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Bush: No Early Withdrawal of US Forces from Iraq

President Bush says the way to honor American troops killed in Iraq is to complete their mission and bring freedom to the region. Mr. Bush is rebutting criticism of his policies, saying it would be a big mistake to pull out now.

President Bush says those who call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq are wrong.

"So long as I am the president, we will stay, we will fight and we will win the war on terror," he said.

In a speech to military personnel in the western state of Idaho, the president said a pullout would only embolden the terrorists who have come to Iraq determined to fight the spread of democracy and freedom. Mr. Bush stressed the stakes could not be higher. He spoke of the sacrifices already made by America's military men and women and their families, and said they must not - and will not - be in vain.

"We mourn the loss of every life. We pray for their loved ones. These brave men and women gave their lives for a cause that is just and necessary for the security of our country," he said. "And now we honor their sacrifice by completing their mission."

It was the president's second speech in three days on Iraq and the war on terror.

Although scheduled some time ago, these events coincided with an anti-war vigil near his Texas ranch that has received national attention.

Its leader is Cindy Sheehan, whose son was killed in Iraq. Mr. Bush made no direct mention of her in his speech, but he did quote the words of a mother from Idaho named Tammy Pruett who has sent six members of her family off to the Iraq war, her husband and five sons.

"Tammy says this - and I want you to hear this - 'I know that if something happens to one of the boys they would leave this world doing what they believe and what they think is right for our country. And I guess you couldn't ask for a better way of life than giving it for something you believe in,'" the president said.

The speech was attended primarily by members of the Idaho National Guard. Guard members, unlike others serving in the military, serve both their state and their country. They are known as citizen-soldiers who usually serve part-time in their communities while holding down jobs or going to school.

But since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, many have been called up for full-time service abroad. President Bush took note of the heavy burden this has placed on their families, noting Idaho has the highest percentage of its Guard members serving in Iraq of any state in the nation. He acknowledged that burden is likely to continue.

"Transforming a country that was ruled by an oppressive dictator who sponsored terror into a free nation that is an ally in the war on terror will take more time, more sacrifice and continued resolve," he said.

After the speech in Idaho, Mr. Bush met privately with members of military families who have lost loved ones in Iraq and Afghanistan.