President Bush says the formation of a new government in Iraq and the death of terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi made this past week a good one for the cause of freedom. Opposition Democrats say the president must use this opportunity to ensure that it is a year of significant progress in Iraq.
President Bush says the killing of Zarqawi is an important victory in the fight against terrorism.
"His goals in Iraq were clear, he wanted to stop the rise of democracy, drive coalition forces out, incite a civil war, and turn that country into a safe haven, from which al-Qaida could launch new attacks on America and other free nations," he said. "Instead, Zarqawi died in the free and democratic Iraq that he fought so hard to prevent, and the world is better off, because this violent man will never kill again."
In his weekly radio address, President Bush said violence may escalate in the weeks ahead, as terrorists seek to prove they can carry on without Zarqawi. He again appealed for the continued patience of the American people, as, he says, the work ahead will require more sacrifice.
Public opinion polls taken before Zarqawi's killing show only one-third of Americans approve of the way the president is handling the situation in Iraq. White House officials expect those numbers to rise with Zarqawi's killing, but recognize the gains will be short-lived, without substantive progress on the ground.
So, the president is meeting with national security advisers at Camp David in the coming week for talks on how they can best help Iraq's government. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and members of his new Cabinet will join those talks by videophone.
President Bush says he is encouraged by the prime minister's determination to defeat common enemies, and bring security and the rule of law to all Iraqis.
"Together, we will determine how to best deploy America's resources in Iraq, and achieve our shared goal of an Iraq that can govern itself, sustain itself and defend itself," said Mr. Bush.
In the Democratic radio address, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid said the Bush administration must seize this opportunity for real change in Iraq.
"Our troops and the American people have been exceedingly patient, as previous mileposts in Iraq have passed without progress," said Mr. Reid. "The president is asking too much, if he expects us to do it again."
With Zarqawi dead and Mr. Maliki's Cabinet complete, Reid says, Americans need more than platitudes from the coming talks between U.S. and Iraqi officials. He says, President Bush should present a concrete plan for Iraqis to take charge of their own security, so more U.S. troops can come home.