MICHELE NORRIS, host:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Michele Norris.
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And I'm Melissa Block.
It was five years ago that the United States led an invasion of Iraq to topple Saddam Hussein. The beginning of a war that still has no end in sight. President Bush marked the anniversary today with a speech at the Pentagon. He said no regrets about launching the war, despite recent polls that show most Americans now believe it was a mistake.
Coming up, our report on an antiwar protests in Washington and an update on the security situation in Iraq. First, more on the president's speech from NPR's Guy Raz at the Pentagon.
GUY RAZ: Five years on, the war in Iraq has fallen off the front pages, replaced recently by the mortgage crisis and the presidential race. 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. So, in his speech to Pentagon employees today, the president chose to make his case to the American public again, that in his view, the decision to go to war will be vindicated.
President GEORGE W. BUSH: The battle in Iraq has been longer and harder and more costly than we anticipated, but it is a fight we must win.
RAZ: Since March 19, 2003, nearly 4,000 American troops have been killed in Iraq and nearly 30,000 wounded. The toll in Iraqi lives, unknown, but many times greater. The cost of the war has exceeded half a trillion dollars. But for the president, today is less about marking the fifth year of an unpopular war and more about marking the first year since America's prospects in Iraq began to turn around. And that's the anniversary he is more interested in highlighting.
Pres. BUSH: The surge 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.
RAZ: And in his view, Iraq remains a key battleground. Indeed, the White House title the president's speech "Reflections on the Global War on Terror."
Pres. BUSH: In Iraq, we're 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.
RAZ: 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 says, if elected, she will begin to withdraw U.S. troops from the country within 60 days.
Senator HILLARY CLINTON (Democrat, New York): We simply cannot give the Iraqi government an endless blank check. 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.
RAZ: Her rival, Senator Barack Obama, offered a similar view in North Carolina earlier today.
Senator BARACK OBAMA (Democrat, Illinois): 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 safe.
RAZ: There is an emerging consensus among top military leaders - with some notable exceptions - on sustaining troop levels in Iraq beyond July. For now, it seems, General Petraeus, the president, the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs are all arguing to hold off on more withdrawals -leaving the next president with, perhaps, as many as 140,000 U.S. troops in Iraq.
Guy Raz, NPR News, the Pentagon.
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