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    Bush says Americans Understand his Stand on Iraq

    President Bush says American voters ratified his stand on Iraq when they re-elected him in November, and there is no need to hold officials accountable for any miscalculations or mistakes in judgment either before or after the invasion. The comments were made in an interview published just days before the president takes the oath of office for a second term.

    President Bush says Americans were presented with two different assessments of the situation in Iraq during the 2004 campaign. He says they rejected the arguments of the Democratic Party nominee, Senator John Kerry, and stood with his administration.

    In an interview published in the Washington Post  (newspaper), the president acknowledged the path to democracy in Iraq has not been smooth. He said at times of war, things do not always go exactly as planned. But he said he is willing to be patient and he remains optimistic about the future.

    Appearing on the Fox News Sunday television program, one of the president's closest advisors, Dan Bartlett, explained his remarks this way: "There was a case made that the course taken by this administration was the wrong coarse when it came to Iraq. It was heard by the American people, and they embraced President Bush's vision."

    In a subsequent interview aired on NBC's Meet the Press, he said this is an historic period for Iraq, with elections just two weeks away. Mr. Bartlett, who was recently named Counselor to the President, said the security situation is difficult, but added every step possible is being taken to secure polling places so voters can cast their ballots.

    "We know that millions of people want to vote," he said. "It will be different in different parts of the country, but we think it will be a robust turnout and one that will demonstrate that the Iraqi people do believe in democracy, do believe in having their own voice heard."

    The election process is being watched carefully in the United States Congress, where lawmakers have been asked to approve billions of dollars in spending for Iraq.

    The president may say that the American voters ratified his policies, but his critics in Congress believe otherwise. On CNN's Late Edition, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, Michigan's Carl Levin, said questions remain about the administration's conduct of the war.

    "Well, I think the American people obviously re-elected him," he said. "That does not mean they agreed with all of his policies relative to Iraq or all of the ways in which the Iraq war has been fought."

    Mr. Levin said disbanding the Iraqi army after the invasion was a mistake, and there was a lack of long-term planning. But he said it is now time to move on, and the focus for Congress should be on supporting U.S. troops and ensuring the best possible results from the upcoming Iraqi elections.

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