President Bush begins a new campaign aimed at restoring public support for the war in Iraq. Polls show declining public support for the war — and growing doubt about the U.S. mission there.
The president acknowledged that some Americans didn't support the decision to remove Saddam Hussein from power — and that violence has heightened concerns and frustrations. In doing so, he described Iraq as integral to a struggle against terrorism.
"We should all agree that the battle for Iraq is now central to the ideological struggle of the 21st century," the president said. "We will not allow the terrorists to dictate the future of this century, so we will defeat them in Iraq."
With many Democrats and some prominent Republicans recently calling for an exit strategy from Iraq, the president described the position of his critics in stark terms.
"If America were to pull out before Iraq can defend itself, the consequences would be absolutely predictable and absolutely disastrous," he said.
He then described an Iraq after a premature U.S. pullout as a place run by Saddam's former henchmen, and by armed groups with ties to Iran — and providing a base for training al-Qaida terrorists.
The White House calls the Utah event the first in a series of speeches in which the president will discuss why he feels it is critical that the United States succeed in Iraq.
The speeches about the war on terrorism will lead up to the president's address to the United Nations next month.