With a crucial referendum on the new Iraqi constitution now less than two weeks away, President Bush is stepping up efforts to win support for his Iraq policy among the American public and skeptical members of the U.S. Congress. Mr. Bush will deliver a speech highlighting Iraq's role as a major front in the war on terrorism.
The White House says it will be a significant speech, and says President Bush will talk in specifics about the nature of the terrorist threat.
Spokesman Scott McClellan brushes aside the notion that the president will simply restate his policies, as he has at several events in recent days. During his daily briefing Wednesday, Mr. McClellan told reporters it will be a major address, and part of an effort to raise public awareness of the stakes involved in Iraq.
"I expect that the president will talk in unprecedented detail about the nature of the enemy that we face," said Mr. McClellan.
Mr. McClellan would not provide details. But in a speech Wednesday to a military group here in Washington, Vice President Dick Cheney gave a bit of a preview.
"By their methods of murder, the terrorists hope to overturn Iraq's democratic government and return that country to the rule of tyrants, and then use Iraq as a staging area for greater attacks against America and other civilized nations," said Mr. Cheney. "Their aim is to remake the Middle East in their own image of tyranny and oppression , by toppling governments, driving us out of the region, and by exporting terror."
The president's speech comes at a time when polls show declining public support for his Iraq policy, and greater questioning of his approach on Capitol Hill.
Congressional Democrats have stepped up their attacks on all aspects of the administration's handling of Iraq: from diplomacy to the training of Iraqi troops. Among those speaking out is Delaware Senator Joseph Biden, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
"We are on the verge of civil war in Iraq, if not already a low-grade civil war," said Mr. Biden. "The President does not seem to, if he understands, and I am sure he does -- does not seem to have put forward any regional policy as to how this will not escalate into something considerably more dangerous."
White House officials say the president's speech will rebut such criticism. He will deliver his remarks to an event commemorating the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.