Speaking to a friendly audience at the annual convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Bush said that pulling out the American troops from Iraq would offend the relatives of the soldiers killed in the war. The US President offered a rare presidential tally of the fallen U.S. soldiers in Iraq: more than 1,800 as he spoke.
“A policy of retreat and isolation will not bring us safety,” Bush said Monday in Salt Lake City. Repeatedly citing the Sept. 11 attacks, he said, “The only way to defend our citizens where we live is to go after the terrorists where they live.”
Bush noted the U.S. military death toll - more than 2,000 killed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, according to the AP. “Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home. Each of these heroes left a legacy that will allow generations of their fellow Americans to enjoy the blessings of liberty. And each of these Americans have brought the hope of freedom to millions who have not known it,” Bush said, as if speaking to Cindy Sheehan, the California anti-war activist whose son Casey was killed in Iraq.
Recent polls have shown growing public dissatisfaction with the president's handling of the war in Iraq in the face of a persistent insurgency and the mounting U.S. death toll. An AP poll taken earlier this month showed that the percentage of Americans who approve of Bush's handling of Iraq - a number that had been hovering in the low- to mid-40s most of the year - dipped to 38 percent.
Some lawmakers from both parties are urging Bush to set a timetable for withdrawal, or at least lay out a strategy for leaving.
Bush is planning a second speech tomorrow to a National Guard audience in Idaho, where he won 68 percent of the vote. Bush plans to tell that audience that the stakes in Iraq are high and that a consequence of failure would be to embolden the enemy, Washington Post said.
Next week, Bush will travel to San Diego to mark the 60th anniversary of the allied victory over Japan in World War II, and he plans to relate that to Iraq by pointing to the deep skepticism then that democracy could take root in Japan and that a hated enemy could turn into a strong and steadfast ally.
President Vladimir Putin has not released an official statement yet about his position on the issue of the pension reform in Russia