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Bush Aims to Reassure Americans About Iraq


President Bush is wrapping up a campaign to reassure Americans that he has a strategy for victory in Iraq. Nearly two-thirds of Americans say they disapprove of the president's handling of that war.

As Americans enter their fourth year with troops in Iraq, President Bush says the fundamental question is: Can they win?

"I fully understand there is deep concern among the American people about whether or not we can win," said President Bush. "And I can understand why people are concerned. And they are concerned, because the enemy has got the capacity to affect our thinking."

The president says part of the terrorist strategy is to kill innocent civilians so what he calls horrific images of car bombings and kidnappings are shown on American television.

He says the enemy cannot defeat U.S. troops on the battlefield, so they are trying to shake America's will in hopes of forcing a premature withdrawal of those troops. That, the president says, is not going to happen.

"I'm an optimistic guy," he added. "I believe we will succeed. Let me put it to you this way. If I didn't think we would succeed, I would pull our troops out. I cannot look mothers and dads in the eye. I can't ask this good Marine to go into harm's way if I didn't believe, one, we are going to succeed and, two, it is necessary for the security of the United States."

The president says it is time for Iraq's political leaders to get a government of national unity in place and time for Iraq's security forces to stand up and defend their democracy.

Mr. Bush spoke in the state of West Virginia at the end of a campaign designed to again explain his strategy for success in Iraq by helping develop the country's security, economy, and political structure.

With nearly four of five Americans now saying they think Iraq will collapse into civil war, public support for the conflict is falling. That has contributed to record low approval ratings for Mr. Bush who Tuesday acknowledged that he is spending the political capital of his re-election on Iraq at the expense of domestic priorities.

He has faced some tough questioning during this public outreach campaign. He has had to defend his decision to invade Iraq based on what turned-out to be faulty intelligence about Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction.

"I thought he had weapons of mass destruction," said Mr. Bush. "Members of Congress thought he had weapons of mass destruction. The world thought he had weapons of mass destruction. That is why those nations voted in the Security Council. I'm finding out what went wrong. One of the things you better make sure of when you are the president is you are getting good intelligence, and obviously the intelligence broke down."

President Bush says he believes he is doing the right thing by fighting terrorists in Iraq so Americans do not have to fight them at home. He says there will be no retreat in the face of what he calls thugs and assassins.

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