Bush Evokes 9/11 to Bolster Iraq War
Date: Wednesday, June 29 @ 16:47:05 UTC
Terror Link Used to Rally Skeptical US Public
by Julian Borger in Washington
and Rory Carroll in Baghdad
George Bush last night rallied Americans to the cause of the Iraq war, urging them not to forget the lessons of September 11" and arguing the fight was vital to future US security.
Addressing the nation from Fort Bragg military base in North Carolina, President Bush confronted head on America's growing pessimism and uncertainty over the war.
Again and again in his primetime speech, the president attempted to bind the Iraq counter-insurgency to the broader "war on terror" started by the September 11 attacks, trying to rebuild a connection in the public mind that has given way to skepticism about the justification for the invasion.
"This war reached our shores on September 11 2001," Mr Bush said, pointing to links between Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Jordanian extremist thought be behind many of the suicide attacks in Iraq, and Osama bin Laden. "The only way our enemies can succeed is if we forget the lessons of September ... if we abandon the Iraqi people to men like Zarqawi ... and if we yield the future of the Middle East to men like Bin Laden," the president said.
The president set out a two track strategy for victory. The military track would be focused on accelerating the work training Iraqi troops.
The president spoke of three specific steps. Iraqi units were being "partnered" with coalition troops in combined operations. Second, coalition "transition teams" of coalition officers and non-commissioned officers would "live, work, and fight together with their Iraqi comrades". And third, the Iraqi defense and interior ministries would be given support specifically for counter-terrorist operations.
The political track involved supporting Iraqi politicians in formulating a constitution, involving more Sunni Arabs in the process, paving the way for referendum and elections. He was facing a skeptical audience. Most analysts believe the threat posed to the US by al-Zarqawi is more a consequence of the 2003 invasion than a justification for it. A majority of Americans now agree that there was no solid link between the 2001 terrorist attacks and Iraq, and most no longer think the war Iraq is worth the cost in American lives. Mr Bush insisted it is.
"Amid all this violence, I know Americans ask the question: Is the sacrifice worth it? It is worth it, and it is vital to the future security of our country," he said. But Americans who watched the presidential address would also have seen the latest bad news from Iraq.
A suicide bomber assassinated Iraq's oldest MP, Dhari al-Fayadh, on his way to parliament yesterday, sending a message that none of the politicians working against the clock to agree a constitution are safe. In Afghanistan, a US military helicopter carrying 16 troops was reported to have crashed in the Hindu Kush mountains near the Pakistan border. Taliban guerrillas were claiming to have shot down the CH-47 Chinook troop transporter as rescue parties headed into the mountains. In Baghdad, a vehicle packed with explosives incinerated a car carrying Mr Fayadh, 87, killing him, his son and three bodyguards on the anniversary of last year's US handover of power to an interim government.
At least eight other Iraqis, mostly police officers, died in separate attacks. By targeting the assembly's former speaker and a Shia tribal leader, insurgents shook the fledgling political establishment and inflamed sectarian tensions. The assassination also darkened the grim backdrop to Mr Bush's speech. "We have more work to do, and there will be tough moments that test America's resolve," he said, calling for a rekindling of the spirit of national unity and resolve that followed the al-Qaida attacks on New York and Washington. "They are trying to shake our will in Iraq, just as they tried to shake our will on September 11 2001. They will fail. The terrorists do not understand America. The American people do not falter under threat and we will not allow our future to be determined by car bombers and assassins."
Mr Bush was attempting to reverse a growing slump in public support for the war. Two polls yesterday showed greater skepticism than ever. Only one in three Americans believe the US and its allies are winning the war, down nine percentage points since February, according to a Gallup poll.
© Guardian Newspapers Limited 2005