President Bush, seeking to rally support for the war in Iraq, warned today that "retreat and isolation" would leave the United States less secure and said Americans need to make the kind of sacrifices that led to victory in World War II and the Cold War.
Bush said the only acceptable outcome is "total victory over the terrorists and their hateful ideology." He did not define what he meant by total victory.
In a speech at a veterans' convention in Utah, Bush also hailed Iraqis' efforts to complete a "democratic constitution" that he said would reflect their traditions and values. He made no mention of a draft charter that would make Iraq a loose federation under Islamic law -- a vision for the country that appeared to be at odds with U.S. goals.
Nor did Bush make any specific mention of antiwar protests that have burgeoned outside his Texas ranch, where he has been vacationing since Aug. 2.
Taking an optimistic approach to developments in the Middle East, Bush declared that "peace is within reach in the Holy Land," and he praised as a "courageous and painful step" Israel's removal of settlements in the Gaza Strip and a portion of the West Bank.
Bush made the remarks to the national convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City after interrupting his month-long vacation at his ranch near Crawford, Tex. From Utah, Bush headed to Idaho, where he was scheduled to deliver a second speech this week aimed at countering growing doubts about the war in Iraq. He is to address a National Guard group in Nampa, Idaho, on Wednesday.
Bush told the VFW members that America faces a "ruthless and brutal" enemy in radical Islamic terrorists who are "fighting on behalf of a hateful ideology that despises everything America stands for."
Bush said: "Their goal is to drive nations into retreat so they can topple governments across the Middle East, establish Taliban-like regimes and turn that region into a launching pad for more attacks against our people. In all their objectives, our enemies are trying to intimidate America and the free world. And in all their objectives, they will fail."
He added, "Like the great struggles of the 20th century, the war on terror demands every element of our national power." He vowed to continuing pursuing his administration's "comprehensive strategy to win this war on terror," which he said includes three parts: "protecting this homeland, taking the fight to the enemy and advancing freedom."
Bush noted that "key provisions" of the USA Patriot Act, the legislation enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in an effort to shore up America's defenses, expire at the end of this year. "Yet the terrorist threat to our country will not expire at the end of this year," he said. He called on Congress to send him a bill to renew the Patriot Act after lawmakers return from their August recess.
"All these steps to protect the homeland have made us safer, but we're not yet safe," Bush warned. "Terrorists in foreign lands still hope to attack our country. They still hope to kill our citizens. The lesson of September 11th, 2001, is that we must confront threats before they fully materialize."
He said to applause from the veterans' group, "A policy of retreat and isolation will not bring us safety. The only way to defend our citizens where we live is go after the terrorists where they live."
Bush said, "We will accept nothing less than total victory over the terrorists and their hateful ideology."
Calling Iraq "a central front in the war on terror," he said terrorists such as Osama bin Laden and his ally in Iraq, Abu Musab Zarqawi, "are trying to turn Iraq into what Afghanistan was under the Taliban: a place where women are beaten, religious and ethnic minorities are executed, and terrorists have sanctuary to plot attacks against free people."
But after living for three decades under the "absolute dictatorship" of Saddam Hussein, Iraqis "will not allow a new set of would-be tyrants to take control of their future," Bush declared.
"Now Iraq's leaders are once again defying the terrorists and pessimists by completing work on a democratic constitution," he said. "The establishment of a democratic constitution will be a landmark event in the history of Iraq and the history of the Middle East." Iraq's main ethnic and religious groups, working together, "will produce a constitution that reflects the values and traditions of the Iraqi people," he said.
Although Americans "have cause for optimism" because of what he described as a rising tide of freedom in the Middle East, Bush stressed that hard work lies ahead.
"Spreading freedom is the work of generations, and no one knows that better than you," Bush told the veterans. "Freedom has contended with hateful ideologies before. We defeated fascism. We defeated Communism. And we will defeat the hateful ideology of the terrorists who attacked America."
Bush added, "Each of these struggles for freedom required great sacrifice. From the beaches of Normandy to the snows of Korea, courageous Americans gave their lives so others could live in freedom. Since the morning of September the 11th, we have known that the war on terror would require great sacrifice as well."
America owes it to the more than 2,000 service members who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan to "finish the task that they gave their lives for," Bush said. "We'll honor their sacrifice by staying on the offensive against the terrorists. . . ."