SYDNEY, Australia — President Bush said yesterday he will address the nation this week on “the way forward” in Iraq, and he urged lawmakers in Congress and Americans to unite on the war strategy he initiated in January.
Mr. Bush’s address is expected Thursday. Before the speech, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top commander in Iraq, and Ryan C. Crocker, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq, will testify to Congress about whether sending 30,000 more U.S. troops to Iraq has helped stabilize the nation.
“I will lay out a vision for future involvement in Iraq — one that I believe the American people and their elected leaders of both parties can support,” the president said in his weekly radio address. “By coming together on the way forward, we will strengthen Iraq’s democracy, deal a blow to our enemies, secure interests in the Middle East and make our nation safer.”
The Iraq war dogged the president last week as he met nearly 10,000 miles away from home with world leaders at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit to discuss climate change, world trade and nuclear disarmament. During the week, thousands protested his war policy, reporters hounded him about the coming testimony and Osama bin Laden showed up not once, but twice.
On Thursday, members of an Australian TV comedy show, one dressed as the al Qaeda mastermind, used a sham motorcade to drive through two security checkpoints before being stopped near the Sydney hotel where Mr. Bush was staying.
The next day, bin Laden appeared on a new videotape, just days before the sixth anniversary of the attacks he orchestrated on New York and Washington. He said there were just two solutions to stopping the Iraq war.
“One is from our side, and it is to escalate the fighting and killing against you. This is our duty, and our brothers are carrying it out,” bin Laden said. “The second solution is from your side. … I invite you to embrace Islam.”
But the president, who made a surprise stop in the western Iraqi province of Anbar on his way to Sydney, said yesterday that the surge of troops he ordered at the beginning of the year is working, and he urged anyone interested to go to whitehouse.gov, “where you can view a slide show of my visit.”
But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid derided the president’s war plan.
“President Bush told us the purpose of his troop surge, his escalation in Iraq, was to give the Iraqis the space and safety to forge political progress and build a sustainable government,” the Nevada Democrat said. “The unfortunate truth is that Iraq’s leaders have not taken meaningful steps toward building a country that can stand on its own in spite of President Bush’s spending almost $3 billion each week on this war.”
Mr. Bush, however, said Gen. Petraeus and Mr. Crocker told him during his visit to Iraq that there has been progress.
“In the next few days, they will come to Washington to give Congress their assessment of conditions on the ground. I urge the members of Congress to listen to these two well-respected professionals — before jumping to any conclusions,” he said.