First Published: 2006-09-30

 
Embattled Bush sticks to Iraq guns
 

US President defends war policy amid rising criticism of his counter-terrorism strategy.

 

Middle East Online

By Olivier Knox – WASHINGTON

Staying the course, even if alone with wife and dog

US President George W. Bush on Friday accused critics who say the Iraq war has fueled terrorist recruitment have bought into "the enemy's propaganda."

It was the latest evidence that Bush, under fire on many fronts over the unpopular war, has tied his Republicans' election-year fortunes to an unwavering defense of his Iraq policy and sharp attacks on his opposition.

Democrats have seized on a US government report that the conflict fuels global terrorist recruitment to contradict Bush's longstanding claim that the March 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq has made the world safer.

"This argument buys into the enemy's propaganda that the terrorists attack us because we're provoking them," he fired back Friday. "Iraq is not the reason the terrorists are at war against us."

"If that ever becomes the mind set of the policymakers in Washington, it means we'll go back to the old days of waiting to be attacked and then respond," said the US president.

His strategy for the November 7 legislative elections resembles his winning pitch in 2002 and in the 2004 presidential race: Charging that opposition Democrats will raise taxes and cannot be trusted to tackle terrorism.

White House spokesman Tony Snow pointed to Democratic opposition to highly controversial Republican-authored bills allowing warrantless wiretaps; creating military tribunals for suspected terrorists; and allowing US interrogators to use tactics that critics have branded torture as signs of weakness.

"If you don't want to listen to terrorists, if you don't want to detain them, if you don't want to question them, if you don't want to bring them to justice, then tell us what you do want to do," Snow told reporters.

But Bush has found himself on the defensive this week after grudgingly releasing portions of a National Intelligence Estimate -- which represents the judgement of all 16 US spy agencies -- that found that the Iraq war helps recruit Islamist terrorists like those behind the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The NIE also warned that terrorists are being recruited more quickly than the US-led war on terrorism is thinning their ranks, and that this trend will probably continue for five years from the study's completion in April.

Some Democrats have accused the White House of stalling an NIE on Iraq until after the November elections. The White House denies any political motive but says the report will not be ready until January 2007.

Veteran US journalist Bob Woodward, well known for painting vivid portraits of behind-the-scenes debates in the US government, has charged that the Bush administration is hiding the true extent of violence in Iraq.

"The truth is that the assessment by intelligence experts is that next year, 2007, is going to get worse and, in public, you have the president and you have the Pentagon (saying) 'Oh, no, things are going to get better'," he says in an interview with CBS television due to air Sunday.

Woodward says Bush is certain that Iraq is on the right course and quotes the president as saying: "I will not withdraw even if Laura and Barney (Bush's dog) are the only ones supporting me."

Polls suggest that the president's approval ratings have edged up to the mid-40-percent range, but many in Bush's Republican party still worry that they will pay a steep price on election day for the Iraq war.

Thursday, Bush made one of his fiercest rhetorical attacks yet on Democrats, calling them "the party of cut and run" and saying that they "offer nothing but criticism, obstruction and endless second-guessing."

But the Democrats have not been shy about firing back, with their 2004 White House hopeful, Senator John Kerry, saying Friday that "the only clear thing about the president's policy is that it's clearly not working."

Bush "has a stand still and lose policy in Iraq which isn't the center of the war on terror, and a cut and run policy in Afghanistan which is the center of the war on terror," he said in a statement Friday.

 

Calm reigns over Gaza amid celebrations

US rules out coordination with Syria on targeting jihadists

UN moves to impose sanctions on Libya militias

Algeria president sacks Belkhadem

Saudi Arabia could earn $8.5 billion from Mecca pilgrimage

Mother of US hostage to leader of Islamic State: Please spare my son

Turkey ruling party officially approves Davutoglu as new PM

US spy agencies face difficult task in Syria

Saudi Arabia jails 18 militants on terror charges

Gazans breathe sigh of relief

Litany of horrors becomes regular fixture in jihadist-held Syria

Iraq forces mass for onslaught on jihadist siege of Amerli

Doha offers help to rebuild Gaza

Iran alters Arak heavy water reactor over Western worries

New Turkey PM leaves successor troubled legacy

Palestinians ‘reach’ long-term Gaza truce with Israel

Barzani: Iran provided us with weapons

US to track jihadists in Syria with spy planes

Top Iran official in Saudi to repair strained ties

Drums of war are beating anew on Capitol Hill

Israel air raid in Gaza kills two Palestinians

Deadly bus tragedy in Egypt

Car bomb rips through Baghdad intersection

Shebab flee Somalia strategic town in latest advance of African troops

South Sudan warring leaders sign fresh ceasefire deal

Who’s funding extremists? Qatar struggles to clean up tarnished image

Abadi calls on militias to come under Iraq state control

Nile dam row at heart of talks in Sudan

Ansar Sharia calls for jihadist unity in Libya

No let-up in Gaza war as Egypt raises new truce proposal

Thousands march in support of Yemen President’s call for national unity

Syria reaches out to former foes in fight against ‘terrorism’

Libya parliament names new army chief

Egypt warns only disarmament could spare Libya from intervention

Egypt offers new Gaza ceasefire

Iran to Israel: we will arm Palestinians

American held hostage for 22 months in Syria freed

Iraq calls for global support in fighting jihadists

Iran bolsters arsenal with new drones and missiles

Arab ministers discuss ‘rise of extremism’ in Saudi Arabia

In Jordan, students stay home as teachers strike

Iran ‘shoots down’ Israel drone near Natanz nuclear site

Netanyahu vows to maintain Israel offensive in Gaza ‘as long as necessary’

Libya neighbours meet in Egypt amid serious concerns

Zarif meets Ashton in September to discuss framework for renewed talks