WASHINGTON – Acknowledging the growing American casualty toll in Iraq and Afghanistan, President Bush vowed Monday to avert “a policy of retreat and isolation” in a war against terrorism.
Such a policy would not keep the United States safe, Bush told the convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars in Salt Lake City. “The only way to defend our citizens where we live is to go after the terrorists where they live.”
In the face of growing public opposition to the war in Iraq, the president maintained that the development of a democratic government in Baghdad will become a “landmark event” in the Middle East.
“In spite of violence, the Iraqi people are building a nation that secures freedom for its citizens and contributes to peace and stability in that region,” Bush said.
Confronting increasing protests against the war, with an opposition campaign coalescing around the mother of a dead soldier, Cindy Sheehan, the president offered his own, rare personal accounting of the war’s casualties before an audience well acquainted with sacrifice.
“We have lost 1,864 members of our armed forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom, and 223 in Operation Enduring Freedom,” Bush told the veterans in Salt Lake City. “Each of these men and women left grieving families and loved ones back home.”
And once again, a wartime president facing declining public support for the war is invoking “the lessons of Sept. 11.”
“At this hour, a new generation of Americans is defending our flag and our freedom in the first war of the 21st century,” Bush said Monday in his third appearance before a VFW convention. “The war came to our shores on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.”