Thursday, December 08, 2005 Bush blasts war critics Bush blasts war critics

Bush blasts war critics
Cites remarks by some Democrats as pessimistic as he prepares for second speech on Iraq plan

December 7, 2005

President George W. Bush yesterday sharply assailed Democratic critics whom he called "pessimists" for questioning his strategy in Iraq and calling for a withdrawal.

"Our troops need to know that the American people stand with them, and we have a strategy for victory," Bush told reporters in the Oval Office, on being asked about comments made on a radio show by Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean.

In an interview with WOAI-AM radio in San Antonio, Dean said that the "idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong," and that the conflict resembled the protracted Vietnam war.

Bush, who is facing declining public support for the war, fired back: "Of course there will be debate, and of course there will be some pessimists and some people playing politics with the issue. But, by far, the vast majority of people in this country stand squarely with the men and women who wear the nation's uniform."

Today, the president is giving the second in a series of speeches that he says lay out his strategy for success in Iraq.

In the first, delivered last week, he cited progress in preparing Iraqi army and police forces to take over the country's security. Today's address will focus on rebuilding the Iraqi economy, White House spokesman Scott McClellan said.

Bush also was asked about claims by a group calling itself the Islamic Army in Iraq that they kidnapped a U.S. citizen. A video broadcast by Al-Jazeera television showed a blond man sitting with his hands tied behind his back, a U.S. passport and an identification card in the name of Ronald Schulz.

"We, of course, don't pay ransom for any hostages," Bush said. "What we will do, of course, is use our intelligence gathering to help locate them."

The White House also is under fire for a secret "rendition" program for transporting and interrogating suspected terrorists to clandestine locations.

"I don't talk about secret programs" or "covert activities," Bush said when asked about the program, which Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is discussing during a trip to Europe this week.

"I can tell you two things: One, that we abide by the law; we do not torture. And two, we will try to do everything we can to protect us within the law," Bush said. "We do not render to countries that torture and that has been our policy and that policy will remain the same."

The Bush administration addressed the Iraq issue on many fronts yesterday. While the president was in Washington outlining his agenda, Vice President Dick Cheney discussed their strategy in a speech to troops at Fort Drum, N.Y., saying U.S. troops will stay in Iraq until the country is capable of defending itself from terrorists and insurgents.

"We will stand by our friends; we will help Iraqis build a nation that is free and secure and able to defend itself," Cheney said. "Any decisions about troop levels will be driven by the conditions on the ground and the judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timelines set by politicians in Washington, D.C."

Cheney, in his third speech on Iraq in about three weeks, softened his tone from his previous remarks, where he lashed out at critics of the Iraq war as dishonest and irresponsible. He also praised individual units while listing their accomplishments, including the "Fighting 69th" from New York City, which he said showed its toughness in confronting insurgents around Baghdad. '

1)There are pessimists and politicians who try to score points, but our strategy is one that will lead us to victory.'- President George W. Bush, at the Oval Office yesterday

2) '[The] idea that we're going to win the war in Iraq is an idea which is just plain wrong ... We need to figure out how to leave.'- Howard Dean, Democratic National Committee chairman

Copyright 2005 Newsday Inc.

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