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Bush Marks Third Anniversary Of Start Of Iraq War

  • Paula Wolfson

The president is focusing on the positive. He says he is encouraged by progress in the creation of an Iraqi unity government, and urges Iraqi leaders to get it up and running as soon as possible.

President Bush says that the Iraqi people had voted for democracy last December. Seventy-five percent of the eligible citizens went to the polls to vote. The Iraqi leaders were working together to enact a government that reflects the will of the people.President Bush made the comments to White House reporters as he returned from a weekend at his Camp David retreat. He said as the nation marks the third anniversary of the start of the Iraq conflict, his thoughts were with the troops far from home.

The President said ,On this third anniversary of the beginning of the liberation of Iraq, I think all Americans should offer thanks to the men and women who wear the uniform and their families who support them.

Earlier in the day, Vice-President Dick Cheney defended the administration's policy at a time of declining public support for U.S. involvment in Iraq. During an appearance on the CBS television program, Face the Nation, Cheney insisted Iraq is not on the verge of civil war, though he added insurgents are doing all they can to tear the country apart. Cheney denied the administration has presented an overly optimistic view of the war. He said the Iraqi people have met every benchmark set for political progress, and there has been movement forward on the security side.

In a commentary written for the opinion page of Sunday's Washington Post newspaper, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld detailed military gains in Iraq over the last three years. He said turning away from the Iraqi people now, would be the modern equivalent of handing post World War Two Germany back to the Nazis.

On NBC's Meet the Press program, the chief commander of coalition forces in Iraq, (U.S.) General George Casey, said it might take several years before U.S. forces could completely withdraw from Iraq. However, he indicated a slow drawdown in coming months was likely, as Iraqi troops and police would take over the country's security responsibilities.

Appearing on the same television news program, a leading opponent of the war, Democratic Congressman John Murtha, said he still has not seen any major sign of progress on the security front. Murtha, a veteran of the Vietnam war, repeated his call for a rapid redeployment of U.S. forces currently serving on Iraqi soil.

President Bush is taking on his critics in a series of speeches on Iraq scheduled to mark the passage of three years since the start of the conflict. On Monday, he travels to Cleveland, Ohio, to talk about efforts being made to rebuild Iraqi communities and achieve stability.

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