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Bush urges Americans to look beyond violence in Iraq for signs of progress

WASHINGTON – President Bush sought Monday to emphasize progress over disillusionment after three years in Iraq, urging Americans to see a developing democracy beyond the frequent images of violence.Meeting at the White House with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer before departing for Cleveland, Bush said the military alliance’s training mission in Iraq will help ensure that Iraqi security forces “can end up protecting the Iraqi people from those who want to kill innocent life in order to affect the outcome of that democracy.”NATO’s role in Iraq has been limited to the training and some logistical support, as opposition led by France and Germany has prevented broader involvement.Bush was marking this week’s third anniversary of the war by making speeches aimed at boosting support for his mission in Iraq, which has drawn increasing public skepticism at home, according to various polls.On Monday, he was to speak at the City Club of Cleveland and take questions about his war policy and other topics from the audience in this heavily Democratic city.White House press secretary Scott McClellan said Bush would update Americans on his vision for Iraq – highlighting the progress being made while acknowledging that not everything has gone perfectly, but that adjustments have been made.”This remains a difficult and tense period in Iraq,” McClellan said. “Oftentimes the progress that is being made doesn’t get as much attention as the dramatic and horrific images of violence that people see on their TV screens. And the president believes it’s important to continue to put things in the broader context.”More than three-fourths of the public thinks it’s likely that Iraq is headed toward civil war, an AP-Ipsos poll taken in early March found. And two-thirds of Americans say the U.S. is losing ground in preventing civil war in Iraq, according to a Pew Research Center poll taken in the same period. That’s up from 48 percent in January.Bush said in his weekly radio address Saturday that he would use Monday’s speech to share some examples of how his approach to restore order in Iraq is succeeding. One example that administration officials said he planned to cite was Tal Afar, a city in northern Iraq that U.S. forces assaulted last September to kick out insurgents.U.S. forces had gone into Tal Afar in September 2004 to clean out insurgent strongholds, but the insurgents returned after the Americans left. U.S. commanders said the insurgents were murdering and torturing civilians and kidnapping youth and turning them into terrorists.The 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment was sent back in a year later, along with some Iraqi soldiers, to clean it out again and were apparently more successful.The collapse of the first Tal Afar effort was an example of a broader problem the U.S. military has had throughout the three years in Iraq: They would “clean out” a town or city, then leave, and then the insurgents return because the Iraqis are unable to hold it on their own. Now they are keeping a U.S. presence longer in such places to hold it better.Bush also planned to cite the increase in voter turnout in insurgent strongholds such as in Sunni neighborhoods. He argues this is evidence that people in those areas increasingly are turning to the political process instead of violence as a way to resolve disputes.Sunday was the third anniversary of the first Bush-ordered attacks on Iraq. The president spoke briefly about the anniversary outside the White House after returning from a weekend at Camp David, Md., touting the efforts to build democracy without mentioning the daily violence that continues there.Bush avoided using the word “war,” calling the day “the third anniversary of the beginning of the liberation of Iraq.””We are implementing a strategy that will lead to victory in Iraq,” he assured a public that polls say is increasingly skeptical that he has a plan to end the fighting.White House critics say Bush must do more than give speeches – he needs to take more action to get a coalition government in Iraq and work toward bringing troops home.Rep. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who is running for a Senate seat against GOP incumbent Mike DeWine, suggested that voters will hold Republicans accountable for “incompetent” policy on war and economic issues in the November election.”I hear very little support (for the Iraq war) in my travels in every region – conservative regions, more progressive regions of this state, everywhere,” Brown said.—On the Net:http://www.whitehouse.gov


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