On War Anniversary, Bush Sees Victory in Iraq Although public opinion has turned against the war, President Bush reaffirms his decision to invade Iraq in a Pentagon speech Wednesday. Bush says the costly sacrifices have "opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror."
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On War Anniversary, Bush Sees Victory in Iraq

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On War Anniversary, Bush Sees Victory in Iraq

On War Anniversary, Bush Sees Victory in Iraq

On War Anniversary, Bush Sees Victory in Iraq

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  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/88607476/88607459" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

President George W. Bush pauses while delivering a speech at the Pentagon on Wednesday. His address marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images hide caption

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Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

President George W. Bush pauses while delivering a speech at the Pentagon on Wednesday. His address marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.

Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

President George W. Bush marked the fifth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq with a speech at the Pentagon on Wednesday. In it, he expressed no regrets about launching the ongoing war — despite recent polls that show most Americans now believe it was a mistake.

On the eve of the invasion, more than 70 percent of the American public backed the decision. But five years on, according to a Washington Post poll, most Americans say the war wasn't worth it.

In his speech to Pentagon employees, the president again made his case to the public that, in his view, the decision to go to war will be vindicated.

"The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated — but it is a fight we must win," he said.

Since March 19, 2003, nearly 4,000 American troops have been killed in Iraq and nearly 30,000 wounded. The exact toll in Iraqi lives, though unknown, is estimated to be many times greater.

The cost of the war has exceeded $500 billion.

But the president's speech was less about marking the fifth year of an unpopular war and more about marking the first year that violence has declined and some progress has been made.

"The surge [in U.S. troops stationed in Iraq] has done more than turn the situation in Iraq around — it has opened the door to a major strategic victory in the broader war on terror," he said during his speech.

In Bush's view, Iraq remains a key battleground: In fact, the president's speech was titled "Reflections on the Global War on Terror."

"In Iraq, we are witnessing the first large-scale Arab uprising against Osama bin Laden, his grim ideology and his murderous network. And the significance of this development cannot be overstated," Bush said.

The democratic presidential candidates — hoping to undo much of what the Bush administration began in Iraq — have sharpened their positions in recent days. Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) said, if elected, she will begin to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq within 60 days.

"We simply cannot give the Iraqi government an endless blank check," she said. "Each passing month we stay in Iraq gives the Iraqi government more time to avoid the hard decisions on how to split the oil money and how to share political power."

Her rival, Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), offered a similar view in North Carolina earlier Wednesday.

"Fighting a war without end will not force the Iraqis to take responsibility for their own future. And fighting in a war without end will not make the American people safer," he said.

There is an emerging consensus among top military leaders — with some notable exceptions — on sustaining troop levels after July.

For now, it seems, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, are all arguing to hold off on more withdrawals — which would leave as many as 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.