Bush: 'Fighting and Sacrifice' Needed

By Guy Gugliotta
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 18, 2006; 3:36 PM

On the eve of the third anniversary of the Iraq invasion, President Bush today promised to "finish the mission" with total victory, urging the American public to remain steadfast but offering no indication when victory might be achieved.

"More fighting and sacrifice will be required," Bush said in his weekly radio address. "For some, the temptation to retreat and abandon our commitments is strong. Yet there is no peace, there's no honor and there's no security in retreat. So America will not abandon Iraq to the terrorists who want to attack us again."

Bush's address comes at a time when confidence in the administration's Iraq strategy appears to have reached all-time lows. A Washington Post-ABC News poll this month found that 65 percent of Americans surveyed thought Bush had no plan for victory, while 35 percent -- the lowest level ever recorded by the poll -- said he did.

Bush used the radio address to draw attention to a series of speeches he is giving this month to rally support for the Iraq war. Last week the first of these focused on efforts to train Iraqi troops and success at mitigating the threat of terrorist bombings and casualties caused by the explosion of roadside "improvised explosive devices."

A White House "Fact Sheet" on Iraq that accompanied the radio address noted that casualties from the explosive devices had been halved in the past 18 months and that nearly half of the devices are being found and disabled before they can be detonated.

The fact sheet also buttressed the president's assertion last week that Iraqi security forces were assuming greater battlefield responsibility. The fact sheet said that "Iraqi forces now conduct more independent operations throughout the country that do Coalition forces."

Democrats noted last week, however, that a recent Pentagon report said the number of "level one" Iraqi units capable of operating independent of the United States had dropped from one to zero in recent months.

And for the most part, the fact sheet ignored the missteps and false starts that have dogged the Iraq war since the invasion in March 2003 and instead contrasted Iraq under Saddam Hussein with Iraq today.

Three years ago, the fact sheet said, "life in Iraq was marked by brutality, fear and terror," and Iraqis "had no voice in their country or their lives." Today, by contrast, "the reign of terror has been replaced by a democratically elected government."

In his radio address Bush noted that sectarian violence plagues Iraq, but urged Iraqis to "reach across political, religious and sectarian lines," to convert December's democratic elections into a "government that can confront the terrorist threat and earn the trust and confidence of all Iraqis."

"These past three years have tested our resolve," Bush said. "The enemy has proved brutal and relentless . . . and our troops have shown magnificent courage and made tremendous sacrifices" which, along with Iraqi sacrifices, had given Iraq a "historic opportunity" to rebuild itself.

"The security of our country is directly linked to the liberty of the Iraqi people," Bush said. "We will settle for nothing less than complete victory."

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