WASHINGTON — Under fire at home and abroad, President Bush on Monday defended his polices on Iraq and the war on terrorism, saying the Iraqi conflict will be won despite attempts by “cold-hearted killers” to derail the U.S.
“I think about Iraq every day. Every single day, because I understand we have troops in harm’s way,” the president said at a White House news conference. “We will complete the mission and the world will be better off for it.”
With more than 1,700 U.S. troops dead in Iraq, voters in the U.S. have grown uneasy with Bush’s policies, according to public polls. Some in Congress are pushing for a date certain when troops would begin withdrawing.
Criticism at home, abroad
Overseas, the U.S. image has been tarnished by allegations of prisoner abuse in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where suspected terrorists are being detained. Bush challenged critics, even invited journalists to the detention facilities.
“Look at all the facts. That’s all I ask people to do,” the president said at a news conference with European Union leaders. Bush noted that many of the suspects at Guantanamo are not traditional war prisoners.
“The fundamental question facing our government is what do you do with these people?” he said.
Bush’s remarks followed a meeting with European Union leaders whose members are deeply divided over political and budgetary fights. An EU summit collapsed last week in a disagreement over a budget for the next few years. Earlier, EU leaders postponed a deadline to ratify a new constitution that voters in France and the Netherlands have rejected.
“The EU is not at its knees,” Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker said at the news conference. Juncker, who holds the rotating EU presidency, sought to reaffirm strong U.S.-EU ties. He said that Europe is “playing the role that it has on the international scheme.”
Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission who also took part in the news conference, called the thousands of daily deaths from starvation and thirst in poor nations “a shame for our generation.”
On Iraq, Bush said the key to success there was training Iraqi troops to defend their own country. While conceding that task is “tough,” the president said “more and more Iraqis are becoming battle-hardened and trained to defend themselves. And that’s exactly the strategy that’s going to work.”
Bush seemed to focus his remarks on the families who have lost loved ones in battle. “I want those families to know: One, we’re not going to leave them — not going to allow their mission to go in vain. And two, we will complete the mission, and the world will be better off for it.”
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