Bush Emphasizes Al-Qaida Links to Iraq

President George W. Bush as he boards Marine 1 on the South Lawn of the White House. i i

President George W. Bush as he boards Marine 1 on the South Lawn of the White House July 24, 2007. The president was scheduled to address airmen at Charleston Air Force Base, in South Carolina. Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images hide caption

itoggle caption Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images
President George W. Bush as he boards Marine 1 on the South Lawn of the White House.

President George W. Bush as he boards Marine 1 on the South Lawn of the White House July 24, 2007. The president was scheduled to address airmen at Charleston Air Force Base, in South Carolina.

Ron Sachs-Pool/Getty Images

President Bush sought Tuesday to rebut critics who argue against a link between al-Qaida in Iraq and the larger terror network led by Osama bin Laden, issuing fresh warnings of possible attacks at home.

By emphasizing al-Qaida's growing presence and influence in Iraq, Bush again tried to reframe the war in the public's mind as a matter of protecting the United States.

In the noon speech to military personnel, Bush warned that al-Qaida anywhere remains a catastrophic threat to the U.S., nowhere more so than from its base in Iraq.

Al-Qaida-linked organizations around the world are "united by a common ideology and have different levels of cooperation with the al-Qaida leadership, pledging loyalty to Osama bin Laden," the president said.

"It's hard to argue that al-Qaida in Iraq is separate from Osama bin Laden when the leader of al-Qaida in Iraq swore allegiance to Osama bin Laden," he said.

Yet the war itself has turned into a valuable recruiting tool for al-Qaida, senior intelligence officials concede.

Bush is up against highly skeptical audiences with 18 months left in office. The public has largely lost faith in the war, Congress is weighing ways to end it, and international partners have fading memories of the 2001 attacks against the U.S.

The president declassified information about al-Qaida's operation for his speech. His goal is to show that al-Qaida in Iraq is a core part of the overall terror network - a direct jab at those who say U.S. troops in Iraq are bogged down against the wrong enemy.

For his setting, Bush chose Charleston Air Force Base, a vital launching point for cargo and military personnel headed to Iraq. He watched crates of supplies being loaded onto a C-17 at the base, which ships thousands of tons of cargo to front-line troops.

"I say there will be a big defeat in Iraq, and it will be a defeat for al-Qaida," Bush said.

From NPR reports and The Associated Press

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