President Bush says American forces are still needed in Iraq to fight off threats to freedom. Mr. Bush spoke at a ceremony at the White House honoring Americans who volunteer for military service.
The room was filled with military personnel. But the president's message was for the American public at large.
He sought to reassure the nation at a time when American and British casualties in Iraq are mounting. Mr. Bush stressed that coalition troops must remain to fight "enemies of freedom."
"The looting and random violence that began in the immediate aftermath of war remains a challenge in some areas," he said. "A greater challenge comes from former Baath Party and security officials who will stop at nothing to regain their power and their privilege."
The president vowed there will be no return to tyranny in Iraq. He said those who threaten order and stability in that country will face ruin just as surely as the regime they once served.
"Those who try to undermine the reconstruction of Iraq are not only attacking our coalition, they are attacking the Iraqi people," he said. "And we will stand with the Iraqi people, strongly, as they build a hopeful future."
Mr. Bush said all attacks on American troops in Iraq will be met with decisive force, and he pledged U.S. forces will remain until freedom is firmly established.
"Having liberated Iraq as promised, we will help that country to found a just and representative government, as promised," he emphasized.
The remarks came in a ceremony marking the thirtieth anniversary of the all-volunteer military in the United States. Military conscription ended in America on July 1, 1973. Standing behind the president during the ceremony were 30 men and women who took the oath of re-enlistment during the White House event. The oath was administered by General Richard Myers, the nation's highest military officer.