Bush: Sectarian Killings Drop in Baghdad

By DEB RIECHMANN
The Associated Press
Saturday, April 21, 2007; 12:56 AM

EAST GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. -- President Bush said Friday that sectarian murders have dropped by half in Baghdad since the U.S.-Iraqi military buildup began in February, rejecting a Democratic leader's claim that the war is lost. The president said early signs show the operation to quell violence is meeting expectations.

"There are still horrific attacks in Iraq, such as the bombings in Baghdad on Wednesday, but the direction of the fight is beginning to shift," Bush said in his second speech on terrorism in two days.

Bush spoke at a high school in suburban Grand Rapids to about 500 students and members of the World Affairs Council of Western Michigan. Outside, dozens of protesters shouted anti-war chants and held signs that said "No blood for oil," "End imperialism now" and "Sieg heil Bush."

Bush urged Americans not to be swayed by the violence inflicted by suicide bombers and focus, instead, on incremental gains Iraqi and U.S. forces are making day by day, block by block in Baghdad. Weapons stockpiles are being seized, extremists are being captured and displaced families are returning home, he said.

"When a family decides to stop depending on militias to protect them or a young man rejects insurgency and joins the Iraqi army, it doesn't usually make the evening news," Bush said.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., says the war in Iraq is "lost" and can only be won through political and economic diplomatic means. He said the surge is not accomplishing anything. Republicans have pounced on Reid for his comments, accusing him of turning his back on the troops and hurting military morale in Iraq.

Sen. Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who chairs the Armed Services Committee, defended Reid on Friday. Levin said he agreed the military fight in Iraq cannot be won and that Bush's strategy lacks the necessary leverage to force Iraqi politicians to reach a settlement.

Bush "doesn't have the teeth," Levin told reporters in a conference call. "He doesn't have the pressure on the Iraqi leaders by just repeating, which he's done now for a month, that our patience is not unlimited."

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said the United States needs to send a clear message to the Iraqi government that American troops won't stay there indefinitely. Klobuchar, who visited Baghdad and Fallujah last month, said the best thing America can do for its troops is to get its Iraq policy right.

"This means, as recommended by the bipartisan Iraq Study Group, that we begin the process of redeploying our troops with the goal of withdrawing combat forces by next year," she said in remarks prepared for broadcast Saturday following the president's weekly radio address.

Klobuchar said it might be necessary for some troops to stay in Iraq to train Iraqi police, to provide security for American forces that remain behind, and to conduct special operations.

"This means not a surge in troops but a surge in diplomacy, economy and Iraqi responsibility," she said.


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