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Iraq Tour of Duty Holds Surprises, 'No Heroics' for CBS's Katie Couric

Katie Couric and Sgt. Mary Alice Leone in Anbar province, Iraq.
Katie Couric and Sgt. Mary Alice Leone in Anbar province, Iraq. (By Charles Dharapak -- Associated Press)

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"I'm saying that people need to pay attention to what General Petraeus and Ambassador [Ryan] Crocker say to the Congress, because they'll say to the Congress what they have recommended to me," Bush replied.

Couric pressed the point: "But just hearing those two words, 'troop reduction' -- do you think it will win some people over who are uncomfortable with this war?"

Bush appeared to undercut his earlier public comments, saying: "That was just speculating. It's not going to win anybody over until it becomes a reality."

Earlier in the trip, after talking with Iraqi families, Couric said she was struck by "the daily challenges of survival," especially the lack of sustained electricity and clean water.

Couric's interviews with American soldiers clearly made an impression on her, although she cautioned that many are reluctant to speak their minds.

"Soldiers are loyal and don't want to make waves," she said. "They're frustrated with the Iraqi government, which they think hasn't necessarily held up their end of the bargain. One soldier said, 'I'm just not sure this country is capable of democracy.'

"The soldiers have their doubts, but I also think they're very committed. One of them said: 'We can't leave our Iraqi friends high and dry. It would be disastrous.' "

Reflecting on the soldiers carrying their gear in the brutal summer heat, Couric observed: "I have to say -- not to sound too corny -- the soldiers are so impressive. They're such high-quality people. I'm glad I'm being reminded of their sacrifice. I feel like every American should spend a day in Iraq with these soldiers."

Back home, she said, Iraq is viewed as "a war that people are wondering why we got into in the first place. Almost everyone agrees there were huge mistakes" in the administration's planning and execution of the conflict.

Many Americans look at Iraq, Couric said, and "can't quite figure out why the founding fathers aren't sitting around a table signing the Declaration of Independence. I understand why people are frustrated. There are a lot of sacrifices being made here and the government does need to pony up. People want results and it's a long, painful, arduous process."


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