Bush em­phatic: Surge is work­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Front Page - By Joseph Curl

Pres­i­dent Bush on Aug. 22 warned law­mak­ers not to try to “pull the rug” out from un­der the U.S. mil­i­tary in Iraq just as troops are mak­ing progress against in­sur­gents.

In a fiery speech to thou­sands at a Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars con­fer­ence in Kansas City, Mo., the pres­i­dent also crit­i­cized mem­bers of Congress who have called for the ouster of em­bat­tled Iraqi Prime Min­is­ter Nouri al-Ma­liki.

“It’s not up to politi­cians in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., to say whether he will re­main in his po­si­tion — that is up to the Iraqi peo­ple, who now live in a democ­racy, and not a dic­ta­tor­ship,” Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush said the “surge” of 30,000 troops has brought dra­matic progress in the war.

“Our troops have killed or cap­tured an av­er­age of more than 1,500 al Qaeda ter­ror­ists and other ex­trem­ists ev­ery month since Jan­uary of this year,” Mr. Bush said.

But Democrats — es­pe­cially the cadre of can­di­dates run­ning for the 2008 pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion — re­peat­edly have called for with­drawal from Iraq, some as soon as the end of this year, and are in­creas­ingly crit­i­cal of the fledg­ling Iraqi gov­ern­ment.

Sen. Hil­lary Rod­ham Clin­ton — who told the VFW con­fer­ence on Aug. 20 that the surge is clearly “work­ing” — said Aug. 22 that it has failed.

“It is abun­dantly clear that there is no mil­i­tary so­lu­tion to the sec­tar­ian fight­ing in Iraq,” the New York Demo­crat said. “We need to stop ref­er­ee­ing the war, and start get­ting out now.”

On Aug. 20, Sen. Carl Levin, Michi­gan Demo­crat, said Mr. alMa­liki, a Shi’ite, should be ousted and re­placed with a less-sec­tar­ian leader. Mr. Bush and Ryan Crocker, the U.S. am­bas­sador to Iraq, on Aug. 21 both voiced frus­tra­tion and dis­ap­point­ment with the gov­ern­ment, but the pres­i­dent urged pa­tience.

“Prime Min­is­ter Ma­liki is a good guy, a good man with a dif­fi­cult job, and I sup­port him,” he said.

In Syria, Mr. al-Ma­liki lashed out at U.S. crit­i­cism, blam­ing the pres­i­den­tial cam­paign for the re­cent tough words from the Bush

ad­min­is­tra­tion and from other politi­cians.

“No one has the right to place timeta­bles on the Iraq gov­ern­ment,” he said at a press con­fer­ence in Da­m­as­cus. “It was elected by its peo­ple.”

The harsh rhetoric has emerged as Mr. Crocker and the U.S. com­man­der in Iraq, Gen. David H. Pe­traeus, pre­pare to de­liver a mid- Septem­ber re­port to Congress on the suc­cess of the surge, along with an as­sess­ment of the Iraqi gov­ern­ment’s progress in achiev­ing po­lit­i­cal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion.

The pres­i­dent’s speech drew stern re­bukes from Democrats, who in re­cent days had been tem­per­ing their an­ti­war rhetoric but who on Aug. 22 re­turned to their calls for im­me­di­ate change.

“Iraq is Ge­orge Bush’s Viet­nam,” said Sen. Ed­ward M. Kennedy of Mas­sachusetts. “It is a quag­mire. — The pres­i­dent mis­led the Amer­i­can peo­ple about the need for war, and he mis­leads them now, cling­ing to the false hope that his failed pol­icy has a chance of suc­ceed­ing with a few more months.”

But House Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner said the pres­i­dent is right to ques­tion whether the Demo­crat-led Congress will seek to “pull the rug out” from un­der U.S. troops.

“House Repub­li­cans are pre­pared to en­sure this doesn’t hap­pen, and ev­ery day more and more of our Demo­cratic col­leagues agree with us, buck­ing their party lead­ers in the process,” the Ohio Repub­li­can said. “The suc­cesses of our troops in de­feat­ing al Qaeda in Iraq and im­prov­ing se­cu­rity for Iraqi cit­i­zens are now un­de­ni­able.”

The pres­i­dent on Aug. 21 said he con­tin­ues to have a sense of “frus­tra­tion” with the pace of re­form in Iraq, which the White House on Aug. 22 said was overblown in re­ports by The Wash­ing­ton Post and the New York Times.

Mr. Bush re­it­er­ated those frus­tra­tions.

“Many are frus­trated by the pace of progress in Bagh­dad, and I can un­der­stand this,” he said. “A free Iraq’s not go­ing to be per­fect. A free Iraq will not make deci- sions as quickly as the coun­try did un­der the dic­ta­tor­ship.”

But the pres­i­dent said that the “al­lure of re­treat” may be as tempt­ing for Amer­i­cans now as it was dur­ing the Korean and Viet­nam wars, but that U.S. se­cu­rity de­pends on what hap­pens in Iraq.

“We pur­sue the ex­trem­ists wher­ever we find them, and we stand with the Iraqis at this dif­fi­cult hour — be­cause the shadow of ter­ror will never be lifted from our world and the Amer­i­can peo­ple will never be safe un­til the peo­ple of the Mid­dle East know the free­dom that our Cre­ator meant for all,” he said.

As­so­ci­ated Press

Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush speaks at the Vet­er­ans of For­eign Wars na­tional con­ven­tion on Aug. 22 in Kansas City, Mo.

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