|Bush Requests Patience on
Iraq, Rejects Calls for Withdrawal Deadline
|Paul Kelley and daughter Hannah
Kelley, of Annapolis, join a handful of protesters outside the
U.S. Naval Academy gates.
(CNS Photo by Mary Ellen Slayter)
By Robert Salonga
Capital News Service
Wednesday, Nov. 30, 2005
ANNAPOLIS - President Bush urged more patience on troop withdrawals in
Iraq Wednesday, outlining a strategy aimed at reducing U.S. forces there,
but refusing to give the departure timeline demanded by his critics.
"Setting an artificial deadline to withdraw would send a signal to our
enemies that if they wait long enough, America will cut and run and abandon
its friends," he said.
Addressing an auditorium filled with Midshipmen, Bush gave the speech at
the U.S. Naval Academy in part to clarify what critics have called a muddled
message on how his administration plans to transfer security
responsibilities to Iraqi forces and exit the region. It comes at a time
when American fatalities there have passed 2,100, public discontent with the
war is at an all-time high, and his approval ratings are at some of the
lowest levels of his presidency.
He spurned calls to set a deadline for U.S. forces to leave Iraq, an idea
gaining popularity in Washington because of critics like Rep. John Murtha,
D-Pa., a decorated veteran who initially supported the war but has since
urged immediate troop withdrawal.
And in Maryland, exiting Iraq has become a political platform plank, most
recently with Oz Bengur, a Democratic candidate for Maryland's 3rd
Congressional District, announcing an 18-month withdrawal plan on Tuesday.
Bush said he will continue to resist political pressure on any decisions
involving troop levels.
"These decisions . . . will be driven by the conditions on the ground in
Iraq and the good judgment of our commanders, not by artificial timetables
set by politicians in Washington," he said, adding that he will recommend
additional troops if circumstances warrant.
Current troop levels in the region number about 160,000, a recent
increase from 137,000 in anticipation of elections this December to replace
the Iraqi interim government.
During his speech, the president also unveiled his "National Strategy for
Victory in Iraq," a document outlining broad goals of encouraging the
nation's political stability, helping local forces control their own
security and reforming the Iraqi economy and infrastructure.
"Our goal is to train enough Iraqi forces so they can carry the fight.
This will take time and patience." Bush said. "We will never back down, we
will never give in, and we will never accept anything less than complete
Along those lines, the president defined what would constitute victory in
Iraq, contrasting the current engagement with the declaration on the USS
Missouri signaling the end of World War II.
"In Iraq, there will not be a signing ceremony on the deck of a
battleship," Bush said. "Victory will come when the terrorists and
Saddamists can no longer threaten Iraq's democracy, when the Iraqi security
forces can provide for the safety of their own citizens and when Iraq is not
a safe haven for terrorists to plot new attacks on our nation."
As the president spoke, a handful of demonstrators gathered outside the
academy gates carrying homemade signs.
"Every place Bush goes, someone should be there to say something is
wrong," said Kathy Winter of Crownsville, the first of the protesters to
arrive in the morning, at 8 a.m.
Jeff Brown of Annapolis said he joined the protest for a few moments
after driving by and seeing Winter standing at the gates with her sign.
He was put off by the closed nature of the speech, given to an audience
made up almost exclusively of academy students.
Said Brown, "God forbid they should have any hecklers."
Mary Ellen Slater of Capital News Service also contributed to this
University of Maryland
Philip Merrill College of
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