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Bush: US Making Progress in Iraq

President Bush says the U.S. mission in Iraq is making progress despite continuing violence. Mr. Bush is explaining his strategy for success in Iraq at a time when a majority of Americans believe the country is slipping into civil war.

In his latest effort to turn around falling public support for the war, President Bush sought to answer some of the questions he says Americans are asking about Iraq.

"Why are Iraqis so divided, and did America cause the instability by removing Saddam Hussein from power? They ask, 'After three elections, why are the Iraqi people having such a hard time coming together? And can a country with so many divisions ever build a stable democracy?' They ask why we can't bring our troops home now and let the Iraqis sort out their differences on their own," said Mr. Bush.

In a speech to a bipartisan group that promotes political freedom, President Bush said the U.S. invasion did not cause the violence there. That, he says, is a legacy of Saddam Hussein's brutal repression.

"Iraq is a nation that is physically and emotionally scarred by three decades of Saddam's tyranny, and these wounds will take time to heal," he added.

President Bush says terrorists are exploiting those wounds to block a new government by sparking civil war.

"The enemies of a free Iraq are employing the same tactics Saddam used: killing and terrorizing the Iraqi people in an effort to foment sectarian division," he explained.

A public opinion poll by the Pew Research Center says 66 percent of Americans believe U.S. efforts to prevent a civil war in Iraq are loosing ground. That is up 18 points from January.

President Bush says he is still optimistic about the country's political future.

"The violence we are seeing is showing Iraqi leaders the danger of sectarian division and underscoring the urgency of forming a national unity government," he said.

Mr. Bush says he knows some Americans disagree with his decision to invade Iraq, but everyone should agree that pulling out U.S. troops now would be a disaster.

"If we leave Iraq before the job is done, the terrorists will move in and fill the vacuum, and they will use that failed state to bring murder and destruction to freedom-loving nations," he said.

Mr. Bush says America will eventually leave Iraq, but will never retreat as that would signal to the world that Washington does not keep its word. He says Middle East tyrants would laugh at America's failed resolve and tighten their grip.

The president has given a series of speeches this month meant to reassure Americans about his strategy for victory in Iraq at a time of record low public approval ratings.

Fifty-six percent of Americans responding to a Time magazine poll disapprove of the way the president is doing his job. Roughly 39 percent approve.

While Mr. Bush has talked up political and military progress that he says does not receive adequate attention in the media, he has not shied away from the challenges ahead.

"I wish I could tell you the violence in Iraq is waning and that all the tough days in the struggle are behind us," he said. "They are not. There will be more tough fighting ahead with difficult days that test the patience and resolve of our country. Yet we can have faith in the final outcome."

President Bush says he knows the work in Iraq is difficult, but he feels strongly that success there is vital to U.S. security.