Bush vows once again to stand by Iraq un­til ‘job is done’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Stephen Di­nan

Pres­i­dent Bush on Aug. 21 pledged to re­main in Iraq through­out his pres­i­dency and put the is­sue squarely at the top of this year’s con­gres­sional elec­tions, say­ing it will be a defin­ing dif­fer­ence be­tween Repub­li­cans and Democrats.

“Ei­ther you say, yes, it’s im­por­tant that we stay there and get it done, or we leave. We’re not leav­ing so long as I’m the pres­i­dent,” the pres­i­dent said at a press con­fer­ence, in which he also an­nounced ex­panded U.S. aid for Le­banon and Is­rael, de­fended the pace of progress on re­build­ing af­terHur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina and said the United Na­tions must be ready to im­pose sanc­tions on Iran.

The Iraq war dom­i­nated the nearly hour­long ses­sion, with the pres­i­dent de­fend­ing his goals in the Mid­dle East, al­though he ac­knowl­edged the war is “strain­ing the psy­che” of Amer­i­cans here at home. He also said he is con­cerned about a civil war in Iraq, a term the White House had been avoid­ing.

But the pres­i­dent said that if the U.S. loses the will to help other na­tions to­ward­free­dom,“we will have lost our soul asa na­tion,” adding that the ter­ror­ists are watch­ing the po­lit­i­cal de­bate this year.

“Any sign that says we’re go­ing to leave be­fore the job is done sim­ply em­bold­ens ter­ror­ists and cre­ates a cer­tain amount of doubt for peo­ple sothey won’t take the risk nec­es­sary to help a civil so­ci­ety evolve in the coun­try,” Mr. Bush said. “I’m sure they’re watch­ing the cam­paign care­fully. There­area lot of good, de­cent peo­ple say­ing: ‘Get out now; vote for me, I will do ev­ery­thing I can’ to, I guess, cut off money, is what they’ll try to do to get our troops out. It’s a big mis­take.”

Democrats said they wel­come the elec­tion-year de­bate and chargedMr.Bush isn’t of­fer­ing any­thing con­crete for vot­ers to back.

“ ‘Stay the course’ has pro­duced the sit­u­a­tion Pres­i­dent Bush now de­cries, and his re­peated fail­ure to of­fer a new di­rec­tion pro­vides no hope for a less­en­ing of the sec­tar­ian vi­o­lence that is the great­est threat to Iraq’s fu­ture,” said House Mi­nor­ity Leader Nancy Pelosi, Cal­i­for­nia Demo­crat. “Democrats be­lieve it’s time for a new di­rec­tion in Iraq, with re­spon­si­ble re­de­ploy­ment of U.S. forces from Iraq that be­gins this year.”

And Sen. John Kerry, the Democrats’ 2004 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nee, said Mr.Bush­waswrong­when he said Iraq was strain­ing Amer­i­cans’ psy­che.

“The Amer­i­can psy­che isn’t the prob­lem. The prob­lem is this ad­min­is­tra­tion’s dis­as­trous Iraq pol­icy,” theMas­sachusetts sen­a­tor said. “Pa­tience is strained be­cause al­most five years later, Osama bin Laden is still on the loose, and gone is the prom­ise of ‘wanted dead or alive.’ The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s cred­i­bil­ity is strained be­cause the pres­i­dent’s mantra that ‘U.S. troops will stand dow­nas Iraqis stand up’ is an­oth­er­mis­lead­ingmyth,and ‘stay the course’ is a recipe for dis­as­ter when the course is bro­ken.”

Mr. Bush stressed that he is not call­ing Democrats un­pa­tri­otic, but he said the elec­tion will be a ref­er­en­dum on where the two par­ties stand.

“Elec­tions are won based upon eco­nomic is­sues and na­tional-se­cu­rity is­sues,” he said. “And there’s a fun­da­men­tal dif­fer­ence be­tween many of the Democrats and my party, and that is, they want to leave be­fore the job is com­pleted in Iraq.”

Demo­cratic vot­ers in Con­necti­cut cat­a­pulted the is­sue to the fore­front ear­lier this month when they nom­i­nated Ned La­mont, an an­ti­war can­di­date, in­stead of in­cum­bent Sen. Joe Lieber­man. Mr. Lieber­man is run­ning as an in­de­pen­dent, and on Aug. 21 Mr. Bush gave him a boost by say­ing he will not en­dorse the Repub­li­can can­di­date in that race.

“I’m go­ing to stay out of Con­necti­cut,” he said.

He said that if he were a can­di­date, hewoul­drunby charg­ing that Democrats will raise taxes, tout­ing Repub­li­can eco­nomic poli­cies that he cred­ited with cut­ting the pro­jected deficit this year and cam­paign­ing on a prom­ise to ad­dress long-term So­cial Se­cu­rity and Medi­care costs.

Mr. Bush also:

l Said he is com­fort­able with the $110 bil­lion that the fed­eral gov­ern­ment has com­mit­ted to res­cue, re­cov­ery and re­build­ing from Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, but said those on the ground should be pa­tient as the ef­forts con­tinue.

lDe­fended his nom­i­nee to head the Food and Drug Ad­min­is­tra­tion, Dr. An­drewvon Eschen­bach, in the face of crit­i­cism from con­ser­va­tiveswho think he will ap­prove over­the-counter sales of Plan B, amorn­ing-af­ter con­tra­cep­tive pill widely at­tacked in pro-life cir­cles as an abor­ti­fa­cient. Mr. Bush said that mi­nors should be re­quired to have a pre­scrip­tion for the pill.

lSaid the United Na­tions faces a test later this month as the dead­line ap­proaches for Iran to sus­pend its nu­clear pro­gram and must move quickly to ap­prove sanc­tions if Iran doesn’t meet the tar­get.

“In or­der for the U.N. to be ef­fec­tive, there must­be­con­se­quences if peo­ple thumb their nose at the United Na­tions Se­cu­rity Coun­cil,” the pres­i­dent said.

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