CRAWFORD, Texas (Reuters) â€” President George W. Bush said on Saturday US troops in Iraq were fighting to protect Americans at home from more attacks like those of Sept. 11, 2001, starting a five-day focus on his case for the war amid growing public discontent.
“Our troops know that they’re fighting in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere to protect their fellow Americans from a savage enemy,” Bush said in his weekly radio address. “They know that if we do not confront these evil men abroad, we will have to face them one day in our own cities and streets, and they know that the safety and security of every American is at stake in this war, and they know we will prevail,” he said.
His comments came as the public shows more discontent with his handling of Iraq, with high-profile protests during Bush’s ranch vacation and new poll results showing nearly six in 10 Americans are worrying about the outcome of the war.
Asked whether the United States was meeting its objectives in Iraq, 56 per cent of those polled said it was not and 39 per cent said it was. The poll is to be published in next month’s issue of Foreign Affairs, the journal of the council on foreign relations.
Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a soldier killed in Iraq, became a symbol for anti-war protesters after camping near Bush’s Crawford, Texas ranch, where he is on vacation, urging him to bring US troops home.
More than 1,800 US troops have been killed in Iraq and thousands more wounded.
The Bush administration justified going to war in Iraq in 2003 by saying it posed a threat because of stockpiles of weapons of mass destruction. None have been found.
Critics say Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington and that the administration has tried to tie Iraq to terrorism since the war to justify its actions.
“In a few weeks, our country will mark the four-year anniversary of the attacks of September 11, 2001. On that day, we learned that vast oceans and friendly neighbours no longer protect us from those who wish to harm our people,” Bush said. “And since that day, we have taken the fight to the enemy,” he said.
“We’re fighting the terrorists in Afghanistan, Iraq, and around the world, striking them in foreign lands before they can attack us here at home,” Bush said.
Next week Bush will meet with members of the Idaho National Guard, and also see members of the Mountain Home Air Force Base who played a leading role in the air bombing campaign in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks, Bush said. He will also address the Veterans of Foreign Wars Convention in Utah.
Bush likened the current situation to World War II when US forces “helped former enemies rebuild and form free and peaceful societies that would become strong allies of America.”
He acknowledged the deaths in the current war and said: “We owe these fallen heroes our gratitude, and we offer their families our heartfelt condolences and prayers.”
“Now we must finish the task that our troops have given their lives for and honour their sacrifice by completing their mission,” he said.