President Bush says plans for Iraqi elections in January are on track, despite continuing violence. Democrats say the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq has weakened the overall fight against terrorism. With less than 40 days before the U.S. presidential election, Iraq has become the campaign's central issue.
President Bush says Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi's government has accomplished a great deal in less than three months, despite persistent violence in parts of the country.
"The enemies of freedom are using suicide bombings, beheadings and other horrific acts to try to block progress," said President Bush. "We are sickened by their atrocities, but we will never be intimidated, and freedom is winning."
In his weekly radio address, President Bush said he is making steady progress on a five-step plan to establish democracy in Iraq and bring U.S. troops home. That plan has already set-up Prime Minister Allawi's government. It also includes efforts to help train more than 200,000 Iraqi security forces in the next year, rebuild the country's infrastructure and broaden the international coalition backing those efforts.
But Mr. Bush says the most important part of his plan is its conclusion: free and fair elections in Iraq in four months. Despite continuing violence, the president says, Prime Minister Allawi has assured him that election will happen on schedule.
"The war for Iraq's freedom is a fight against some of the most ruthless and brutal men on Earth," he said. "In such a struggle, there will be good days, and there will be difficult days. But every day, our resolve must remain the same: Iraq, America and our coalition will stand firm, and Iraq will be free, the world will be more peaceful and America will be more secure."
In the Democratic radio address, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the war in Iraq a "grotesque mistake," which she said has diminished America's reputation in the world and has not made the country safer.
"We would be much safer today, if President Bush had kept his focus on al-Qaida, rather than diverting crucial resources from the war on terror in Afghanistan to a war of choice in Iraq," said Nancy Pelosi. "The president must be held accountable for this war."
Congresswoman Pelosi criticized Vice President Dick Cheney for engaging in what she calls the "politics of fear," after he told voters the country would be at increased risk of terrorist attack, if they make what he said is the wrong choice in November's election.
"Before making such despicable statements, Republicans should remember that the reason Osama bin Laden is still able to threaten the United States three years after the September 11 attacks is the utter failure of the Bush administration to catch bin Laden and to destroy his terrorist network," she said.
If Senator John Kerry, the Democratic candidate, is elected president, and voters give Democrats a majority in Congress, Ms. Pelosi says, America would signal a new message of cooperation and respect to U.S. allies, in stark contrast to what she calls the Bush administration's "condescension" and "go-it-alone" policy.
Most public opinion polls show the president with a slight lead over Senator Kerry. Voters appear to trust the president more when it comes to fighting terrorism, and Senator Kerry more when it comes to handling the economy.