President Bush is stressing the link between al-Qaida and Iraq, as he seeks to build support for his war policy. VOA White House correspondent Paula Wolfson reports Mr. Bush says terrorists in Iraq pose a direct threat to the security of the United States and must be defeated.
President Bush is trying to drive home the point that al-Qaida in Iraq is not a separate entity, but part the terrorist network run by Osama bin Laden.
In a speech to American military personnel in Charleston, South Carolina, Mr. Bush cited newly released intelligence information on the men at the top of al-Qaida in Iraq. He said they are mostly foreigners with strong ties to bin Laden's organization.
"Al-Qaida in Iraq is a group founded by foreign terrorists, led largely by foreign terrorists, and loyal to a foreign terrorist leader, Osama bin Laden," Mr. Bush said.
The president took issue with critics who claim terrorists are active in Iraq as a result of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ousted Saddam Hussein. He said al-Qaida struck the United States on September 11th 2001, long before the start of military operations in Iraq.
"Our action to remove Saddam Hussein did not start the terrorist violence," Mr. Bush said. "An American withdrawal from Iraq would not end it. The al-Qaida terrorists now blowing themselves up in Iraq are dedicated extremists that have made killing the innocent the calling of their lives."
President Bush said an American pull-out from Iraq would only make the violence worse, and would provide al-Qaida with a new base of operations to launch attacks on the United States.
"Al-Qaida is in Iraq. They are there for a reason. And surrendering the future of Iraq to al-Qaida would be a disaster for our country," Mr. Bush said.
Once again, Mr. Bush urged the U.S. Congress and the American people to give his policies more time to work. And he urged skeptical lawmakers to provide the money needed to fund continuing military operations.
"For the security of our citizens, and the peace of the world, we must give (U.S. Commander in Iraq) General (David) Petraeus and his troops the time and the resources they need so they can beat al-Qaida in Iraq," Mr. Bush said.
On Capitol Hill, prominent Democrats quickly took issue with President Bush's comments. Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts said the president put forward - what he called - "a false rationale" for continuing the war.
"The fact remains unchanged that the only way the Iraqis are going to stand up is if we make clear to them that we are going to be withdrawing our troops over a period of time with the exception of those necessary to chase al-Qaida, those necessary to complete the training, and those necessary to protect American forces," Kerry said.
Meanwhile, a new poll shows strong public dissatisfaction with the way both President Bush and Democrats in Congress are dealing with Iraq.
The Washington Post-ABC News survey of 1,125 respondents indicates that 68 percent of Americans disapprove of the president's Iraq policy. Sixty three percent of those polled gave negative marks to the way Democrats in Congress have handled the war. But by a large margin, those surveyed said they trust Democrats rather than the President to find a solution to the conflict.