President Bush said the United States will accept no less than total victory in Iraq. During a White House gathering with veterans groups, Mr. Bush praised the efforts of coalition forces involved in Operation Iraqi Freedom.

The president spoke to the survivors and heroes of past wars and said they can be proud of the forces now fighting in Iraq. "The current generation of our military is not letting us down," said President Bush.

Mr. Bush said coalition troops are making great progress in Iraq, and Saddam Hussein's regime now controls a small portion of the country.

But the president acknowledged the fight is tough. "In the last week, we have seen the brutal and cruel nature of a dying regime. In areas still under its control, the regime continues its rule by terror. Prisoners of war have been brutalized and executed. Iraqis who refused to fight for the regime are being murdered," he said.

He said the coalition expected such war crimes, but will not excuse them. And in his brief remarks, he sought to draw a moral distinction between the Iraqi military and the U.S.-led coalition.

"In every possible way, coalition forces are showing kindness and respect to the Iraqi people. They are going to extraordinary lengths to spare the lives of the innocent. We treat wounded Iraqi soldiers. The contrast could not be greater between the honorable conduct of our forces and the criminal acts of the enemy," Mr. Bush said.

Mr. Bush said every Iraqi atrocity confirms the urgency of the coalition's cause. He said the goal is to disarm Iraq and free its citizens, saying the United States and its allies refuse to leave the Iraqi people as slaves.