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Bush: no regrets on Iraq War

Latest update : 2008-03-20

US President George W. Bush gave a speech at the Pentagon on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq, admitting that the incursion has come at a high cost but claiming it was worth it as a 'victory' in the war on terror.

WASHINGTON, March 19 (Reuters) - President George W. Bush
said on Wednesday he had no regrets about the unpopular war in
Iraq despite the "high cost in lives and treasure" and declared
that the United States was on track for a major victory there.

Marking the fifth anniversary of the U.S.-led invasion with
a touch of the swagger he showed early in the war, Bush said in
a speech at the Pentagon, "The successes we are seeing in Iraq
are undeniable."

With less than 11 months left in office and his approval
ratings near the lows of his presidency, Bush is trying to
shore up support for the Iraq campaign, which has damaged U.S.
credibility abroad and is sure to define his legacy.

But he faced the challenge of winning the attention of
Americans more preoccupied with mounting economic troubles and
increasingly focused on the race to pick his successor in the
November election.

Bush's Democratic critics used the anniversary as a chance
to reassert accusations that Bush launched the invasion based
on faulty intelligence, mismanaged the war and failed to put
together an exit strategy.

"Five years into this battle, there is an understandable
debate over whether the war was worth fighting, whether the
fight is worth winning, and whether we can win it," Bush said.

"The answers are clear to me: Removing Saddam Hussein from
power was the right decision, and this is a fight America can
and must win," he said.

Appealing to war-weary Americans for patience, Bush touted
the security gains from a troop buildup or "surge" that he
ordered early last year. He said retreat now would embolden al
Qaeda and Iran.

"The surge has done more than turn the situation in Iraq
around -- it has opened the door to a major strategic victory
in the broader war on terror," Bush said, referring to
increased cooperation of Iraqi Sunnis in fighting al Qaeda.

Such an assertion could come back to haunt Bush if the
situation deteriorates. War critics have roundly mocked Bush
for his premature declaration in May 2003 that "major combat
operations" in Iraq were over as he stood on the USS Abraham
Lincoln under a banner reading "Mission Accomplished."

Possibly mindful of that, Bush said, "No one would argue
that this war has not come at a high cost in lives and
treasure, but those costs are necessary when we consider the
cost of a strategic victory for our enemies in Iraq," he said.

Not all anniversary assessments were as upbeat as Bush's.
A Washington Post-ABC News poll showed nearly two-thirds of
Americans believe the war was not worth waging.

Told about the poll result in an interview with ABC's "Good
Morning America," Vice President Dick Cheney, in Oman after a
visit to Iraq, said: "So?" He added: "I think we cannot be
blown off course by the fluctuations of the public opinion

The war has cost the United States $500 billion. Tens of
thousands of Iraqis have been killed and millions displaced.
Nearly 4,000 U.S. soldiers have been killed, as well as 175
British troops and 134 from other countries.

Date created : 2008-03-19