Bush finally admits U.S. is ‘not winning’ war in Iraq

President Bush, who has contended that the U.S. was winning the war in Iraq, said Tuesday for the first time that American forces were not winning there. He also said the military would be expanded to fight a long-term battle against terrorism.

Bush did not say the U.S. was losing the war, which began in March 2003 and has cost the lives of nearly 3,000 troops. Instead, when asked during an interview with The Washington Post whether the war was being won, the president borrowed the phrasing of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine Gen. Peter Pace.

"You know, I think an interesting construct that General Pace uses is, ‘We’re not winning, we’re not losing.’ There’s been some very positive developments. And you take a step back and look at progress in Iraq, you say, well, it’s amazing — constitutional democracy in the heart of the Middle East, which is a remarkable development in itself," he said.

However, Bush also acknowledged the threat of sectarian violence, saying that part of the policy review for Iraq the administration has undertaken will deal with how to help the Iraqis provide for their own security.

"And I’ll come forward with a plan that will enable us to achieve that objective," he said.

Two weeks before the November elections, which shifted control of Congress from the Republicans to the Democrats, Bush asserted that "absolutely, we’re winning" in Iraq. On Tuesday, he said that response was "an indication of my belief we’re going to win."

In other remarks during the Oval Office interview on Tuesday, Bush said he plans to increase the overall size of the U.S. military, which has been stretched by wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said he has asked his new defense chief, Robert Gates, to report back to him with a plan to increase ground forces.

The president did not say how many troops might be added, but he said he agreed with officials in the Pentagon and on Capitol Hill that the military is stretched too thin to deal with demands of fighting terrorism.

"I’m inclined to believe that we do need to increase our troops — the Army, the Marines," Bush told the Post. "And I talked about this to Secretary Gates and he is going to spend some time talking to the folks in the building, come back with a recommendation to me about how to proceed forward on this idea."

The White House said Bush’s decision about expanding the size of the military was separate from his search for a new approach to the war in Iraq. "This is necessary for the long term obligations in the war on terror," presidential spokesman Tony Snow said.

Bush’s comments seemed a stark departure from the views of former Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, who ran the Pentagon for the last six years until he was replaced Monday by Gates. Rumsfeld had long resisted calls to increase the size of the military, arguing that technological advances and organizational changes could give the Army and Marine Corps the extra capability it needed.

Rumsfeld’s critics argue that relatively small-scale but grueling wars possible in the 21st century, like those in Iraq and Afghanistan, would find the U.S. facing well-hidden terrorist groups and persistent local insurgencies. Such conflicts would inevitably demand strong, sizable U.S. ground forces to keep such operations going, they say.

Among the chorus of voices saying it is time to bolster the military’s size, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker said last week that he wants to increase his service beyond its authorized strength of 512,000, though he used no figures. He warned that the Army "will break" without more troops and a heavier use of reserves.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell has also expressed support for increasing the size of the Army and Marines, saying Sunday that they are "not large enough for the kinds of missions they’re being asked to perform."

Congress would have to approve the money for an increase in the size of the military, and the idea has won support in recent months from many lawmakers of both parties. Lawmakers would also find it attractive to boost the active duty force because that could reduce the reliance on local reserve units, which have been relied on heavily for Iraq and Afghanistan.

Snow acknowledged that Bush is considering sending more troops to Iraq, an option that worries top generals because of its questionable payoff and potential backlash.

Top generals have expressed concern that even temporarily shipping thousands of more troops would be largely ineffective in the absence of bold new political and economic steps, and that it would leave the Army and Marine Corps even thinner once the surge ended.

They also worry that it feeds a perception that the strife and chaos in Iraq is mainly a military problem; in their view it is largely political, fed by economic distress.

Bush said he has not yet made a decision about a new strategy for Iraq, which he is expected to announce next month. He said he was waiting for Gates to return from his expected trip to Iraq to get a firsthand look at the situation.

"I need to talk to him when he gets back," the president said. "I’ve got more consultations to do with the national security team, which will be consulting with other folks. And I’m going to take my time to make sure that the policy, when it comes out, the American people will see that we … have got a new way forward."

Bush said his decision to increase the size of the armed forces was in response not just to the war in Iraq but to the broader struggle against Islamic extremists around the globe.

"It is an accurate reflection that this ideological war we’re in is going to last for a while and that we’re going to need a military that’s capable of being able to sustain our efforts and to help us achieve peace," he said.

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., criticized any decision to send more troops to Iraq.

"Instead of changing course for the better, the president’s plan for more troops will make matters worse in Iraq — as many generals agree," Kennedy said in a statement. "We need a political solution that brings these warring factions together and makes Iraq take responsibility for their own future."

Copyright © 2006 The Associated Press


  1. Susan

    The only reason he’s saying we’re not winning is because he’s trying to build justification for more troops. He’s such a piece of garbage.

    Draft his lowlife daughters first.

    He can’t negotiate, he can only bully and intimidate.

  2. The South Point

    Golly, but we ARE winning a whole section of the Earth (including Afghanistan) being permanently poisoned with uranium contamination, with millions of people being poisoned with uranium or about to be, so much so that now in Iraq when a baby is born, the first question isn’t “Is it a boy or a girl?” but rather, “Is it normal?”

    U.S. soldiers are also being poisoned with uranium and once they are, it’s all over for them. The curtain has come down. A great number will die, others will be suffering from terrible health conditions, and they will parent babies who will have severe birth defects.

    And if that isn’t winning, then golly, I just don’t know what is…

    Heck of a job! Mission accomplished!

  3. David Rosenberg

    We’re not winning, we’re not losing, I’m glad bush has cleared that up.
    More troops, more targets for snipers.
    How the hell can you send more troops without a plan?
    Where do these new troops come from? The ones in training, the one’s that were felons and Drug users, that couldn’t pass the tests? What about the troops stationed elsewhere in the world, Germany, Spain, etc, we don’t need them to be there anymore.
    Of course this can be stopped if Congress doesn’t approve the money needed to send more troops.
    Has bush thought about the equipment that will be needed to support the new troops. From what I read, there is a shortage of equipment for the existing troops. This is just another well thought out plan from bush.

  4. GlennK

    The phony ass war on terra! Another rights destroying war against the constitution like the war against drugs. Why do these people hate freedom?

  5. Mats Jangdal

    When Napoleon Bonaparte got licked by the Russians he forebid his generals to tell the men that they were retreating. The officers had to say that the French army was advancing towards France.
    When small men cast long shadows, darkness is soon to come.

  6. AustinRanter

    Why is GWB unable to understand that no nation, regardless of its perceived status in the world, can physically intervene in an obvious political war of another country?

    Civil war is entirely a political war. Just because the label for Iraq’s civil war is called a “Sectarian War”…it’s still political. It’s about social relationships that involve power or authority.

    The evolution of the civil war in Iraq will yield a political winner. Whether or not the rest of the world agrees with the outcome is insignificant. I say that it’s insignificant because a military action from any outside country would demand that they support one side or the other. That creates a form of collateral damage both politically and physically fatal to all involved.

    The U.S. is in a lose-lose endeavor attempting to remain in the middle of a civil war.

  7. This is a sad holiday for me as I realize that since we voted the democrats into office to bring our troops home….this President won’t listen, he will simply do what he wants.

    The other item the mainstream press is not reporting is that Dick Cheney went to Saudi Arabia and was told that if we pull out troops out, there will be a full out civil war and that they would be funding one of the “side” in conflict.

    I love our country and I support I troops. We can’t keep doing this. Keep those boys and girls in your prayers….or as Bush likes to say, “just go shopping….”