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Bush Seeks Greater Public Support for Iraq Occupation - 2003-10-18


President Bush wants U.S. lawmakers to resolve their differences over his $87 billion request to rebuild Iraq. Mr. Bush used his weekly radio address to continue his push to bring Americans more "good news" about Iraq, amid growing concern about continuing attacks on U.S. troops there.

President Bush says the U.S. invasion of Iraq has improved educational opportunities in the country, with all 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges now open.

Before the war, Mr. Bush says, Saddam Hussein used schools to teach hatred, and spent state resources to build what he calls "a massive war machine," while schoolchildren went without text books, and teachers often went unpaid.

As part of the U.S.-led effort to build a stable and secure Iraq, the president says, coalition officials are working to rebuild Iraqi schools, get teachers back to work and make sure children have what they need to learn.

"We have assembled more than a million school supply kits, including pencils and calculators and note pads, for Iraqi schoolchildren," he said. "We have distributed tens-of-thousands of student desks and teacher chairs and chalkboards. And to assure the health of students, we have delivered over 22 million vaccinations for Iraqi children."

President Bush says U.S. efforts to help Iraq reclaim its proud heritage of learning will bring it back into the family of nations.

"As Iraq rejoins the world, it will demonstrate the power of freedom and hope to overcome hatred and resentment. And this transformation will make our nation more secure," the president said.

The president's weekly radio address was another effort to build greater public support for the occupation at a time when U.S. public opinion polls show growing unease with his plans for post-war Iraq.

Mr. Bush says Americans are not getting the whole story on Iraq because of what he calls a "media filter" that focuses too much on continuing U.S. casualties and not enough on what those soldiers there are accomplishing.

The president again called on congressional leaders to work out their differences over his request for more money for Iraq, which includes spending on health and educational training projects.

"All of our efforts to improve Iraqi education ultimately served the cause of security and peace. We want young Iraqis to learn skills and to grow and hope, instead of being fed a steady diet of propaganda and hatred," he said.

The House and Senate have approved different versions of the president's $87 billion request, with the Senate plan marking $10 billion worth of that money as loans, rather than outright grants. Both houses of Congress will have to reconcile those differences, and White House officials say they are confident they can get the whole package as direct grants.

Democrats say the president's spending request for Iraq is excessive, at a time when some of his own domestic priorities are going unmet.

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