Surrounded by U.S. troops at a military installation in North Carolina, President Bush will ask Americans tonight to look beyond the daily violence in Iraq and focus on the "quiet process" of "political reconciliation" that will produce a more stable and democratic Middle East, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this morning.
He will "tell the American people that it has been one year since the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis," Rice said on NBC's "Today" Program. "That is not very long," she said, yet the Iraqis have accomplished a great deal, including holding an election and convening an assembly to write a constitution.
"I know it's difficult, and the president will acknowledge that," Rice said. "But the United States has gone through difficult times before to come out on the other side with a more stable world."
Bush's speech at the Army's post at Fort Bragg, N.C., comes as polls show declining approval ratings for him and increasing doubts about the war itself among Americans. Presidential prime time speeches are most commonly presented from the Oval Office with varying degrees of live television coverage rather than from military bases or other venues around the country. Bush has demonstrated repeatedly his fondness for a backdrop of soldiers as he talks about the war and terrorism.
It was uncertain today how many television networks would broadcast the speech. As of late morning, ABC was the only broadcast network planning live coverage, according to the Associated Press. CBS, Fox and NBC had announced no decision. The CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC cable networks were planning to carry the president's remarks.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Bush should present the country with a strategy for success.
"We simply have not had that," she told reporters outside the White House after the president met with congressional leaders over breakfast. Bush should set benchmarks for training Iraqi troops, restoring electrical power and dealing with other problems, she said.
Before his address, Bush will meet with the families of 33 U.S. troops killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. The audience for his speech will be 600 to 700 soldiers, the White House said.
Rice and presidential spokesman Scott McClellan separately indicated some White House frustration that portrayals in the news media of violence in Iraq were obscuring the administration's message about its long-term mission in the country.
As a result of Bush's speech, McClellan told reporters today, the public "will have a better understanding of what we're working to achieve in Iraq." He said many Americans "have not heard the specifics about our strategy and the way forward," adding, "The enemy we face in Iraq are terrorists, terrorists who espouse the same ideology" as those responsible for the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
"I know it's hard to focus on the quiet process that is going on in Iraq of building a political consensus toward a stable and democratic Iraq," Rice said. "The insurgents are very tough, and they're very bloody, and they can grab the headlines on any day. . . . We have to keep focused, and I think the American people will."
As Bush prepared to speak, a suicide car bomber in Iraq killed an influential Shiite Muslim member of parliament and his son as they drove from their farm to Baghdad, the Associated Press reported.
The attack that killed Dhari Ali Fayadh, his son and two bodyguards was one of several around the country carried out by suicide bombers.
Another killed a U.S. soldier in Balad, 50 miles north of Baghdad. At least 1,742 members of the U.S. military have died since the war began in 2003, according to an Associated Press count.
A car bomb north of Baghdad killed five people and injured nine others, police said. The explosion occurred about 15 yards from the headquarters of an Iraqi quick-reaction police force in Baqubah, 35 miles northeast of the capital, police Capt. Nihad Jamal Ibrahim said.
The attacks came as more than 1,000 U.S. troops and Iraqi forces launched "Operation Sword" in a bid to crush insurgents and foreign fighters in western Iraq -- the third major offensive in the area in recent weeks.
A U.S. reconnaissance helicopter was hit Monday night by small-arms fire in Tall Afar, about 95 miles east of the Syrian border, and forced to land, but there were no reports of injuries, said Sgt. John Franzen, a spokesman.