Bush says U.S. must prevent Iraq from falling into terrorists’ hands
CORONADO, Calif. – President Bush on Tuesday answered growing anti-war protests with a fresh reason for American troops to continue fighting in Iraq: protection of the country’s vast oil fields that he said would otherwise fall under the control of terrorist extremists.Bush, standing against a backdrop of the imposing USS Ronald Reagan, the newest aircraft carrier in the Navy’s fleet, said terrorists will be denied their goal.”We will defeat the terrorists,” Bush said. “We will build a free Iraq that will fight terrorists instead of giving them aid and sanctuary.”A one-time oilman, Bush has rejected charges that the war in Iraq is a struggle to control the nation’s vast oil wealth. While Bush has avoided making links between the war and Iraq’s oil reserves, the soaring cost of gasoline has focused attention on global petroleum sources.Bush said the Iraqi oil industry, already suffering from sabotage and lost revenues, must not fall under the control of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida forces in Iraq led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.”If Zarqawi and bin Laden gain control of Iraq, they would create a new training ground for future terrorist attacks,” Bush said. “They’d seize oil fields to fund their ambitions. They could recruit more terrorists by claiming a historic victory over the United States and our coalition.”Appearing at the Naval Air Station North Island to commemorate the anniversary of the Allies’ World War II victory over Japan, Bush compared his resolve now to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s in the 1940s and said America’s mission in Iraq is to turn it into a democratic ally just as the U.S. did with Japan after its 1945 surrender.But Democrats said Bush’s leadership falls far short of Roosevelt’s.”Democratic Presidents Roosevelt and Truman led America to victory in World War II because they laid out a clear plan for success to the American people, America’s allies and America’s troops,” said Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean. “President Bush has failed to put together a plan, so despite the bravery and sacrifice of our troops, we are not making the progress that we should be in Iraq. The troops, our allies and the American people deserve better leadership from our commander in chief.”The speech was Bush’s third in just over a week defending his Iraq policies, as the White House scrambles to counter growing public concern about the war. But the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf Coast drew attention away, as the White House announced during the president’s remarks that he was cutting his August vacation short to return to Washington to personally oversee the federal response effort.At a Navy hospital after the speech, Bush met with military medical personnel who helped with naval relief efforts during the tsunami and delivered a purple heart to one corpsman who was injured in Iraq. He also visited with 10 Navy SEALS wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq as well as 12 wounded Marines.Bush returned to Texas to prepare to fly back to the nation’s capital Wednesday. He originally was to return to the White House on Friday, after spending more than four weeks operating from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.Bush’s August break has been marked by problems in Iraq.It has been an especially deadly month there for U.S. troops, with the number of those who have died since the invasion of Iraq in March 2003 now nearing 1,900.The growing death toll has become a regular feature of the slightly larger protests that Bush now encounters everywhere he goes – a movement that has been given new life by a vigil set up in a field down the road from the president’s ranch by a mother grieving the loss of her soldier son in Iraq.Cindy Sheehan arrived in Crawford only days after Bush did, asking for a meeting so he could explain why her son and others are dying in Iraq. The White House refused, and Sheehan’s camp turned into a hub of activity for hundreds of activists around the country demanding that troops be brought home.Nationwide, Bush’s approval rating on his handling of Iraq has fallen below 40 percent.This week, the administration also had to defend the proposed constitution produced in Iraq at U.S. urging. Critics fear the impact of its rejection by many Sunnis and say it fails to protect religious freedom and women’s rights.Hoping to evoke the powerful feelings of national pride in World War II, Bush said the mission in Iraq must succeed in order to honor the sacrifice of that conflict’s soldiers.”We will never let the new enemies of a new century destroy with cowardice what these Americans built with courage,” Bush said to an audience that including some WWII veterans.Bush’s V-J Day ceremony did not fall on the actual anniversary. Japan announced its surrender on Aug. 15, 1945 – Aug. 14 in the United States because of the time difference. Sept. 2, 1945, is the day the surrender was signed aboard the USS Missouri.Tuesday, the day the president spoke, was the 60th anniversary of Gen. Douglas MacArthur’s arrival in Japan to direct the U.S. occupation and reconstruction of the vanquished foe.Vail – Colorado
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