Bush Defends Decisions on Iraq
By TERENCE HUNT, AP White House Correspondent 14 minutes ago
President Bush said Tuesday the decision about when to withdraw all U.S. troops from Iraq will fall to future presidents and Iraqi leaders, suggesting that U.S. involvement will continue at least through 2008.
Acknowledging the public's growing unease with the war — and election-year skittishness among fellow Republicans — the president nonetheless vowed to keep U.S. soldiers in the fight.
"If I didn't believe we could succeed, I wouldn't be there. I wouldn't put those kids there," Bush declared.
He also stood by embattled Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld.
"I don't believe he should resign. He's done a fine job. Every war plan looks good on paper until you meet the enemy," he said.
In his second full-blown news conference of the year, Bush confronted his political problems by addressing them directly.
"Nobody likes war. It creates a sense of uncertainty in the country," he said. "War creates trauma." He acknowledged that Republicans are worried about their political standing in November.
"There's a certain unease as you head into an election year," Bush told a wide-ranging news conference that lasted nearly an hour.
More than 2,300 Americans have died in three years of war in Iraq. Polls show the public's support of the war and Bush himself have dramatically declined in recent months, jeopardizing the political goodwill he carried out of the 2004 re-election victory.
"I'd say I'm spending that capital on the war," Bush quipped.
When asked about his failed Social Security plan, he simply said: "I didn't get done." But the president defiantly defended his warrantless eavesdropping program, and baited Democrats who suggest that he broke the law.
Calling a censure resolution "needless partisanship," Bush challenged Democrats to go into the November midterm elections in opposition to eavesdropping on suspected terrorists. "They ought to stand up and say, `The tools we're using to protect the American people should not be used,'" Bush said.