President George W. Bush, with a straight face, claimed success in his failed and questionable Iraq war, saying incredibly that “the successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable.”
“The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can and must win,” Bush said in a speech before a carefully-screened audience of Pentagon officers.
Bush claimed the five-year-long war that has U.S. forces mired in what military experts say is a monumental failure was, instead, a model of military efficiency.
“Aided by the most effective and precise air campaign in history, coalition forces raced across 350 miles of enemy territory, destroying Republican Guard Divisions, pushing through the Karbala Gap, capturing Saddam International Airport, and liberating Baghdad in less than one month.”
Yet Bush glossed over the next four years, 11 months that have seen setback after setback because the administration did not have an effective strategy to deal with insurrections that have turned Iraq into a civil-war ravaged country.
“The speed, precision and brilliant execution of the campaign will be studied by military historians for years to come,” the President claimed.
Somebody call Alcoholics Anonymous. The President is drinking again.
President George W. Bush said on Wednesday he had no regrets about the unpopular war in Iraq despite the “high cost in lives and treasure” and declared that the United States was on track for victory.
Marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion with a touch of the swagger he showed early in the war, Bush said in a speech at the Pentagon, “The successes we are seeing in Iraq are undeniable.”
With less than 11 months left in office and his approval ratings near the lows of his presidency, Bush is trying to shore up support for the Iraq campaign, which has damaged U.S. credibility abroad and is sure to define his legacy.
But he faced the challenge of winning back the attention of war-weary Americans more preoccupied with mounting economic troubles and increasingly focused on the race to pick his successor in the November election.
Bush’s Democratic critics used the anniversary to press accusations that the Republican president launched the invasion based on faulty intelligence, mismanaged the war and failed to put together an exit strategy.
“Five years into this battle, there is an understandable debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it,” Bush told an audience of top military officers and Pentagon employees.
“The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can and must win,” he said.
Rejecting calls from Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama for a timetable for early withdrawal, Bush touted security gains from a troop buildup or “surge” he ordered last year. He insisted that “retreat” would embolden al Qaeda and Iran and put the United States at risk.
“The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around — it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror,” Bush said, hailing increased cooperation of Iraqi Sunnis in fighting al Qaeda.
Such an assertion could come back to haunt Bush if the situation deteriorates. War critics have roundly mocked Bush for his premature declaration in May 2003 that “major combat operations” in Iraq were over as he stood on the USS Abraham Lincoln under a banner reading “Mission Accomplished.”
Bush stopped short of promising outright victory, as he had earlier done before sectarian violence took Iraq to the brink of civil war.
“No one would argue that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and treasure, but those costs are necessary when we consider the cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq,” he said.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed nearly two-thirds of Americans believe the war was not worth waging.
Told about the poll in an interview on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Vice President Dick Cheney, in Oman after a visit to Iraq, said: “So?” He added: “I think we cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations of the public opinion polls.”
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “The cost to our national security has been immense — our military is stretched thin and our reputation in the world is damaged. And now, the war in Iraq has become a threat to our economy.”
The war has cost the United States $500 billion. Tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed and millions displaced. Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed, as well as 175 British troops and 134 from other countries.
Scattered anti-war protests were staged in U.S. cities. In Washington, 32 anti-war protesters were arrested for blocking entry to the Internal Revenue Service and in San Francisco several hundred demonstrated in the central business district.
Bush — who had huge public support after the attacks on the United States by al Qaeda militants on September 11, 2001 — has long described Iraq as a central front in the battle against Islamic extremists.
But Democrats say his administration has been distracted from what they see as a more vital struggle in Afghanistan.