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President Bush Marks Easter With Families of Soldiers Serving in Iraq - 2004-04-11

President Bush says American forces will remain tough in the face of continuing violence in Iraq.

Events in Iraq were very much on the president's mind as he marked Easter Sunday in his home state of Texas.

For the second year in a row, he spent part of the holiday at Fort Hood, a military base a short helicopter flight from the Bush family ranch.

He knelt in prayer at a base chapel with the families of soldiers serving in Iraq. As he left the Easter morning service, the president met briefly with reporters. He told them he prayed for the troops.

"...and today, on bended knee, I thanked the good lord for protecting those of our troops overseas and our coalition troops and innocent Iraqis, who suffer at the hands of some of these senseless killings by people who are trying to shake our will," said Mr. Bush.

Mr. Bush acknowledged the bloodshed of recent days in Iraq, saying violent gangs were to blame. He was asked if America should brace for more casualties.

"It was a tough week last week," he acknowledged. "And my thoughts and prayers are with those who paid the ultimate price for our security. A free Iraq can make the world more peaceful."

The president said it was hard to tell if the violence would diminish after a week that saw battles between Sunni and Shi'ite militants on one hand, and American forces on the other. At the same time, there have been several kidnappings in Iraq, including three Japanese civilians.

Mr. Bush said members of Iraq's interim Governing Council are trying to see if they can bring some order to the city of Fallujah, the site of some of the worst fighting. He said the American military is giving them a chance to do so.

The president spoke shortly before visiting with wounded soldiers who recently returned to Fort Hood from Iraq. More than 20,000 troops stationed at the base are now deployed on Iraqi soil.