come as news to Osama bin Laden,” he said, asserting that terrorists from other countries in the Middle East are making their way to Iraq to try to smother the emerging democracy.
The president’s 40-minute address, coming on the heels of similarly aggressive speeches on Tuesday by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to the legionnaires and Vice President Dick Cheney to the Veterans of Foreign Wars, underscored the White House’s determination to make the Iraq war a fundamental issue in the November elections.
Doubtless familiar with polls showing increasing numbers of Americans drawing a distinction between the Iraq war and a larger battle against terrorism, Mr. Bush invoked the approaching anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks to rebut that view.
That September morning brought to the United States “a war we didn’t ask for, but a war we must wage, and a war we will win,” Mr. Bush said. And if the United States tires of fighting in the streets of Baghdad, he said, “we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.”
“So the United States will not leave until victory is achieved,” Mr. Bush said, warning that more sacrifice lies ahead and that the struggle will be a long one.
Seeking to disarm critics who say that the administration has bungled the war in Iraq, Mr. Bush said he and his commanders are united in their resolve for victory yet flexible enough to adapt tactics to changing conditions. But he said the war, in Iraq and against terrorism generally, will not be won by military might alone.
“Every element of national power” is being marshaled in “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,” Mr. Bush said.
Unlike Mr. Cheney and Mr. Rumsfeld, Mr. Bush did not use the word “appease” today. As for those who doubt the wisdom of the war in Iraq, he said, “Many of these folks are sincere and patriotic. They cannot be more wrong.”
The president again described America’s purpose in Iraq as at once idealistic and deeply pragmatic. Victory there will guarantee the Iraqi people freedom, and the country will be a beacon for other freedom-loving peoples in the Middle East, Mr. Bush said. And a free country does not become “an incubator for terrorist movements,” he went on.
Mr. Bush was applauded frequently. He had not only a friendly audience but a friendly setting: he carried Utah over Senator John Kerry by 71 to 29 percent in 2004, for his biggest margin of victory in any state.
The battles in Iraq will one day rank alongside those at Omaha Beach and Guadalcanal as mileposts on the path to liberty, Mr. Bush said. “We know that the direction of history leads toward freedom.”