United States President George W. Bush makes speech to rally support for war in Iraq

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Soldiers wait to greet the President after his 28 minute speech. Photo by Eric Draper

Speaking before an audience of 750 soldiers and airmen on Tuesday night at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, US President Bush began an effort to shore up waning support for military actions in Iraq.

The president again attempted to link the September 11, 2001 attacks with his decision to invade and occupy Iraq(The U.S. official 9/11 Commission report concluded that Saddam and Iraq were not involved in 9/11 in any way). Right from the opening of his speech, he mentioned the 9/11 attacks and also did it on four additional occasions. During the speech, Bush did not refer to the now-relinquished hunt for weapons of mass destruction (WMDs) in Iraq. The U.S. has failed to provide any convincing evidence for the existence of a WMD, even though this was one of the chief reasons President Bush cited to justify the invasion of Iraq.

Democrats criticized the president for trying to link 9/11 with the war in Iraq;"The president's frequent references to the terrorist attacks of September 11 show the weakness of his arguments," Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic leader, said. "He is willing to exploit the sacred ground of 9/11, knowing that there is no connection between 9/11 and the war in Iraq."

Opinion polling conducted this week by USA Today, CNN and Gallup found for the first time that a majority of Americans, 50% to 47%, see the Iraqi war as something separate from what Bush is calling the "global war against terrorism."

The speech comes as more bad news regarding the Iraq War, amid rising IraqI War casualties (1,740 killed, 13,000 wounded), and damaging testimony to the U.S. Congress about Halliburton fraud in Iraq, and the Downing Street Memo. In addition, vice-president Dick Cheney's claim that the Iraqi insurgency was in its "last throes" was contradicted in Senate testimony by General John Abizaid, who said "In terms of comparison from six months ago, in terms of foreign fighters, I believe there are more foreign fighters coming into Iraq than there were six months ago."

In his speech, Bush discussed the question of setting a timeline for withdrawal of troops, or sending more troops. "Some Americans ask me, if completing the mission is so important, why don't you send more troops? If our commanders on the ground say we need more troops, I will send them. But our commanders tell me they have the number of troops they need to do their job," Bush said. US Commanders have previously commented on the problems caused by lack of coverage at the Syrian border.

The president said the war effort is a two-pronged strategy using military and political pressure to install, "a free, representative government [in Iraq] that is an ally in the war on terror." The U.S. and multi-national Iraqi military coalition goal is an offensive campaign to take the fight to terrorists and insurgents in the region. The elimination of Saddam Hussien was a necessary step to build, "institutions of a free society, a society based on freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of religion, and equal justice under law." Bush cited the free national elections held in January and the establishment of a Transitional National Assembly as progress on the political front, and now calls for the drafting of a constitution with the involvement of Shia, Kurds and Sunni groups.

The speech was received by the usually spirited troops in an atmosphere of quiet that only once interrupted his speech with polite applause near the end when Bush said: "So we'll fight them there, we'll fight them across the world, and we will stay in the fight until the fight is won."