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Bush to Discuss Progress, Difficulties of  Iraq War at US Military Base - 2003-04-03

President Bush travels Thursday to Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, the home base for many of the marines serving in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The president will deliver an update on the war.

Camp Lejeune knows the price of war only too well. Its servicemen and women have been serving in lead units in Iraq, and it has suffered a high percentage of the U.S. casualties.

White House Spokesman Ari Fleischer says the president will meet with the relatives of those killed in the conflict and will extend his sympathies.

"It is going to be a private meeting with the families. As you know, the president does think carefully about these decisions to put people in harm's way and he cares deeply about that," he said.

Mr. Fleischer was asked about reports the war has taken a toll on the president. He said Mr. Bush is comfortable and steady with his decision to launch the conflict, and is focused on the operation.

"The president is somebody who has set his sights on a mission, and is proud of the men and women who are carrying out the mission, and he is resolved to see it through," he said.

The White House spokesman told reporters Mr. Bush will talk about the human cost of the war in his public remarks at Camp Lejeune. But he indicated most of the speech will amount to a review of military operations in Iraq.

"The president will talk about the progress being made in the war and he continues to be please with the progress that is being made. But as was pointed out at the Pentagon today, difficult times very well may lie ahead," he said.

Mr. Fleischer said the president wants to strike a balance in his public comments and temper the optimism resulting from progress in the war with the reality of the situation on the ground.