President Bush, defending his Iraq war against both the facts and the critics, warns of tough fighting to come and “more days of sacrifice and struggle” as April drew to a close as the deadliest month for American forces this year.
“The enemy is resorting to desperate acts of violence because they know the establishment of democracy in Iraq will be a double defeat for them,” Bush said Saturday as he claimed the emergence of a permanent government.
“There will be more tough fighting ahead in Iraq and more days of sacrifice and struggle,” he cautioned. “Yet, the enemies of freedom have suffered a real blow in recent days, and we have taken great strides on the march to victory.”
With the war in its fourth year, Iraq hovers as a huge problem for Bush, whose approval ratings have fallen to record lows. Republicans are anxious that Iraq – along with other public concerns like soaring gasoline costs – will lead to the GOP losing control of one or even both houses of Congress in November.
As of late Thursday, at least 69 Americans had died in Iraq in April. The toll was 31 in March, 55 in February and 62 in January.
The administration hopes the political progress in Iraq, which came only after a frustrating four months of infighting and amid persistent violence, will be a turning point. If it is, that could pave the way for a significant drawdown in the number of U.S. troops there.
Bush said the new government’s formation “marks the beginning of a new chapter in America’s involvement.”
This week, he sent Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on a surprise joint visit to Baghdad to boost Iraq’s new political leaders. Those leaders face large tasks, including improving decrepit services, routing corruption and stopping the violence.
“We’ve all been impressed by the Iraqi leaders’ commitment to maintain the unity of their country and effectively represent the Iraqi people,” the president said. “Iraq will have the continued support of America and our coalition partners, as we begin the new chapter in our relationship.”
Bush said the establishment of democracy would prevent terrorists from turning Iraq into a safe haven for planning attacks against other nations. Moreover, he said a democratic Iraq would send a powerful message that freedom is the future of the Middle East.