President Bush says the war in Iraq is vital to the global battle against terrorists who he says want to build a "radical Islamic empire."
In w hat the White House had promoted as a major speech, Mr. Bush on Thursday likened Muslim extremists to 20th-century communists seeking world domination. He said terrorists would like to gain control of Iraq and use it as a launching pad to overthrow moderate Middle Eastern governments. He said with increased power, extremists would try to develop weapons of mass destruction, destroy Israel, and isolate Western governments.
Mr. Bush said the United States and its allies are determined to prevent Islamic radicals from controlling Iraq or any other nation. The speech came as opinion polls show the president's Iraq policy losing support among tthe American people.
Leaders of the opposition Democratic Party challenged the premise of the speech, saying the president was trying to draw a false link between Iraq and the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.