A defiant, apparently uncaring, President Bush continued his hardcore stand on his Iraq war Friday even as six more U.S. troops died in an ambush by insurgents.
And he continued the administration lie that things are going better in Iraq than they actually are.
Bush rejected calls for a timetable for withdrawing U.S. troops from Iraq and Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari called on Americans to stand firm as six more U.S. troops were killed.
“There are not going to be any timetables,” Bush said after Oval Office talks with Jaafari. “I have told this to the prime minister. We are there to complete a mission, and it’s an important mission.”
At a news conference, both Bush and Jaafari insisted progress was being made in Iraq despite a drumbeat of bad news from Baghdad.
Insurgents have mounted a bombing campaign that has killed hundreds since Jaafari’s Shi’ite-led government was formed two months ago. On Thursday, a suicide bomb attack on a Marine vehicle killed six people in Falluja in one of the deadliest single assaults on U.S. ground forces in Iraq. The military also said 13 Marines, 11 of them women, were wounded in the attack.
“This is not the time to fall back,” Jaafari said. “I see from up close what’s happening in Iraq and I know we are making steady and substantial progress.”
Some U.S. lawmakers, including a few from Bush’s own Republican Party, have called for a deadline to begin withdrawing American troops from Iraq by October 2006 and say a major shift in strategy is needed.
Bush gave no indication of any substantial shift coming, saying U.S. troops will stay until Iraqis are sufficiently trained to defend themselves.
“You know, if you give a timetable, you’re conceding too much to the enemy. This is an enemy that will be defeated,” Bush said.
He said the timetable he was following was Iraq’s political timetable of writing a constitution by mid-August, staging a referendum on it in October and holding elections in December.
In a transcript of the radio address he will deliver on Saturday on behalf of Democrats, Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, said the Iraq war was becoming a quagmire and Bush was not leveling with the public.
“Our nation also deserves an honest explanation for how we ended up in Iraq,” Brzezinski said. “And we deserve a realistic definition of success for a war that increasingly threatens to become a quagmire. Unfortunately, we are getting neither from the Bush administration.”
Bush appeared to respond to some in his own party who complained his administration had cast the Iraq conflict in a too-rosy light — including Vice President Dick Cheney’s bold assertion the Iraqi insurgency was in its “last throes,” a statement the White House has defended.
“It’s tough work and it’s hard,” Bush said. “But, nevertheless, progress is being made, and the defeat of the enemy — and they will be defeated — will be accelerated by the progress on the ground in Iraq.”
White House spokesman Scott McClellan said the president would address the American people on Tuesday night as he tries to bolster public support.
A poll from The New York Times and CBS News reported a week ago that 59 percent of Americans do not approve of the way Bush is handling the Iraq war. Military commanders are concerned about sinking public support for the war.
Bush will speak to U.S. troops in a televised speech at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, and will be “very specific about the way forward in Iraq,” McClellan said.
Jaafari pressed for a long-term U.S. commitment for assistance to help with reconstruction and debt relief.
“We hope that Mr. Bush will try to redo a Marshall Plan, calling it the Bush plan, to help Iraq, to help the Iraqi people. And this would be a very wonderful step that they stand beside us,” he said. He was referring to the U.S. investment plan for helping rebuild Europe after World War II.
More than 1,700 Americans have died in the Iraq war and thousands more have been injured.
The Iraq war and Bush’s own declining job approval ratings have stirred partisan passions in Washington. Massachusetts Democratic Sen. Edward Kennedy on Thursday called the war “a seemingly intractable quagmire.”
“The way ahead is not going to be easy,” Bush conceded, but added, “The enemy’s goal is to drive us out of Iraq before the Iraqis have established a secure, democratic government. They will not succeed.”