Bush Preparing for Key Iraq Report



President Bush is calling on Americans to have patience with the war in Iraq as he works to restore public support by focusing on the the conflict's broader context in history rather than the daily reporting of casualties. As VOA's Scott Stearns reports, the Bush administration's effort comes ahead of a critical report to Congress that is expected to trigger renewed debate about when U.S. troops should withdraw from Iraq.

Counselor to the president Ed Gillespie says the White House is providing context for the debate that will follow the release of the September 15 report to Congress on the progress of the war.

President Bush is anchoring that campaign with two key speeches to military veterans. The first was Wednesday's address to the Veterans of Foreign Wars in which he compared the war in Iraq to past U.S. military intervention in Asia.

The second will be the president's appearance Tuesday before the American Legion. Gillespie says Mr. Bush will use that speech to put the war in Iraq in the regional context of the Middle East and link security at home with the defeat of extremists abroad.

In his speech Wednesday, the president again called for patience in Iraq.

"Prevailing in this struggle is essential to our future as a nation," he said. "And the question now that comes before us is this: Will today's generation of Americans resist the allure of retreat, and will we do in the Middle East what the veterans in this room did in Asia?"

Next month's report is to assess the impact of the president's decision to send more troops to Iraq, and he is expected to use its findings to counter opposition calls for a timetable to bring the troops home.

The president's report is expected to include some military successes. That is already further dividing opposition Democrats between those who want troops to start coming home now and those who see some progress on the ground.

The party's leading presidential contender, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, also spoke this week to the veterans group.

"We've begun to change tactics in Iraq, and in some areas, particularly in al-Anbar province, it is working," she said. "We are just years too late changing our tactics. We can't ever let that happen again. We can't be fighting the last war. We have to be preparing to fight the new war. And this new war requires different tactics and strategies."

In his remarks to the veterans' group, President Bush made clear he will use military progress in Iraq to challenge political opponents.

"Our troops are seeing the progress that is being made on the ground," he noted. "And as they take the initiative from the enemy, they have a question: Will their elected leaders in Washington pull the rug out from under them, just as they're gaining momentum and changing the dynamic on the ground in Iraq?"

Before sending its Iraq report to Congress, the White House public outreach campaign will include appearances by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and the main contributors to the report - U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker and the senior U.S. commander in Iraq, General David Petraeus.

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