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White House Criticizes Opposition Political Leader's Comments on Iraq


The White House says the head of the opposition Democratic Party is sending the wrong message to U.S. troops in Iraq by saying that they will not win the war there.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean told Texas radio station WOAI that the war in Iraq reminds him of the Vietnam War, a conflict where he says U.S. leaders incorrectly kept predicting victory. "The idea that we are going to win this war is an idea that unfortunately is just plain wrong," he said.

Mr. Dean says thousands of brave American soldiers died in Vietnam, because U.S. officials were too stubborn to recognize what was happening. "Everybody then kept saying, 'just another year, just stay the course, we'll have a victory,'" he said.

White House Spokesman Scott McClellan says that is the wrong message to send to U.S. troops when they are on the verge of what he calls "historic accomplishments" as Iraqi voters go to the polls next week to choose a new assembly.

Asked about Mr. Dean's comments, President Bush said U.S. troops need to know that the American people stand with them. "I know we are going to win, and our troops need to hear not only that are they supported but that we have a strategy that will win. Oh, there are pessimists, you know, politicians who try to score points, but our strategy is one that will lead us to victory," he said.

President Bush says he recognizes there will be debate about Iraq and there will be politicians trying to take advantage of that debate, but he says by far the vast majority of Americans stand behind the U.S. military.

That is the message Vice President Dick Cheney took to U.S. troops who have just returned from Iraq. He spoke at an army base in New York State Tuesday as part of a continuing White House campaign to turn around U.S. public opinion at a time when polls show a majority of Americans now believe that war was a mistake.

Some congressional Democrats are calling for all U.S. troops in Iraq to come home. The vice president says that will happen only when commanders on the ground decide there is enough security and not when politicians start calling for an immediate withdrawal. "This would be unwise in the extreme, a victory for terrorists, bad for the Iraqi people and bad for the United States. To leave that country before the job is done would be to hand Iraq over to car bombers and assassins. That nation would return to the rule of tyrants, become a massive source of instability in the Middle East, and be a staging area for ever-greater attacks against America and other civilized nations," he said.

Vice President Cheney spoke at Fort Drum, where more than 3,000 members of the 42nd Infantry Division returned in November. Another 3,000 troops from that base remain in Iraq.

President Bush opened the new public relations campaign on Iraq with a speech last week at the U.S. Naval Academy. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld kept it going with a speech Monday criticizing the news media for focusing too much on casualties.

Following the vice president's meeting with troops Tuesday, President Bush again speaks about Iraq Wednesday, focusing on what the White House calls economic accomplishments in the country's rebuilding.

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