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Bush Says US Forced To Invade Iraq Because Of 911
U.S. President George W Bush on Saturday defended
the war in Iraq, telling Americans the United States was forced into war
because of the Sept 11 terror strikes.
Bush also resisted calls for him to set a timetable for the return of thousands of U.S. troops deployed in Iraq, saying Iraqis must be able to defend their own country before U.S. soldiers can be pulled out.
"We went to war because we were attacked, and we are at war today because there are still people out there who want to harm our country and hurt our citizens," Bush said in his weekly radio address.
Bush began a public relations offensive to defend the war as his approval rating has dropped well below 50% with Americans expressing skepticism about the invasion.
The centerpiece of the campaign will be a speech on June 28, exactly one year after the U.S.-led coalition officially handed over sovereignty to a hand-picked Iraqi provisional government.
"Some may disagree with my decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power, but all of us can agree that the world's terrorists have now made Iraq a central front in the war on terror," said the president.
"These foreign terrorists violently oppose the rise of a free and democratic Iraq, because they know that when we replace despair and hatred with liberty and hope, they lose their recruiting grounds for terror," he argued.
"Our troops are fighting these terrorists in Iraq so you will not have to face them here at home."
Bush, who is to welcome Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari for his first visit to the White House next Friday, ruled out any hard and fast timetable for withdrawing the 130,000 U.S. soldiers currently deployed in Iraq and made it clear that it will not be anytime soon.
Terrorists "know there is no room for them in a free and democratic Middle East, so the terrorists and insurgents are trying to get us to retreat," he said.
"Their goal is to get us to leave before Iraqis have had a chance to show the region what a government that is elected and truly accountable to its citizens can do for its people."
A June 13 USA Today poll showed that almost six of 10 Americans, 59%, want a full or partial pullout of U.S. troops from Iraq.
In a New York Times/CBS News poll among 1,111 adults, Bush's approval rating dropped to 42% while 59% disapproved of his handling of Iraq.
"I am confident that Iraqis will continue to defy the skeptics as they build a new Iraq that represents the diversity of their nation and assumes greater responsibility for their own security," Bush said. "And when they do, our troops can come home with the honor they have earned."
"This mission isn't easy, and it will not be accomplished overnight. We're fighting a ruthless enemy that relishes the killing of innocent men, women, and children," he said.
"By making their stand in Iraq, the terrorists have made Iraq a vital test for the future security of our country and the free world. We will settle for nothing less than victory." (Wire reports)
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