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Bush Says Troop Surge Reducing Violence in Iraq, Democrats Promise to Change Course in Iraq


President Bush says U.S. troop reinforcements in Iraq are helping to reduce sectarian violence and car bombings in Baghdad. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, opposition Democrats say they will try again to change course in Iraq through legislation on defense spending.

Looking ahead to the Fourth of July, Independence Day in the United States, President Bush says Americans will remember the spirit of liberty that inspired the nation's Founding Fathers to pledge their lives and their fortunes to defend freedom.

In his weekly radio address, Mr. Bush uses the holiday to defend wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, saying a new generation of Americans has volunteered to protect the ideals of the nation's founding fathers and keep their fellow citizens from harm.

The president is hoping to rebuild support for an unpopular war at a time when he is under pressure from opposition Democrats and some senior members of his own party to show that his decision to send more troops to Iraq is succeeding.

"We're still at the beginning of this offensive, but we're seeing some hopeful signs. We're engaging the enemy, and killing or capturing hundreds," he said.

A majority of Americans now believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake. A Newsweek magazine poll earlier this month said 73 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's handling of the war.

Mr. Bush often invokes the sacrifices of those killed in Iraq to justify continuing the fight. In his radio address, he says the father of a fallen Marine sniper urged him to "finish the mission. Bring freedom to the Iraqi people."

"On this Fourth of July, we remember Luke Yepsen and all the men and women in uniform who have given their lives in this struggle," said Mr. Bush. "They've helped bring freedom to the Iraqi people. They've helped make Americans more secure. We will not forget their sacrifice."

In the Democratic radio address, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says the president's policies in Iraq are not working and it is time to reduce the number of U.S. troops there to force Iraq's government to take greater responsibility for the country's security.

"We passed legislation to change course in Iraq only to see the president veto it," he said. "But we also supplied our troops with better equipment and protection and provided our veterans with health care that they really earned and needed."

Reid says the upcoming Senate debate on defense spending is a new opportunity to change course in Iraq. Two Republican senators last week criticized the war. Reid says more Republicans are, in his words, saying the right things about Iraq. He says it is important now that they vote the right way.

Reid also uses the Democratic radio address to praise what he says are the successes of the past six months of his party's control of Congress, including a higher minimum wage, ethics reform, and more funds for those affected by Gulf Coast hurricanes.

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